Han Suyin, a physician and author known for writing the sweeping novel that became the Hollywood film “Love Is a Many-Splendored Thing” and for her outspoken championing of China under Mao Zedong, died on Friday at her home in Lausanne, Switzerland.
As with many aspects of Dr. Han’s life, the precise year of her birth is uncertain, but she was believed to have been 96. Her granddaughter, Karen Shepard, confirmed the death.
The daughter of a Chinese father and a Belgian mother, Dr. Han was born and reared in China but wrote primarily in English and French. In more than two dozen books, including novels, a multivolume memoir and laudatory biographies of Mao and Zhou Enlai, she had the singular task, during the 1950s and afterward, of simultaneously explaining China to the West and the West to China.
“Love Is a Many-Splendored Thing” was released in 1955. A drama set in late-1940s Hong Kong amid the Chinese Civil War, it starred William Holden and Jennifer Jones as ill-fated lovers: he a dashing, married Western journalist and she a widowed Eurasian doctor. The film’s lush, sentimental theme song, with music by Sammy Fain and lyrics by Paul Francis Webster, quickly became a standard and won an Academy Award for best song. The film also won Oscars for musical score and costume design.
The movie was based on Dr. Han’s second novel, published in 1952 as “A Many-Splendored Thing.” A highly autobiographical work, it was rooted in the affair she had in Hong Kong with an Australian correspondent who was later killed in the Korean War. The film adaptation in turn inspired an American television soap opera, “Love Is a Many Splendored Thing,” broadcast on CBS from 1967 to 1973.
keyboard shortcuts: V vote up article J next comment K previous comment