In the days before Political Correctness and revisionist history, Hollywood frequently produced American historical epics. These types of films are generally no longer produced; the modern Corporate Media has neither the talent, the education, nor the political will to make them. Our forefathers understood, though, that great men did great things in real life; and their exploits were commemorated as examples of what the human spirit was capable of achieving.
Our film recommendation for this weekend dovetails somewhat into the hopes and aspirations of the incoming Presidential Administration because it depicts an incident that first established the US an international power. The film is from 1963, titled 55 Days at Peking. It stars Charlton Heston, David Niven, and the beautiful Ava Gardner.
Since US history is rarely taught anymore, it is necessary to give the historical background to this story, which took place historically during the Summer of 1900 in China. China was then in a state of political disintegration; nominally ruled under Empress Tzu-Si, but controlled mostly by local warlords. The Chinese government was covertly aiding a band of religious/nationalist religious terrorists and fanatics who were known as the Boxers in the Western media because they incorporated traditional Chinese martial arts within their cult.
The Boxers were a short-lived cult, but they had a phenomenal rise---much like ISIS in our modern times---and in 1900 seemed about to take over all of China. Also like ISIS, the Boxers were ruthless, anti-Western, and fanatical---they destroyed Christian Churches and Western-owned business---murdering hundreds of innocents until they reached Beijing.
The foreign embassies in Beijing (then called Peking) were in a walled section of the old city to which the Boxers laid siege. The US embassy guard commander formed a militia of the foreign guards under the political command of the British Ambassador, played in the film by Heston and Niven, respectively. They send an urgent telegram for help before communications were cut---and stood against the Boxers for nearly two months, without knowing whether help would arrive or not. Of course, historically it did---an 8-nation expeditionary force reached Beijing and rescued the garrison in August 1900. This was America's first participation in a global military venture; and the Boxer Rebellion collapsed after failing to capture the embassy.
As an interesting historical side-note, future US President Herbert Hoover and his wife were among those civilians trapped inside the compound. They were engaged in Chinese humanitarian work at the time.
In 55 Days at Peking, Charlton Heston plays Marine Corps Major Matt Lewis, who became the military commander of the besieged garrison (based on Capt. John Myers, who was the actual commander during the siege). He has a tough job---holding the disparate elements of the compound together against dwindling supplies, uncertainty of rescue, and the stratagems of the wily Boxers. Facing a situation not seen by an American force since the Alamo, Lewis is determined not to let it end the same way. He finds encouragement in the love of a beautiful Russian baroness (played by Ava Gardner) and a refugee missionary (played by Harry Andrews). Which depict the truth that courage, love, and faith can survive during the darkest times against an irrational evil.
This film is 160 minutes of action and a testimony to the best in human nature rising to the occasion when called for. This is 2 1/2 hours much better spent than listening to contemporary Hollywood characters plotting to sabotage a democratic election---who'll no doubt be quite vocal this weekend.
55 Days at Peking is available on DVD and currently available for free at Youtube and most other video sites.