Do you remember the show 'Love Is A Many Splendored Thing'?

Created by an unsung pioneer of American pop culture and featuring a Yankees legend, this soap pushed boundaries in the late '60s.

Born in Chicago at the dawn of the twentieth century, Irna Phillips would become one of the unheralded geniuses of American pop culture. After studying acting in college, the hopeful thespian was told she was too plain for pictures. So Phillips became a teacher. 

She never gave up on acting, and got her foot in the door via radio plays on WGN. That gig led to her true life's work — writing serialized drama. Beginning with Painted Dreams, the first radio serial aimed at a female audience, Philips would become the most prolific creator of soap operas. She gave us Guiding Light, As the World Turns and Another World, just to name a few of the series that dished up decades of storylines. She chipped in on Peyton Place, A World Apart and Days of Our Life. Her early program Woman in White was one of the first pieces of entertainment set in a hospital. Her influence is immeasurable.

In 1967, a veteran Phillips served as the creator and head writer for a television spin-off of the 1955 film Love Is a Many-Splendored Thing, which was an adaptation of the cross-cultural romance novel of the same name. Somewhere along the way the hyphen was lost and the setting moved from Hong Kong to San Francisco.

The central character would be Mia Elliott, the daughter of the characters played by William Holden and Jennifer Jones on the silver screen, and the plot would follow her career and love life as she developed relationships with two men. This was a soap opera after all. There was one catch. The CBS censors were uncomfortable showing a romance between an Asian-American woman and a white man — despite this being the central plot of the film and book. How could they find that shocking? Always grounded in the real lives of modern women, Phillips also developed a subplot involving abortion. That ruffled the network's feathers, as well. Phillips understandably grew frustrated and left the show after a matter of months. Mia Elliott was written off the show.

Though it lost its tenuous connections to its source material, minus the shots of junk boats in the opening credits, Love Is A Many Splendored Thing nonetheless clicked with young audiences thanks to the DNA left by Phillips. The cast skewed younger, and the stories touched on modern themes. The creative team flipped over as much as the cast in its six-year run.

Among the young talent were faces like Donna Mills and eventual Captain Kirk love interest Bibi Besch. Yet perhaps the most successful talent to come out of the series was Eddie Layton, the keyboardist who played the show's music. His modern playing put a spring in the step of the series. The year the soap kicked off, Layton also became the organist at Yankee Stadium, a job he held for four decades before retiring a baseball icon.

 
Are you sure you want to delete this comment?
Close

17 Comments

Post a comment
Runeshaper 4 days ago
Interesting story. I never heard of the show so thanks for sharing, MeTV!
JoeSHill 5 days ago
Debuting on September 18, 1967, "LOVE IS A MANY SPLENDORED THING" ran on The CBS Television Network for 1430 half-hour episodes until 1973, which was around the same time that CBS's "THE YOUNG AND THE RESTLESS" made its daytime soap opera debut. The series, loosely based on 20th Century Fox's 1955 motion picture, was created for Television by Irna Phillips, the head writer for this soap opera.
Kramden62 6 days ago
I remember my Mom (may she rest in peace) always watched this and all the CBS soaps back in the early 70's when I was a kid.

I couldn't wait for them to be over so I could watch "Match Game" and the reruns of "Gomer Pyle!"
cperrynaples Kramden62 6 days ago
And I think I know what other poster was waiting for 4 o'clock...LOL! And since the MG reboot started in 1973, the Gomers were on in syndication! Network reruns of Gomer ran after The Edge Of Night! I remember the announcer saying "Stay tuned for Gomer Pyle next on most of these CBS stations"!
TheDavBow3 6 days ago
I remember watching soaps with my Grandmother in the early 70s. She liked Love Of Life, Search For Tomorrow and As The World Turns. Great memories
MrsPhilHarris 7 days ago
I looked for the opening with the junks in Hong Kong but guess it’s lost now.
No, it's recreated on YouTube!
Also, YouTube has a CBS soap promo from 1968 with Donna Mills and David Birney [RIP]!
I couldn’t find it. 🤨
Try "CBS soaps 1968" and it might work!
cperrynaples 7 days ago
No episodes exist, but 2 versions of the credits are on YouTube! The first was an orchristral version similar to the movie and the second was an organ arrangement more typical of that era! The second is the one with Eddie Layton which most viewers remember! Fun Fact: The soap replaced the original version of Password and ended the week before the premiere of The Young & The Restless!
There are a few episodes, maybe not the best quality but episodes though.
Love is a Many Splendored Thing 12/1/67:

https://youtu.be/qeBItnhy4Y0

Love is a Many Splendored Thing - August 21, 1970

https://youtu.be/jjr5dmFwftg

There might be some others somewhere just not widely available or in any syndicated format.
I've seen them both and they are black-and-white kinoscopes! The show was produced in color so recreations of the opens are as good as exists! CBS erased all the tapes to save money!
That's unfortunate, well at least those episodes in kinoscopic form exsist.
Not the first time. I read one time when they ran out of room in storage they would take the older tapes tv shows and just dump them in the Hudson River.
It should read "older tapes of tv shows".
Are you sure you want to delete this comment?