racechanging: 55 Days in Peking

55 Days in Peking

An all-star, politically incorrect and historically inaccurate epic of a movie.

A motley crew of imperialist running-dogs fend off the siege of the International Compound in Beijing during the 1900 Boxer Rebellion. Empress Dowager Tzu-Hsi (Flora Robson) – under the modern Pinyin transcription she is known as Empress Dowager Cixi – and her generals tacitly support the Boxers – but they must have known they couldn’t beat Charlton Heston.

The film ends with the relief of the Foreign Legations (August 1900) and the Empress Dowager’s escape from the city disguised in the padded cotton clothing of a peasant. She was back in the Forbidden City by January 1902.

Tzu-Hsi (or Cixi) never ruled from the throne as depicted in the movie but, as a woman, addressed her ministers through a screen behind the throne.

Flora Robson played a wide variety of character parts in a fifty year career in the movies: some of her many looks are displayed in the chameleons section.

The makeup

Mario Van Riel was the makeup artist.