AFI Catalog of Feature Films
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Love Is a Many-Splendored Thing
Alternate Title: A Many-Splendored Thing
Director: Henry King (Dir)
Release Date:   Aug 1955
Premiere Information:   New York opening: 18 Aug 1955; Los Angeles opening: 19 Aug 1955
Production Date:   14 Mar--24 Apr 1955; addl seq early May 1955
Duration (in mins):   102
Duration (in feet):   9,152
Duration (in reels):   12
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Cast:   William Holden (Mark Elliott)  
    Jennifer Jones (Dr. Han Suyin)  
    Torin Thatcher (Mr. Palmer-Jones)  
    Isobel Elsom (Adeline Palmer-Jones)  
    Murray Matheson (Dr. John Keith)  
    Virginia Gregg (Ann Richards)  
    Richard Loo (Robert Hung)  
    Soo Yong (Nora Hung)  
    Philip Ahn (Third Uncle)  
    Jorja Curtright (Suzanne)  
    Donna Martell (Suchen)  
    Candace Lee (Oh-No)  
    Kam Tong (Dr. Sen)  
    James Hong (Fifth Brother)  
    Herbert Heyes (Father Low)  
    Angela Loo (Mei Loo)  
    Marie Tsien (Rosie Wu)  
    Barbara Jean Wong (Nurse)  
    Hazel Shon (Nurse)  
    Jean Wong (Nurse)  
    Kei Chung (Intern)  
    Henry S. Quan (Officer)  
    Ashley Cowan (British sailor)  
    Joseph Kim (Gen. Song)  
    Marc Krah (Wine steward)  
    Salvador Báguez (Hotel manager)  
    Edward Colmans (Dining room captain)  
    Leonard Strong (Fortune teller)  
    Aen Ling Chow (Wife)  
    Stella Lynn (Wife)  
    Irene Liu (Wife)  
    Beulah Kwoh (Aunt)  
    Howard Soo Hoo (Second Brother)  
    Walter Soo Hoo (Third Brother)  
    Keye Luke (Elder Brother)  
    Lee Tong Foo (Old Loo)  
    John W. T. Chang (Gate keeper)  
    Weaver Levy (Soldier)  
    Eleanor Moore (English secretary)  

Summary: In 1949, in the British Crown Colony of Hong Kong, Eurasian doctor Han Suyin is summoned to the hospital emergency ward to tend to a young Chinese girl. Suyin’s friend, British doctor John Keith, places the dedicated Suyin in charge of the refugee, and soon after, invites her to attend a cocktail party with him. At the party, Suyin explains to Adeline Palmer-Jones, the snobbish wife of one of the hospital directors, that her mother was English and her father Chinese, and that she considers herself Chinese, even though she studied medicine in England. While discussing her intention to return to China to help her people, Suyin captures the attention of American newspaper correspondent Mark Elliott, who later asks her out. Intrigued but uncertain, Suyin tells Mark that he may call her, and later, as John drives her home, he informs her that Mark is married. Suyin shrugs off John’s concern by speculating that Mark will not call her, but when she returns to her room, the phone is already ringing. Suyin agrees to dine with Mark, and as they talk, Mark learns that Suyin, who is surprisingly superstitious, is the widow of a murdered Chinese Nationalist general. Days later, Suyin tends to the little girl, who has been named Oh-No, and engages in a political debate with Chinese doctor Sen, who believes that the Communist takeover in China has benefited the people, even though Hong Kong is flooded with refugees fleeing the new government. Later, after speaking with Mark, who is going to Singapore on an assignment, Suyin goes into town, where she meets Suzanne, a childhood Eurasian friend. When Suzanne tells Suyin that she now passes for English and is having an affair with an important, married Englishman, Suyin scolds Suzanne for denying who she truly is. Later, John again warns Suyin to be discreet in her relationship with Mark, whose wife lives in Singapore. The next day, when Mark comes to find Suyin at the hospital, he is met by Adeline, who pointedly asks him about his wife in front of Suyin. Mark and Suyin then go to a beach, and there, Mark tells Suyin that he and his wife have been separated and have not spoken for six years. When Mark attempts to express his feelings for her, Suyin gently quiets him, stating that she does not want to complicate her life. The couple then visits Suyin’s friends, Robert and Nora Hung, and spends a pleasant evening with them. When they return to the beach, Suyin can no longer contain her growing attraction to Mark and tells him that the Eastern and Western sides of her nature are debating what she should do. The next day, they meet on a hillside near the hospital, and Suyin is happy to see a butterfly land on Mark’s shoulder, which she regards as a good omen. Later, Suyin tells Mark that she has received an urgent summons from Third Uncle, the head of her family, to return to Chungking. Mark does not want her to go, but Suyin asserts that she needs time alone, to adjust to the possibly sordid implications of their relationship. Infuriated, Mark replies that she is too sensitive, and that he loves her. Suyin claims that love does not justify everything, and the angry Mark retorts that she does not need to run away to rid her conscience of him. On the airplane to Chungking, Suyin meets Suzanne and is surprised to learn that her paramour is Palmer-Jones. After being greeted by her family, Suyin learns that her sister Suchen has brought disgrace on the family by seeking refuge with a foreigner because she fears that the Communists will kill her. Suyin visits the girl, who states that Suyin has nothing to fear because she can return to Hong Kong. Suyin allays Suchen's fears by promising to obtain a passport for her. That night, Suyin is summoned to the main room, where the family has gathered to greet the just-arrived Mark. Mark explains to Suyin that he could not let her go, and wants to obtain a divorce in order to marry her. Surrendering to her love for Mark, Suyin states that she will always do what he wants, then receives permission from Third Uncle to marry Mark. While Mark goes to Singapore to confront his wife, Suyin busies herself with work and tending to Oh-No, and relaxes with Nora, Suzanne and her American friend, Ann Richards, who all caution her about the difficulities she will experience if she marries Mark. Suyin is too happy to take them seriously, although when Mark returns to Hong Kong, he sadly tells her that his wife will not grant him a divorce. Suyin assures Mark that nothing is different between them, and says she will live with the hope that his wife will change her mind. Later, the couple meets on their hilltop, and Mark asks Suyin to join him in Macao, to which he must go for a story. Suyin agrees, but as she is leaving, Adeline warns her that Palmer-Jones does not approve of her relationship with Mark. In Macao, Suyin and Mark are thrilled to be alone together, and Mark quotes Francis Thompson’s poem about love being a “many-splendored thing.” Their joy is cut short, however, when Mark receives orders to cover the just-erupted war between North and South Korea. Back at the hospital, Suyin learns that while she was away, there was an explosion in the harbor, and that she has been dismissed for being absent. Sen tells Suyin that she was fired because she is Eurasian, but Suyin refuses to listen to his entreaties to return to China. Suyin then meets Mark on their hillside one last time, and when Mark urges her not to be sad, Suyin bravely hides her tears until Mark leaves. Suyin and Oh-No, who has been released to her care, move in with Nora while Suyin looks for a job. Suyin’s only happines comes from Mark’s frequent letters, which she treasures. In Korea, Mark is typing a letter to Suyin when a butterfly lands on his typewriter, and he smiles, remembering her belief in omens. Later, in Hong Kong, Suyin is writing a good-luck prayer in Chinese, hoping that it will help Mark, when Oh-No accidentally spills her red ink. At the same time that the ink is spilled, a bomb drops on Mark’s camp in Korea and he is killed. Shortly after, Suyin learns of Mark’s death, and in horror and disbelief, runs out of Nora’s house. She climbs up to their hillside and sobs in grief while remembering Mark’s words about her ability to help others. Recalling one of Mark’s letters, which promised, “We have not missed, you and I, we have not missed that many-splendored thing,” Suyin dries her tears and begins to walk down the hill. 

Production Company: Twentieth Century-Fox Film Corp.  
Distribution Company: Twentieth Century-Fox Film Corp.  
Director: Henry King (Dir)
  Hal Herman (Asst dir)
  Otto Lang (2d unit dir)
  Lester Berke (2d asst dir)
Producer: Buddy Adler (Prod)
Writer: John Patrick (Scr)
Photography: Leon Shamroy (Dir of photog)
Art Direction: Lyle R. Wheeler (Art dir)
  George W. Davis (Art dir)
Film Editor: William Reynolds (Film ed)
Set Decoration: Walter M. Scott (Set dec)
  Jack Stubbs (Set dec)
Costumes: Charles LeMaire (Ward dir)
Music: Alfred Newman (Mus)
  Edward B. Powell (Orch)
Sound: Alfred Bruzlin (Sd)
  Harry M. Leonard (Sd)
  Sam Woodward (Sd ed)
  Dolph Rudeen (Sd ed)
  Ray Bomba (Sd ed)
Special Effects: Ray Kellogg (Spec photog eff)
Make Up: Ben Nye (Makeup)
  Helen Turpin (Hair styling)
Production Misc: William Eckhardt (Unit prod mgr)
  Allan Kaye (Tech adv)
Color Personnel: Leonard Doss (Col consultant)
Country: United States
Language: English

Music:
Songs: "Love Is a Many-Splendored Thing," music and lyrics by Sammy Fain and Paul Francis Webster.
Composer: Paul Francis Webster
  Sammy Fain
Source Text: Based on the book A Many-Splendored Thing by Han Suyin (London, 1952).
Authors: Suyin Han

Copyright Claimant Copyright Date Copyright Number
Twentieth Century-Fox Film Corp. 18/8/1955 dd/mm/yyyy LP5517

PCA NO: 17475
Physical Properties: Sd: Western Electric Recording
  col: De Luxe
  Widescreen/ratio: CinemaScope
  Lenses/Prints: lenses by Bausch & Lomb

 
Genre: Romance
 
Subjects (Major): Americans in foreign countries
  Chinese
  Eurasians
  Hong Kong
  Love affairs
  Miscegenation
  Physicians
  Racism
 
Subjects (Minor): Butterflies
  Chungking (China)
  Communists
  Dismissal (Employment)
  Divorce
  Family honor
  Family relationships
  Fortune-tellers
  Gossip
  Grief
  Hospitals
  Korean War, 1950-1953
  Letters
  Macao
  Mistresses
  Racial impersonation
  Refugees, Political
  Reporters
  Reputation
  Snobs and snobbishness
  Superstition
  Widows

Note: The working title of this film was A Many-Splendored Thing . As noted by the Var review, the title is “part of a quotation from ‘The Kingdom of God’ by religious poet Francis Thompson.” Although several contemporary sources refer to Murray Matheson’s character as “Dr. Tam,” he is called “Dr. John Keith” in the film. William Holden was borrowed from Paramount for the production. HR news items include Benson Fong, Sammee Tong, Jean Gale, Richard Wang, John Bogden, Byron Fitzpatrick and Mary Louie in the cast, but their appearance in the released picture has not been confirmed.
       Other HR news items noted that portions of the film were shot on location in Hong Kong and at Topanga Canyon, CA. According to a modern source, the location filming in Hong Kong was finished before writer John Patrick had completed the screenplay, and he was then forced to conform the script to accommodate the footage. According to May 1955 studio press materials, the film was to contain a scene in which “Han Suyin” is offered her job back by “Palmer-Jones” on the condition that they stay “friendly,” but Suyin rejects his advances. Although the finished picture does contain a scene in which “Suzanne” offers to intercede with Palmer-Jones on Suyin’s behalf, it does not have the sequence between Suyin and Palmer-Jones.
       As reported by several reviews of the film, Han Suyin’s “autobiographical novel” told the story of her life as a Eurasian doctor in Hong Kong, and of her love affair with a married, British war correspondent. [The lead male character was changed to an American for the film after Holden was cast]. According to information in the film’s file in the MPAA/PCA Collection at the AMPAS Library, the book’s subject matter of adultery and miscegination provoked the PCA to reject it as potential film material several times. Twentieth Century-Fox first presented the book to the PCA office for consideration in late 1952. When the story was rejected as “being a justification and glorification of adultery,” the studio responded that production chief Darryl F. Zanuck “had had the same opinion” but wished to obtain an “official reaction.” M-G-M also indicated an interest in the book in 1952.
       In early Mar 1955, Fox submitted its first draft of the screenplay, which was rejected by the PCA for its depiction of adultery. On 21 Mar 1955, in response to script changes presented by the studio, PCA official Geoffrey Shurlock again warned the studio not to glorify the adultery and to remember that the story was about “a very unconventional and dangerous relationship, and must be so presented.” After a series of conferences between the studio and the PCA, with some changes being made in footage that was already shot to reduce the implication that “Mark Elliott” and “Suyin” were involved in a sexual relationship, the film was approved in mid-May 1955.
       According to a 14 Jul 1955 HR news item, the film was to receive simultaneous world premieres in New York and Singapore, but the exact opening date in Singapore has not been confirmed. The picture received Academy Awards for Best Costume Design (Color), Best Music (Scoring Dramatic or Comedy Picture) and Best Song (“Love Is a Many-Splendored Thing”) and was nominated for Best Actress, Best Art Direction (Color), Best Cinematography (Color), Best Sound Recording and Best Picture. The title song was already a very popular hit by the time the picture was released, and several reviews surmised that it would help the film achieve box-office success. The CBS television network broadcast a half-hour soap opera entitled Love Is a Many-Splendored Thing from 18 Sep 1967 to 23 Mar 1973. Set in San Francisco, the series depicted the lives of three families and the problems of inter-racial love and marriage. 

Bibliographic Sources:   Date   Page
Box Office   13 Aug 1955.   
Daily Variety   10 Aug 55   p. 3.
Film Daily   10 Aug 55   p. 6.
Hollywood Reporter   13 Jan 1955   p. 2.
Hollywood Reporter   28 Jan 1955   p. 2.
Hollywood Reporter   7 Mar 1955   p. 8.
Hollywood Reporter   11 Mar 1955   p. 16.
Hollywood Reporter   14 Mar 1955   p. 2.
Hollywood Reporter   15 Mar 1955   p. 5.
Hollywood Reporter   25 Mar 1955   p. 2.
Hollywood Reporter   28 Mar 1955   p. 7.
Hollywood Reporter   29 Mar 1955   p. 9.
Hollywood Reporter   1 Apr 1955   p. 5.
Hollywood Reporter   7 Apr 1955   p. 5.
Hollywood Reporter   11 Apr 1955   p. 8.
Hollywood Reporter   15 Apr 1955   p. 12.
Hollywood Reporter   25 Apr 1955   p. 3.
Hollywood Reporter   2 May 1955   p. 9.
Hollywood Reporter   5 May 1955   p. 8.
Hollywood Reporter   1 Jul 1955   p. 17.
Hollywood Reporter   14 Jul 1955   p. 2.
Hollywood Reporter   2 Aug 1955   p. 9.
Hollywood Reporter   10 Aug 55   p. 3.
Hollywood Reporter   2 Sep 1955   p. 3.
LAMirror-News   20 Aug 1955.   
Motion Picture Herald Product Digest   13 Aug 55   p. 553.
New York Times   3 Apr 1955.   
New York Times   19 Aug 55   p. 10.
New Yorker   27 Aug 1955.   
Newsweek   29 Aug 1955.   
Variety   10 Aug 55   p. 6.

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The American Film Institute is grateful to Sir Paul Getty KBE and the Sir Paul Getty KBE Estate for their dedication to the art of the moving image and their support for the AFI Catalog of Feature Films and without whose support AFI would not have been able to achieve this historical landmark in this epic scholarly endeavor.
 
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