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55 DAYS AT PEKING – Dimitri Tiomkin

November 24, 2011 4 comments

MOVIE MUSIC UK CLASSICS

Original Review by Craig Lysy

55 Days at Peking is an epic film which joined politics and a love story as it explored European imperialism at the dawn of the 20th century. Set in Peking (now Beijing) we see the capital city occupied and under the financial domination of eleven European countries and Japan. They exploit the populace, are immune from Chinese laws and compete for economic control. A populist peasant rebellion called the Boxers rises up with fury and covert support from the Dowager Empress to expel the foreigners and restore Chinese honor and sovereignty. Producer Samuel Bronston assembled a stellar cast that included Charlton Heston as U.S. Major Matt Lewis, Ava Gardner as Russian Baroness, Natalie Ivanoff with whom he falls in love and David Niven as Sir Arthur Robinson, head of the British delegation. Regretfully despite the grandeur of its sets, its splendor and pageantry, the film’s narrative was uninspired, its script weak, and it suffered massive production challenges; implacable hostility between Heston and Gardner (she quit the film and they were forced to kill off her character!), went through four directors and ended up being both a commercial and critical failure. Read more…