55 Days In Peking
Release Date: May 29, 1963

55 Days In Peking
No expense was spared in turning some plains in Spain into the setting for 55 Days In Peking.  Although producer Sam Bronston and director Nicholas Ray, and Ray's replacement directors Andrew Marton and Guy Green, made no pretense of being historically accurate in their presentation of the facts, they did use their sizeable $17 million budget to create an elaborate setting for their romanticized version of the Boxer Rebellion in Peking during the summer of 1900. The general outline of the historical events is followed within the context of a love affair between US Major Matt Lewis (Charlton Heston) and Russian Baroness Natalie Ivanoff (Ava Gardner). As  the violent nationalism of The Boxers goes unchecked by the Ching Court and Dowager Empress Tzu-Hsi (Flora Robson), the foreign contingent finds itself under siege in its vulnerable compound. The Boxers' initial attacks are met bravely by a odd assortment of American, British and German troops. But defeat is inevitable.. or so it seems.

Helping to steady the resolve in the beleaguered compound is the British Ambassador Sir Arthur Robertson (David Niven). But his efforts at diplomacy are undercut by the political maneuverings of Prince Tuan (Robert Helpmann) who serves as the Dowager's advisor. As the situation grows more hopeless, the brave Major Lewis refuses to give up. His determination to prevail against all odds attracts the Baroness's respect and developing love. The costumes, elaborate battle scenes and award-winning musical score (Dimitri Tiomkin) easily draw the viewer through the 159 minutes. If you enjoy an old-fashioned epic of war and love in an exotic locale with a cast of thousands and several Hollywood luminaries, then this may be just your cup of tea. However those folks who prefer their history free of obvious fantasy, may find something more to their liking at a library.

Copyright: Peter Fokes (2003)
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