Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Love Is a Many-Splendored Thing

It's not exactly my sort of film, but TCM is showing Love Is a Many-Splendored Thing tonight at 8:00 PM. Those of you who like the sort of romantic melodrama that today would probably be made for the Lifetime Channel instead of the big screen will probably love this stuff.

The scene is Hong Kong, during the latter stages of the Chinese Civil War, which would be won by the Communists in October 1949. Han Suyin (Jennifer Jones) is a doctor working at one of the hospitals. She's had a difficult life. She's of mixed Chinese and British descent, which causes problems, and her husband recently died in the war. So to deal with that she's thrown herself into her career Into this walks Mark Elliot (William Holden), an American newspaper correspondent. It's fairly obvious what's going to happen next: the two are going to fall in love! (Would that all doctors look as radiant as Jennifer Jones.) And you know that it's not going to be a bed of roses, either, because if it were there wouldn't be a movie! Ah, but it's not just because of Ms. Han's being a widow that there are problems. Nor is the racial and cultural difference al there is to it. Mark is trapped in a loveless marriage, and he's found that his wife just won't give him a divorce.

Still, the two try to carry on a love affair while having all sorts of realities intrude upon their lives. Ms. Han has to deal with matters involving the ancestral estate back on the mainland; the Communists have taken it over having won the civil war. And then there's Mark's job, which is about to involve events a bit further away. If you noticed the date above, we're not that far away from June, 1950, which is when the North Korean Communists would invade the South and start what would become the Korean War, something that clearly Mark was going to have to cover, which leads to our two romantic leads being separated. When will they get to see each other again, and will their love be able to survive the separation? And can I keep my dinner down while watching this treacle?

I'm sorry, but I just can't bring myself to like Love Is a Many-Splendored Thing. Sure, it's competently made, but this is a movie I would put in a class with Dark Victory or the even more irritating Random Harvest: It screams "Chick flick!", and won't shut the hell up. Even the music gets in on the obnoxious act, with the strings swelling up to play the title tune which was a big hit back in the day, but nowadays is as bad as elevator music. I know there was a market for this sort of stuff, or else it wouldn't have been made. (That, and it was based on a book which was apparently quite popular when it was published.) If you're part of what would have been that target demographic, I bet you'll love Love Is a Many-Splendored Thing.

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