Love Is A Many-Splendored Thing (1955 with William Holden and Jennifer Jones)

USA / 1955

Director: Henry King
Writer: John Patrick (based on novel by Han Suyin)

Cast: William Holden, Jennifer Jones, Torin Thatcher, Isobel Elsom, Murray Matheson, Virginia Gregg, Richard Loo, Soo Yong, Philip Ahn, Jorja Curtright, Donna Martell

Variety called this lush romantic saga: “as simple and moving a love story as has come along in many a moon.”

Hong Kong, 1949. Racial and political tensions mount as refugees pour in from Communist China. So when married Yankee journalist Mark Elliot (William Holden) falls in love with widowed Eurasian doctor Han Suyin (Jennifer Jones), they come under intense pressure from all sides to end their miscegenetic affair.

Yet despite the disruptive efforts of imperious English socialite Mrs Palmer-Jones (Isobel Elsom), Suyin’s communist colleague Dr Sen (Kam Tong) and the city’s vicious gossip-mongerers, Mark and Suyin continue their illicit fling. Their happiness is short-lived, however. Suyin is sacked from her job, Mark’s estranged wife refuses to give him a divorce, and finally his newspaper sends him to cover the Korean War. Mark is killed, but his death only cements Suyin’s belief that their love is eternal.

Adapted from Han Suyin’s autobiographical novel, this 20th Century Fox weepy represented “a magnificent return to the grand old days when film stars were not afraid to stir their patrons’ emotions” (Evening News).

The script, by John Patrick (Three Coins in the Fountain, High Society) was criticised in some quarters as overly florid, but Variety read director Henry King’s pic as “one of the most erudite romances ever brought to the screen… It’s a film that, in its deliberate restraint and intelligent – at times almost poetic – dialog draws a tender and quite lovely picture of a different kind of romance.”

Jennifer Jones (Mrs David O Selznick) certainly wowed the Evening News, which recognised the emotional clout of her Oscar nominated performance, noting that: “Jones sobs her heart out and will make most audiences weep bucketfuls.” The film won Oscars for Charles Le Maire’s costume design, Edward B Powell’s sweeping score and the popular title song by Sammy Fain and Paul Francis Webster.

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