55 DAYS AT PEKING is a 1963 historically based American Technicolor
Technirama epic film drama, produced by
Samuel Bronston , directed
Nicholas Ray ,
Andrew Marton (credited as second unit director ),
and Guy Green (uncredited), that stars
55 Days in Peking is a dramatization of the siege of the foreign
legations\' compounds in Peking (now known as
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 .
* 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
In the final years of the 19th century, Peking is an open city with
the Chinese and several European countries vying for control. The
Boxers, who oppose Christianity, are agitating against the foreigners
and the western powers who still exercise complete sovereignty over
their compounds and their citizens. The head of the U..S military
garrison is Maj. Matt Lewis, USMC (
Fed up with foreign encroachment, the Dowager Empress Cixi uses the Boxer secret societies to attack foreigners within China. This leads to the siege and subsequent defense of the foreign compounds, from June 20 to August 14, 1900, by the colonial powers in the legations district of Peking .
The foreign embassies in Peking are being held in a grip of terror as the Boxers set about killing Christians in an anti-Christian nationalistic fever. Lewis heads a contingent of multinational soldiers and American Marines defending the compound. When the Boxers attack, Lewis, working with the senior officer from the British Embassy, Sir Arthur Robinson ( David Niven ) tries to keep them at bay pending the arrival of a multinational relief force.
Inside the besieged compound, the British ambassador gathers the beleaguered ambassadors into a defensive formation. Included in the group of high-level dignitaries is the sultry Russian Baroness Natalie Ivanoff ( Ava Gardner ), who begins a romantic liaison with Lewis. As the group conserves food and water while trying to save hungry children, it awaits reinforcements, but Empress Tzu Hsi is plotting with the Boxers to break the siege with the aid of Chinese troops.
Eventually, the forces of the
Eight-Nation Alliance arrive to put
down the rebellion. They relieve the siege of the foreign ligations
compound following the Battle of Peking , foreshadowing the demise of
DEPICTIONS OF HISTORICAL PERSONS AND EVENTS
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 performers. The Japanese in the foreign legation are played by Asian actors, but they have relatively minor roles.
CHINESE VIEW OF "FOREIGN POWERS"
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.
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The film maintains a certain curiosity value for cinephiles due to
its credited director
Nicholas Ray . Best known for his 1955 film
Rebel Without a Cause
55 Days at Peking
It was shot in the studios built by Samuel Bronston in Las Rozas de Madrid , 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 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.
BOX OFFICE PERFORMANCE
55 Days at Peking
ACADEMY AWARD NOMINATIONS
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
* Gold Key :
55 Days at Peking
* ^ 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. * ^ 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 19 November 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 , 8 January 1964 p 69 * ^ Gold Key: 55 Days at Peking\' at the Grand Comics Database * ^ Gold Key: