Love Is a Many-Splendored Thing (1955): Interracial Romantic Melodrama, Starring William Holden and Jennifer Jones in Oscar-Nominated Performance

Henry King’s romantic melodrama, Love Is a Many-Splendored Thing, from a screenplay by John Patrick, based on Han Suyin’s novel, depicts an interracial affair between a Eurasian doctor (Jennifer Jones) and an American war correspondent (William Holden), who’s still married.

Love Is a Many-Splendored Thing
Love Is a Many-Splendored Thing.jpg

Original film poster


The title is a quote from the work of the poet Francis Thompson, “The Kingdom of God,” giving the film the kind of literary aura that it doesn’t deserve.

One of the most commercially successful pictures of the year, “Love Is a Many-Splendored Thing” features the two stars, particularly Holden, at their most appealing. This was a banner year for Holden, who also appeared in the Oscar-nominated “Picnic,” and in “The Bridges at Toko-Ri,” opposite Grace Kelly. Holden will play a similar role several years later in the interracial melodrama, “The World of Suzie Wong” (1960). I don’t mean to equate the two pictures, as in this one, Jones plays a physician, where in the 1960 work, the protagonist is a prostitute (with a heart of gold, of course).

The Eurasian medico widow, Han Suyin, meets and fall for American correspondent Mark Elliott (Holden) in Hong Kong. After a slow start, their romance becomes idyllic–until Suyin begins to encounter prejudices against her race in and out of the hospital where she works.

The British colony also plays its role in deriding the affair. Add to it the complications of a married man whose wife will not grant him a divorce and you have a sappy meller that by today’s standards would be labeled “chick flick.”

Spoiler Alert

When Holden gets killed in a war assignment in Korea, Jones continues to love him, and the story ends with her visiting the green hill where they used to meet, while Fain-Webster popular tune plays loud on the soundtrack


Mark Elliott (William Holden)
Han Suyin (Jennifer Jones)
Mr. Palmer-Jones (Torin Thatcher)
Adeline Palmer-Jones (Isobel Elsom)
Dr. Tom (Murray Matheson)
Ann Richards (Virginia Gregg)

Oscar Nominations:

Picture, produced by Buddy Adler
Actress: Jennifer Jones
Cinematography (color): Leon Shamroy
Art Direction-Set Decoration (color): Lyle Wheeler and George W. Davis; Walter M. Scott and Jack Stubbs
Costume Design (color): Charles LeMaire
Sound Recording: Carl W. Faulkner
Song: “Love Is a Many-Splendored Thing,” music by Sammy Fain, lyrics by Paul Francis Webster
Scoring of a Drama or Comedy: Alfred Newman

Oscar Awards: 3

Costume Design

Oscar Context

In 1955, “Marty” swept most of the Oscars, including Picture and Director. The most nominated (9) film was “The Rose Tattoo,” based on Tennessee Williams play and directed by the other Mann, Daniel. Most of the nominated pictures were screen adaptations of popular stage or TV plays. The other three nominees were the romantic melodrama “Love Is a Many-Splendored Thing,” which was the most popular film of the year, John Ford’s “Mister Roberts,” and “Joshua Logan’s Picnic.”

Anna Magnani won the Best Actress for “The Rose Tattoo,” Robert Burks the Cinematography Oscar for Hitchcock’s “To Catch a Thief,” “Picnic” won the Art Direction and “Oklahoma!” the Sound Award.


The movie opened at the Roxie Theater in New York on August 18, 1955.


Directed by Henry King
Screenplay by John Patrick
Based on A Many-Splendoured Thing 1952 book by Han Suyin
Produced by Buddy Adler
Cinematography Leon Shamroy
Edited by William H. Reynolds
Music by Alfred Newman
Sammy Fain title song

Distributed by Twentieth Century-Fox Film Corporation

Release date: August 18, 1955

Running time: 102 minutes
Budget $1.78 million
Box office $4 million (US rentals); about $8 million grosses