Monday, February 1, 2016

Oscar Movie Review: "Love Is a Many-Splendored Thing" (1955)

Image Source
Movie"Love Is a Many-Splendored Thing"
Year Nominated: 1956
Director: Henry King
Rating: UR
Running Time: 1 hour, 42 minutes
Did It Win?: No.

An unhappily married reporter named Mark Elliot (William Holden) meets a Eurasian doctor and widow named Han Suyin (Jennifer Jones) in Hong Kong. They start a friendship which quickly evolves into love, but politics, social stigmas, and an impeding war may keep them apart.

Well, this movie has not aged well. "Love is a Many-Splendored Thing" is, once again, another old-school classic movie which was nominated for Best Picture and must now be looked at with modern eyes. The film takes place in Hong Kong and is supposed to be about two racially different people falling in love and overcoming the social stigmas around miscegenation. What this movie does is take a white actor, William Holden as Mark Elliot, and match him up with a white actress, Jennifer Jones as Han Suyin, who is Eurasian. Here are photos of Han Suyin and her actor counterpart for a frame of reference.
The real Dr. Han Suyin
Jennifer Jones in "Love is a Many-Splendored Thing"
Jennifer Jones, not in Asian-face
It's painfully obvious that the filmmakers cast Jennifer Jones because they were afraid of social stigmas against miscegenation, fearing that putting a racially diverse couple on screen may have hurt their box office returns. At least this is how it seems to us. At the time of the production of this film, it was apparently okay to cast Asian actors in supporting roles and as extras, but any time filmmakers needed characters to be in actual relationships or have intimate scenes with one another, both actors had to be the same race. In this aspect, the filmmakers succumbed to the very social stigmas they were trying to damn. Beyond any social commentary, this is a straightforward boy-meets-girl star-crossed lovers romantic drama. They like each other and want to be together, but everything in their lives is keeping them apart: Han Suyin's job as a doctor, their cultural differences and social stigmas, the oncoming Korean war, the fact that Mark Elliot is already married, etc. What is a loving couple to do?!

This film is actually based on a true story written by the real Dr. Han Suyin about her relationship with British reporter Ian Morrison, so while the story is true, the movie about it is plain ol' boring. It was nominated for numerous Academy Awards, including best picture. Despite this, the real Dr. Han Suyin distanced herself from the film in her autobiography "My House Has Two Doors" and claims she has never seen the movie and only sold the rights to her story to pay for an operation for her adopted daughter. Another bit of trivia is that despite their on-screen romance, lead actor William Holden and lead actress Jennifer Jones hated each other and hardly spoke off camera. Holden claimed Jones would constantly complain on set and would chew garlic before their kissing scenes. Dick move, lady. Even when he offered her some white roses as a peace offering, she threw them back in his face. All this off-screen drama actually turned out far more juicy and interesting than anything that made it into this film, so maybe someone should make a movie about the making of "Love is a Many-Splendored Thing" and hope it gets nominated for an Oscar, too. At the end of the day, we definitely wouldn't watch this movie again and don't think it deserved to be nominated for any awards for its contradictory casting and lack of emotional oomph.

My Rating: 5.5/10
BigJ's Rating: 6/10
IMDB's Rating: 6.6/10
Rotten Tomatoes Rating: 50%
Do we recommend this movie: Meh.
One year ago, we were watching: "Rebecca"

No comments:

Post a Comment