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55 Days at Peking is a 1963 historically based American Technirama and Technicolor epic film drama, produced by Samuel Bronston and directed by Nicholas Ray, Andrew Marton (credited as second unit director), and Guy Green (uncredited). The film stars Charlton Heston, Ava Gardner, and David Niven and was released by Allied Artists. The screenplay was written by Philip Yordan, Bernard Gordon, Ben Barzman and Robert Hamer, while the music score was composed by Dimitri Tiomkin; the theme song "So Little Time" was composed by Tiomkin with lyrics by Paul Francis Webster. 55 Days in Peking is a dramatization of the siege of the foreign legations' compounds in Peking (now known as Beijing) during the Boxer Rebellion, which took place from 1898 to 1900 in China. It is based on the book by Noel Gerson. In addition to directing, Nicholas Ray plays the minor role as the head of the American diplomatic mission in China. This film is also the first known appearance of future martial arts film star Yuen Siu Tien. Japanese film director Juzo Itami, credited in the film as "Ichizo Itami", appears as Col. Goro Shiba.

Contents

1 Plot 2 Cast 3 Depictions of historical persons and events

3.1 Chinese view of "foreign powers"

4 Production 5 Reception

5.1 Box office performance 5.2 Academy Award nominations

6 Home media 7 Comic book adaption 8 See also 9 Notes 10 External links

Plot[edit] In the summer of 1900, starvation is widespread in China, affecting 100 million, while a thousand foreigners from various industrialized countries exploit their positions inside Peking's legations to seek control of the weakened country. The Boxers oppose Christianity and are agitating against the foreign powers. The turmoil in China is worsened because Boxer secret societies have tacit approval from the Dowager Empress Cixi (Flora Robson). Frustrated by the foreign encroachment, with 13 of China's 18 provinces having been forced into territorial concessions to those powers, the Empress encourages Boxers to attack all foreigners in Peking and elsewhere in China. When the Empress does not punish the assassination of the German ambassador in Peking and "suggests" foreigners leave, a violent siege of the foreign legations district of Peking erupts (lasting from June 20 to August 14, 1900). Foreign embassies in Peking are gripped by terror as Boxers set about killing Christians in an anti-western nationalistic fever. The head of the US military garrison is US Marine Major Matt Lewis (Charlton Heston), an experienced China hand who knows local conditions well. A love interest blossoms between Major Lewis and Baroness Natasha Ivanoff (Ava Gardner), a Russian aristocrat, who it is revealed had an affair with a Chinese General, causing her Russian husband to commit suicide. The Russian Imperial Minister, who is Natasha's brother-in-law, has revoked Natasha's visa in attempts to recover a valuable necklace from the Baroness. Although the Baroness tries leaving Peking as the siege starts she returns to Major Lewis, and volunteers in the hospital which is battered by the siege and is running out of supplies. To help defenders, the Baroness exchanges her valuable necklace for medical supplies and food, although is wounded in the process and later dies. Lewis leads the small contingent of 400 multinational soldiers and American Marines defending the compound. As the siege worsens, Maj. Lewis forms an alliance with the senior officer at the British Embassy, Sir Arthur Robinson (David Niven), to keep the Boxers at bay, pending the arrival of a British relief force led by Admiral Sydney. After hearing that the British force has been repulsed by Chinese forces, Maj. Lewis and Sir Arthur succeed in blowing up a Chinese ammunition dump. As foreign defenders conserve food and water while trying to save hungry children, hoping for reinforcements from other countries, the Empress continues plotting with the Boxers to break the siege with the aid of Chinese troops. Eventually, another relief force composed of the Eight-Nation Alliance arrives to put down the Chinese rebellion, reaching Peking on the fifty-fifth day. They relieve the siege of the foreign legations following the Battle of Peking. The film ends by foreshadowing the demise of the Qing Dynasty, rulers of China for the previous two and one-half centuries. Cast[edit]

Charlton Heston as Maj. Matt Lewis (based upon John Twiggs Myers) Ava Gardner as Baroness Natasha Ivanoff David Niven as Sir Arthur Robertson (based upon Sir Claude MacDonald) Flora Robson as Empress Dowager Tzu Hsi John Ireland as Sgt. Harry Leo Genn as Gen. Jung-Lu Harry Andrews as Father de Bearn Robert Helpmann as Prince Tuan Juzo Itami as Col. Shiba Kurt Kasznar as Baron Sergei Ivanoff Philippe Leroy as Julliard Paul Lukas as Dr. Steinfeldt Lynne Sue Moon as Teresa Elizabeth Sellars as Lady Sarah Robertson Massimo Serato as Menotti Garibaldi Jacques Sernas as Maj. Bobrinski Jerome Thor as Capt. Andy Marshall Geoffrey Bayldon as Smythe Joseph Furst as Capt. Hanselman Walter Gotell as Capt. Hoffman Alfred Lynch as Gerald (uncredited) Alfredo Mayo as Spanish Minister Martin Miller as Hugo Bergmann José Nieto as Italian Minister Eric Pohlmann as Baron von Meck Aram Stephan as Gaumaire Robert Urquhart as Capt. Hanley R.S.M. Ronald Brittain as Sgt. Britten (uncredited) Fernando Sancho as Belgian Minister (uncredited) Michael Chow as Chiang (uncredited) Nicholas Ray as U.S. Minister (based upon Edwin H. Conger) (uncredited) Yuen Siu Tien (uncredited) Burt Kwouk as Old Man (voice)

Depictions of historical persons and events[edit] The historical events which this film concerns were, and remain, politically charged. The film depicts attitudes on race-relations, colonialism, and nationalism as they existed at the end of the 19th century, and it reflects the 1960s attitudes to these issues, rather than those of the period of the Boxer Rebellion. The conflicts between Chinese, Japanese, and European nationalism are addressed. Most of the starring Chinese roles, including the Empress Dowager and her Prime Minister, are played by white perfomers. The Japanese in the foreign legation are played by Asian actors, but they have relatively minor roles. Chinese view of "foreign powers"[edit] The film opens with cacophonous displays of nationalism inside the Foreign Legation quarter, with each nation raising its own flag, and playing a signature national anthem. The camera pans to two old, Pekingese men eating a meal in a crowded Chinese street:

Old Pekingese Man 1: (with hands over ears): "What is this terrible noise?" Old Pekingese Man 2: "Different nations saying the same thing at the same time, 'We want China!'"

The resentment of the Chinese Imperial Court at having to accept the presence of foreign powers in China is given its sharpest voice in the character of Prince Tuan (played by Australian ballet dancer Robert Helpmann) who counsels the Dowager Empress (British actress Flora Robson) to support the rebel Boxer "patriots" seeking to wipe out the foreigners. Opposing this aggressive stance is Gen. Ronglu (British actor Leo Genn).

Gen. Jung Lu: "If the Boxers remain unchecked, a dozen foreign armies will descend on China". Prince Tuan: "We are tens of millions – let them come!"

The general warns the Empress that the Boxer rebels will be unable to match the modern armies of the foreigners. The Empress's sympathy for the Boxers grows however and, in a later scene, she orders her general to turn back the foreign armies, declaring:

Dowager Empress: "China's condition can be no worse than it is! Even if we were to start a war and lose it, what more can the powers take from us?"

When the siege has ended in defeat for the Boxers, the Empress is seen at the Dragon throne, in distress and without her robes of state: "The dynasty is finished," she repeats to herself several times. Production[edit] In 1959 Jerry Wald announced he would make a film on the Boxer Rebellion called The Hell Raisers. He hoped to star David Niven and Stephen Boyd.[3]

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Best known for his 1955 film Rebel Without a Cause starring James Dean, Nicholas Ray was a tortured individual at the time of the production of 55 Days at Peking, somewhat akin to the Dean persona he helped to create for Rebel. Paid a very high salary by producer Samuel Bronston to direct 55 Days, Ray had an inkling that taking on the project – a massive epic – would mean the end of him and that he would never direct another film again.[citation needed] Ray's premonition proved correct when he collapsed on set halfway through shooting. Unable to resume working (the film was finished by Andrew Marton and Guy Green), he never received another directorial assignment.[4] In the final months of his life, he collaborated with Wim Wenders, on the 1979 feature Lightning Over Water aka Nick's Film/Nick's Movie, which recorded his last moments. Charlton Heston later stated that the working relationship between himself and Ava Gardner was very bad – he claimed that Gardner was very difficult to work with and behaved unprofessionally throughout filming. In contrast, Heston said he greatly enjoyed working with David Niven. Heston would work with Gardner again, in the 1974 Universal disaster film Earthquake. 55 Days at Peking was filmed in Technicolor and Technirama, which involved the horizontal use of 35-millimeter film, resulting in 70-millimeter printed film format. The aspect ratio was 2.20:1, with the image viewed at 2.35:1 on 35-millimeter prints. It was shot in the studios built by Samuel Bronston in Las Rozas de Madrid,[5][6] near Madrid. Due to the commercial failure of the film and other enterprises by Bronston, the area is now a residential compound in Las Matas. 4000 extras were required, including Chinese people brought from restaurants and laundries across Europe[7] since there were not enough available Chinese people in Spain for the mass scenes. Dong Kingman painted the watercolors for the titles and also made an uncredited appearance in the film. Reception[edit] Box office performance[edit] 55 Days at Peking was a commercial disaster in the U.S. Produced on a then-enormous budget of $17 million,[1] the film's domestic gross was $10 million,[2] earning only $5 million in theatrical rentals.[8] It was the 20th highest-grossing film of 1963. The figures quoted ignore foreign box office receipts where the film was much more successful than in the U.S. Academy Award nominations[edit] The film received two Academy Award nominations for Dimitri Tiomkin (Best Original Song (Lyrics by Paul Francis Webster) and Original Music Score). Home media[edit] DVD release came on February 28, 2001, nearly thirty-eight years after the film's premiere. A Blu-ray release came in April 2014 on the UK Anchor Bay label. Comic book adaption[edit]

Gold Key: 55 Days at Peking (September 1963)[9][10]

See also[edit]

List of American films of 1963 List of historical drama films of Asia

Notes[edit]

^ a b Box Office Information for 55 Days at Peking. IMDb. Retrieved September 5, 2013. ^ a b Box Office Information for 55 Days at Peking. The Numbers. Retrieved September 5, 2013. ^ Scott, J. L. (September 8, 1959). Wald rushes plans for 'hell raisers'. Los Angeles Times (1923–Current File) Retrieved from https://search-proquest-com.ezproxy.sl.nsw.gov.au/docview/167522992?accountid=13902 ^ Nat Segaloff, Final Cuts: The Last Films of 50 Great Directors, Bear Manor Media 2013 p 239-241 ^ (in Spanish)Curiosidades. Official site of Las Rozas. ^ (in Spanish)NO-DO newsreel Nº 1037A from November 19, 1962. ^ (in Spanish) Madrid: cuentos, leyendas y anécdotas, Volumen 2, by Javier Leralta, page 50, Sílex Ediciones, 2002. ISBN 8477371008 ^ "All-Time Top Grossers", Variety, January 8, 1964 p 69 ^ Gold Key: 55 Days at Peking' at the Grand Comics Database ^ Gold Key: 55 Days at Peking at the Comic Book DB

External links[edit]

55 Days at Peking on IMDb 55 Days at Peking at AllMovie 55 Days at Peking at the TCM Movie Database 55 Days at Peking at the American Film Institute Catalog

v t e

Films directed by Nicholas Ray

They Live by Night (1949) Knock on Any Door (1949) A Woman's Secret (1949) In a Lonely Place (1950) Born to Be Bad (1950) Flying Leathernecks (1951) On Dangerous Ground (1952) The Lusty Men (1952) Johnny Guitar (1954) Run for Cover (1955) Rebel Without a Cause (1955) Hot Blood (1956) Bigger Than Life (1956) The True Story of Jesse James (1957) Bitter Victory (1957) Wind Across the Everglades (1958) Party Girl (1958) The Savage Innocents (1960) King of Kings (1961) 55 Days at Peking (1963) We Can't Go Home Again (1976) Lightning Over Water (1980)

v t e

The films of Guy Green

River Beat (1954) Lost (1956) House of Secrets (1956) The Snorkel (1958) Portrait of Alison (1958) Sea of Sand (1958) SOS Pacific (1959) The Angry Silence (1960) The Mark (1961) Light in the Piazza (1962) Diamond Head (1963) 55 Days at Peking (1963) A Patch of Blue (1965) Pretty Polly (1967) The Magus (1968) A Walk in the Spring Rain (1970) Luther (1973) Once Is Not Enough (1975) The Devil's Advocate (1977) The Incredible Journey of Doctor Meg Laurel (1979)

v t e

Films directed by Andrew Marton

Two O'Clock in the Morning (1929) The Night Without Pause (1931) Johnny Steals Europe (1932) North Pole, Ahoy (1934) Demon of the Himalayas (1935) Wolf's Clothing (1936) Secret of Stamboul (1936) School for Husbands (1937) A Little Bit of Heaven (1940) Gentle Annie (1944) Gallant Bess (1946) King Solomon's Mines (1950) Storm Over Tibet (1951) The Wild North (1952) Prisoner of War (1954) Men of the Fighting Lady (1954) Green Fire (1954) Seven Wonders of the World (1956) Underwater Warrior (1958) Oh Islam (1961) It Happened in Athens (1962) The Longest Day (1962) 55 Days at Peking (1963) The Thin Red Line (1964) Crack in the World (1965) Clarence, the Cross-Eyed Lion (1965) Around the World Under the Sea (1966) Birds Do It (1966) Africa Texas Style (1967)

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