55 Days at Peking

1963

Action / Adventure / Drama / History / War

55
Rotten Tomatoes Critics - Rotten 57%
Rotten Tomatoes Audience - Spilled 53%
IMDb Rating 6.8 10 5123

Synopsis


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Director

Cast

Charlton Heston as Maj. Matt Lewis
Ava Gardner as Baroness Natalie Ivanoff
David Niven as Sir Arthur Robertson
John Ireland as Sgt. Harry
720p.BLU 1080p.BLU
992.77 MB
1280*720
English
NR
24.000 fps
2hr 34 min
P/S 3 / 4
2.26 GB
1920*1080
English
NR
24.000 fps
2hr 34 min
P/S 0 / 7

Movie Reviews

Reviewed by HotToastyRag 9 / 10

Fantastic historical epic

Although Dimitri Tiomkin's score evoked every fitting emotion, it was a travesty that his were the only nominations 55 Days at Peking received in 1964. This incredibly lavish war epic was majorly snubbed at the Oscars; it should have been nominated for, if not won, Best Picture.

The start of the film shows Peking in 1900. The United States, England, France, Italy, Germany, Russia, Austria, and Japan are all represented with troops, flags, and national anthems played at the same time. The countries occupy separate spaces and are very clearly only interested in playing their own tunes. When the Boxer Rebellion comes to a head, all the nations must come together and try to fight the Boxers off. They're grossly outnumbered and try to hold out and defend themselves until reinforcements arrive.

Nicholas Ray's direction is excellent, especially when you consider his most famous films were quiet, inclusive dramas like Rebel Without a Cause and In a Lonely Place. The battle scenes are exciting and choreographically splendid to watch. This is an epic on a grand scale, with exquisitely detailed costumes and sets, by Veniero Colasanti and John Moore. In the beginning of the film, before the violence starts, there's a ball, and all the dignitaries and military men are resplendent in their uniforms. It's a very necessary scene, to show how far they fall during their desperate battle. I can't understand why this film didn't do well at the box office or during awards season; it's one of the most fantastic historical epics I've ever seen. While the battle scenes aren't grotesque, as they would be if the film was remade, there's enough tension to satisfy modern audiences. The combination of hope and hopelessness is incredible; I don't know whether to attribute it to the director, screenwriter, or the actors themselves.

Charlton Heston plays an American major, and he's joined by John Ireland and Jerome Thor; the latter has a half-Chinese daughter to provide for. While balancing his soldier duties, Chuck has an affair with Ava Gardner, who's supposed to play a Russian baroness. Ava doesn't even try for a Russian accent, and her homage to New York on the ends of her words made me cringe a little. Thankfully, she doesn't have a very big part, and Chuck is free to focus on his scenes without her, which are much better acted.

It's David Niven who steals the show, not only in his character's written part, but in his acting. He plays a British diplomat, based on the real life figure during the Boxer Rebellion, Sir Claude MacDonald, but since he has previous military experience, he's involved firsthand in the battle strategies. Lesser actors might have played the part as a one-dimensional diplomat, but The Niv gave a four-dimensional fantastic performance. He's just as anxious to return home to England as he is to return to the battlefield; and for a man who has the weight of his family, his country, and seven other allied nations on his shoulders, he show so much more emotion on his face than could be written in a screenplay. During the ball, the German Ambassador pays David Niven's character a compliment, and I think it's fitting for the actor himself: "I admire Sir Arthur. He always gives me the feeling that God must be an Englishman."

Reviewed by dglink 7 / 10

An Ode to Imperialism

Samuel Bronston produced three big-budget films at his Madrid studio during the early 1960's. The three films, "El Cid," "The Fall of the Roman Empire," and "55 Days at Peking" all featured well known stars, had casts of thousands, memorable music scores, and budgets that provided production values that splashed across the wide screen. Unfortunately, all three productions received mixed critical reviews and modest box-office returns. "55 Days at Peking" is typical of the three; headed by a trio of big names, Charlton Heston, Ava Gardner, and David Niven, and directed by Nicholas Ray, the lavish production is set in China during the Boxer Rebellion. The historical period and the politics make a fascinating backdrop to a cliché-ridden story.

Heston plays an American Major and glides by on his toothy grin and profile, while Niven depends on his innate Britishness to carry him through the role of an English diplomat. Ava Gardner comes off best; her beauty and grace imbue what is an undemanding role as a Russian Baroness with a priceless necklace, a murky secret, and a past littered with men. Similar to "The Good Earth," "Dragon Seed," and other Hollywood films of the 1930's and 40's, the casting of Western actors as Chinese characters persisted. Flora Robson as the Dowager Empress, Leo Genn as General Jung-Lu, and Robert Helpmann as Prince Tuan, are made-up Chinese caricatures, with Robson faring best and Helpmann worst. John Ireland, Harry Andrews, Kurt Kaszner, and Paul Lukas fill out the rest of the noteworthy Western roles.

Dong Kingman's colorful watercolors over the opening and closing credits are worthy of mention, as is Dimitri Tiomkin's Oscar-nominated score. Set against a turbulent era, the script by Philip Yordan and Bernard Gordon creaks much like the archaic casting of whites for Chinese; the story links one cliché with another whenever it strays from scenes that depict historical events into a lukewarm romance or sugary domestic drama. A few scenes that involve children have dialog that was possibly cribbed from Hallmark cards and is borderline cringe worthy. This large-scale ode to Western imperialism celebrates the endurance of a group of stubborn Westerners against the Chinese, who resented their intrusion and tried to force them out. The film is told from the perspective of the European diplomats trapped in Peking's foreign compound, who withstood 55 days of siege. Again like vintage films from Hollywood's Golden Age, coiffures and makeup are never mussed, clothing is never soiled, and death is always painless, bloodless, and peaceful. Nicholas Ray's direction of the action scenes is solid, although atmospheric scenes clutter the first third to extend the film's length and justify its importance. "55 Days at Peking" might have been a winner in the 1930's, but for contemporary viewers, politics have changed, and glorifying imperialism is no longer popular. The film is decent viewing for a peek at the past, an introduction to the Boxer Rebellion of 1900, and as an example of flamboyant, spectacular filmmaking of the early 1960's.

Reviewed by mikevonbach 3 / 10

WOW Hollywood Couldn't find Chinese actors to play the lead s.

But what is not usually gone into is the other side of the coin. China was not well governed for the bulk of the population. In fact, in the 1850s and 1860s there was a long and bloody Civil War (The Taiping Rebellion) that was to make an international figure out of the British General who finally put it down (Charles George "Chinese" Gordon). The reason for the rebellion was partly religious, but it was also partly economic - the peasantry was tired supporting the Manchu Court in Beijing (the Peking of the movie title). A succession of weak emperors were plaguing the country, who were manipulated by Tzu - Hsi (one of the most unscrupulous monarchs in history).

Tzu - Hsi would basically control the Chinese Government from 1860 to 1908, when she died. Her idea of government responsibility is illustrated by a famous act of selfishness she performed. When China's navy was trounced in the Sino - Japanese War of 1894 (Japan had a modern navy), it was decided to use tax money to build up the Chinese navy to compete with Japan again. The Dowager Empress agreed - she took the money earmarked for battleships, and built a super battleship. Only it was made of marble, in the shape of a battleship, and was put on land as a summer palace. It is still standing as a tourist attraction.

Humiliations were not only done by Europeans, Americans, and Japanese. If you recall the geography lesson scene in THE KING AND I, the children are unconvinced about the small size of Siam as opposed to China. The Crown Prince points out that China can't be that big - it's monarchy is considered weak, while Siam's is strong. Well, in this period, Siam (Thailand) also had managed to get some territory back from China - and to become rather important in the area of southeast Asia. This would not have been the case in the 17th or 18th Centuries.

In 1900 the Chinese finally exploded. The people had been forming para- military groups in the late 1890s (in the wake of the defeat by Japan) which were ultra-Nationalist, fervently anti-foreign, and fervently in favor of Chinese religious beliefs over Christian. The Dowager Empress realized that it would be advantageous to her to let these energies be expanded towards the foreigners: it would keep these people looking too closely at her misrule. Without officially countenancing these groups (called "Boxers" because their translated

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