Sunday, November 20, 2011

Jennifer Jones in Love is a Many-Splendored Thing

Jennifer Jones received her fifth (and last) Oscar nomination for playing Dr. Han Suyin, a widowed Eurasian doctor falling for an American correspondent in the Best Picture nominee Love is a Many-Splendored Thing. Although nowadays most people would say Jennifer Jones was the last because she was a previous Oscar winner, I feel that the Academy really fell for her movie (it received eight nominations and won three of them, after all) and as a result, she was a serious contender for the Best Actress award. I think it was a very heated battle for the Best Actress award and despite the fact Anna Magnani won all the awards possible for her performance, the others were not far behind her. 

Love is a Many-Splendored Thing won the Golden Globe for "Best Film Promoting International Understanding" and that perfectly sums it up. Although in 1955 it must have been a groundbreaking movie, nowadays the most "meaningful" aspect of it seems to be the most dated. Actually, there are many things about it that might have been very brave and even scandalous at the time, nowadays you just keep smiling at the fact that lighting a cigarette   is the symbol of having sex. Despite this, I was surprised to see how much I enjoyed watching this film as there was something really interesting and human about it. At times it was really poignant and wonderful so my intial reluctant attitude towards this movie changed quite rapidly.

Jennifer Jones seems to be a very divisive actress nowadays who has devoted fans as well as people who find her acting incredibly weak. Personally, I'm very fond of her and her very clear and subtle style that's able to impress me at the most unlikely moments. Her performances are always so beautifully understated and that's very most of the hatred towards her might come from. Compared to her fellow nominee Susan Hayward's loud, in-your-face acting style, Jennifer is always so calm and silent. Probably that's what made her work as St. Bernadette a real miracle and Jennifer an overnight success. And as a side note, I love her last motion picture performance as Lisolette in The Towering Inferno (SPOILER!!! Darn, I still cannot believe those sadistic writers so cruelly killed her off!  SPOILER OFF!).

I guess Jennifer Jones was born to play characters like Dr. Han in Love is a Many-Splendored Thing. However, there's one thing: despite her dark hair and hazel(ish) eyes, Jennifer doesn't really look Asian, or even Eurasian, though that seemingly didn't bother the producers enough not to hire her (or God forbid, hire an Asian actress!). Against this really obvious setback, it's a real miracle if Jennifer is able to be even believable, let alone memorable. Despite my resentment towards the decision of the casting directors, I found myself (once again) almost completely fall for Jennifer. Great actresses will be great actresses and is Jennifer great!

Nobody was able to display humility and kindness the way Jennifer did. To some she could seem extremely weak as Suyin but I was impressed by her presence all the time. I think she completely identified with the personality of Suyin. Although there is no showy development in her character (at least not very much), Jennifer at least shows different facets of this woman. She displays her emotions in a very charming and loveable way, which constantly fascinated me.

I probably love this performance more than I appreciate it. In a technical sense, it's not a masterpiece.  Moreover, the political "message" of the movie comes from her mouth and the way she was talking about refugees felt really bored. However, Jennifer does what she's best at: showing the emotions of a character very quietly with lots of dignity. Sometimes, the quiet sufferings of Suyin evoked very fond memories of Jennifer's unforgettable and heart-breaking work as St. Bernadette. The wonderful purity and naturality, that made her Bernadette such a wonderful creation, is a bit transformed in this movie. She's much more Hollywood, she doesn't go that deep into the character. I also must mention, though, that this character is not even half as wonderfully written as her Bernadette. She simply doesn't get that much opportunity to shine with her part.

Love is a Many-Splendored Thing is a typical product of the 1950s and Jennifer just lived up to the expectations of her era. I suppose people wanted to be moved by a simple love story and I can just imagine typical 50s housewives crying at this movie on a Saturday night at the movie theater. Jennifer flawlessly did what she was expected to do at the time, but nothing more and actually, it shows.

Still, I would be lying if I didn't say I was really moved by this performance. To some, this work of Jennifer Jones would be flat and uninteresting, but I really enjoyed every minute of it. Although it's not a grand achievement by today's standards, it's an incredibly moving and loveable piece of work. Jennifer excels at showing Suyin's humility and pure emotions. Again, this is nothing fantastic but something really lovely.

What do you think?

The next review comes tomorrow or even today (I'd like to finish this year this week). 


Fritz said...

Not a fan of her in this movie.

dinasztie said...

I'm not a fan, either, I just liked her and I was captivated (to an extent) by her presence. :)

joe burns said...

Never seen it, the only nominee I've seen is Anna...

Phillip Oliver said...

I'm a huge fan of hers (I created a website devoted to her!). While this is not my favorite of her performances, I do like it. Have you ever seen her in "Gone to Earth" (titled "Wild Heart" in the U.S.)? It is a great performance. I also love her in "Madame Bovary".

Alan Ellaway said...

The first memories I have of Jennifer Jones are in "A Portrait of Jennie" and "Love Letters" and they remain my favorites. There is something just enchanting about her in these films. I saw the rarely seen "The Wild Heart"(Also Known as "Gone to Earth" and her fey loveliness is on view here also. She has had her detractors, and sometimes I can understand why they find her "mannered" Films such as "a Farewell to Arms' and particularly "Ruby Gentry' I don't find her a t her best. But "Madame Bovary", "Carrie' and the later "Tender Is The Night" which I thought she was excellent in although the film has problems. I thought she had the only decent female part as a brave and surprisingly athletic heroine in in "The Towering Inferno' and thought it typically Hollywood that although only 6 years older than Paul Newman, she was supposed to be grateful that she had a date with the 2o years older Fred Astaire, while Newman cavorts with the 16 years younger Faye Dunaway(in a surprisingly nothing part). She deserved to survive that particular holocaust.