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55 Days at Peking (1963)

Unrated | | Action, Adventure, Drama | 6 May 1963 (UK)
During the 1900 Boxer Rebellion against foreigners in China, U.S. Marine Major Matt Lewis, aided by British Consul Sir Arthur Robertson, devises a strategy to keep the rebels at bay until an international military relief force arrives.

Directors:

Nicholas Ray, Guy Green (uncredited)

Writers:

Robert Hamer (additional dialogue), Philip Yordan (screenplay) | 1 more credit »
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Nominated for 2 Oscars. Another 3 nominations. See more awards »

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Cast

Cast overview, first billed only:
Charlton Heston ... Maj. Matt Lewis
Ava Gardner ... Baroness Natalie Ivanoff
David Niven ... Sir Arthur Robertson
Flora Robson ... Dowager Empress Tzu-Hsi
John Ireland ... Sgt. Harry
Harry Andrews ... Father de Bearn
Leo Genn ... Gen. Jung-Lu
Robert Helpmann ... Prince Tuan
Kurt Kasznar ... Baron Sergei Ivanoff
Philippe Leroy ... Julliard
Paul Lukas ... Dr. Steinfeldt
Elizabeth Sellars ... Lady Sarah Robertson
Massimo Serato ... Garibaldi
Jacques Sernas ... Maj. Bobrinski
Jerome Thor Jerome Thor ... Capt. Andy Marshall
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Storyline

Diplomats, soldiers and other representatives of a dozen nations fend off the siege of the International Compound in Peking during the 1900 Boxer Rebellion. The disparate interests unite for survival despite competing factions, overwhelming odds, delayed relief and tacit support of the Boxers by the Empress of China and her generals. Written by Martin H. Booda <booda@datasync.com>

Plot Summary | Add Synopsis

Taglines:

A handful of men and women held out against the frenzied hordes of bloodthirsty fanatics! See more »


Certificate:

Unrated | See all certifications »
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Details

Country:

USA

Language:

English

Release Date:

6 May 1963 (UK) See more »

Also Known As:

Fifty Five Days at Peking See more »

Filming Locations:

Las Matas, Madrid, Spain See more »

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Box Office

Budget:

$9,000,000 (estimated)
See more on IMDbPro »

Company Credits

Show more on IMDbPro »

Technical Specs

Runtime:

Sound Mix:

70 mm 6-Track (Westrex Recording System)

Color:

Color (Technicolor)

Aspect Ratio:

2.20 : 1
See full technical specs »
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Did You Know?

Trivia

Charlton Heston stated that his working relationship with Ava Gardner was very bad due to Gardner's unprofessional behavior during filming. She was very difficult to work with. Heston greatly enjoyed working with David Niven. See more »

Goofs

When Maj. Lewis, Robinson and Shiba sneak out to destroy the arsenal during the Chinese victory ceremony, when Shiba runs up the earthwork of the arsenal the ground flexes, revealing it to be hollow. See more »

Quotes

Maj. Matt Lewis: Alright, you fight the wars. Just let us fight the battles! Will you?
See more »

Alternate Versions

To receive a 'U' certificate in the UK (making the film suitable for all ages) significant cuts were made by the BBFC. These included the scene of the priest being drowned by the water-wheel, a shortening of the screaming sounds made by the soldier before his leg amputation, and a removal of all references by Lewis to local women being made available for soldiers. To retain the same certificate all video releases also featured the same cut print. The 2014 DVD features the uncut version and is upgraded to a PG. See more »


Soundtracks

So Little Time
(The Peking Theme)
Recorded by Andy Williams on CBS Records
Words by Paul Francis Webster
Music by Dimitri Tiomkin
See more »

Frequently Asked Questions

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User Reviews

 
Breathtaking costume epic film , shot in Spain , depicting the Chinese Rebellion Boxer and the fate of Europeans trapped in the midst of the chaos
9 September 2015 | by ma-cortesSee all my reviews

Historical and monumental film with big budget financed by the great producer Samuel Bronston . In this grand picture there are struggles , epic events , a love history and results to be very interesting , in spite of the fact that the runtime is overlong : 154 min and was filmed in Technicolor and Technirama . And including colorful photography and Dimitri Tiomkin's fascinating as well as romantic musical score , being masterfully directed by Nicholas Ray . During the 1900 Boxer Rebellion (Pekin , now Beijing) against foreigners in China, U.S. Army Major Matt Lewis (Charlton Heston), the head of the American garrison , aided by British Consul Sir Arthur Robertson (David Niven) , devises a strategy to keep the rebels at bay until an international military relief force arrives . The Boxers receive a tacit and undercover support by the ruler , Dowager Empress of China Tzu-Hsi (Flora Robson) , and her favorites as Prince Tuan (Robert Helpmann) . Meanwhile , Matt falls in love for a beautiful Baroness, Natalie Ivanoff (Ava Gardner) . Then , Matt Lewis (this role was loosely based on the real-life officer in charge of the marine guard at the US Legation, then Captain, later Lieutenant General, John Twiggs Myers) sets the forefront of some of the toughest fighting in the besieged legations . As a handful of men and women held out against the frenzied hordes of bloodthirsty fanatics and caught in the midst of the mayhem . All of them try to stop them pending the arrival of a relief force.

The movie is very spectacular , it's an excellent film , partially based on historical deeds . Runtime picture is overlong but is neither boring , nor tiring , but entertaining because happen many events . In the film, there are epic , mammoth spectacle , history , a love story , wonderful scenarios and is a pretty enjoyable movie . The final confrontation battle between the military Britishers , American soldiers , other foreigners and the Boxers enemies is overwhelming and outstanding . Nice performances by big name actors , an all-star cast . And extraordinary support cast such as John Ireland , Harry Andrews , Leo Genn , Kurt Kasznar , Philippe Leroy , Paul Lukas , Elizabeth Sellars , Massimo Serato ,Eric Pohlmann , Robert Urquhart , Burt Kwouk , Mervyn Johns , Jacques Sernas , among others . And brief interpretations from Spanish cast as Carlos Casaravilla , Jose Nieto , Félix Dafauce , Alfredo Mayo , Conchita Montes , Fernando Sancho and ¡Paul Naschy¡ .

Lavishly produced by Samuel Bronston , as he constructed a set representing turn-of-the-century Peking in Madrid at a cost of $900,000 . When Bronston was making the set for the Forum Romanum from ¨The fall of the Roman Empire¨ and it was actually being built , then Heston rejected the script but expressed an interest in '55 Days at Peking' instead . Bronston immediately ordered that the work on the Forum be stopped and the landscaping and foundation work be adapted for the Peking set . After filming, the Peking set was torn down and replaced by the Forum , if you look carefully, both sets share a very similar topography . Veniero Colosanti and John Moore production as well as costume design are breathtaking and impressive . Battles well staged are incredible and overwhelming . Due to mainland China's hostility and isolation from the Western world, a full-scale 60-acre replication of Peking 1900 -sewers and all- was built in the plains outside Madrid, and Chinese/Asian extras were flown in from all over Europe to provide the local Peking citizenry . The production grew so strapped for extras and equipment they borrowed them from Lawrence of Arabia (1962), which was filming concurrently in Almeria and Seville . A number of costumes for the Royal Chinese Court were authentic ones from Tzu Hsi's actual court .

Evocative as well as rousing musical score by the classic Dimitri Tiomkin . Ray direction is splendid and Jack Hildyard -David lean's ordinary cameraman- cinematography in Super Technirama 70 is fascinating . The flick was superbly handled by Nicholas Ray . However ,the production was troubled almost from the beginning. It ran into financial troubles, there were conflicts among the cast, and director Nicholas Ray argued so violently with producer Samuel Bronston that he eventually walked off the set and quit the picture, and soon afterward suffered a severe heart attack. Andrew Marton and Guy Green finished directing the picture, uncredited . The motion picture will appeal to historic story buffs and spectacular film lovers .


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