Lost Horizon (1937 film)

Lost Horizon (1937 film)

Infobox Film
name = Lost Horizon

caption = Movie theatre poster for "Lost Horizon"
director = Frank Capra
producer = Frank Capra
writer = James Hilton (novel)
Robert Riskin
starring = Ronald Colman
Jane Wyatt
John Howard
music = Dimitri Tiomkin
cinematography = Joseph Walker, ASC
editing =
distributor = Columbia Pictures
released = March 2, 1937
runtime = 132 min.
language = English
budget =
amg_id = 1:30150
imdb_id = 0029162

"Lost Horizon" is a 1937 film directed by Frank Capra starring Ronald Colman, Jane Wyatt and Sam Jaffe. It tells the story of a group of travelers who find a utopian society in the Himalaya mountains. The film is based upon the James Hilton novel of the same name and was adapted by Sidney Buchman (uncredited) and Robert Riskin. The Streamline Moderne sets were designed by Stephen Goosson.

Artistically, "Lost Horizon" evokes many of the themes associated with Capra as an auteur but is somewhat darker and at times, cynical, as with much of his early work.

It was remade as a musical in 1973; however, it was a notorious critical and commercial failure.


Fleeing unrest in China, a small group of airplane passengers is hijacked by the pilot. The plane eventually runs out of fuel and crashes deep in the Himalayas, killing the abductor. The group is rescued by Chang (H.B. Warner) and taken to Shangri-la, an idyllic valley sheltered from the cold. The contented inhabitants are led by the mysterious High Lama (Sam Jaffe).

Initially anxious to return to "civilization", most of the newcomers grow to love the place, including academic Alexander Lovett (Edward Everett Horton), swindler Henry Barnard (Thomas Mitchell), and terminally ill Gloria Stone (Isabel Jewell), who miraculously seems to be recovering. High-ranking British diplomat Robert Conway (Ronald Colman) is also enchanted, particularly when he meets Sondra (Jane Wyatt), who has grown up in Shangri-la. However, Conway's younger brother George (John Howard) and Maria (Margo), another beautiful woman they find there, are determined to leave.

Conway eventually learns that his arrival was no accident. He was brought there by the High Lama to take his place. The founder of Shangri-la claims to be hundreds of years old, preserved, like the other residents, by the magical properties of the paradise he has created, but is finally dying and needs someone wise and knowledgeable in the ways of the modern world to keep it safe.

George refuses to believe the Lama's fantastic story and is backed up by Maria. Torn between love and loyalty, Conway reluctantly gives in to his brother and they leave, taking Maria with them. After several days of gruelling travel, she becomes exhausted and falls face down in the snow. When they turn her over, they discover that she has died...of extreme old age. Her departure from Shangri-la had restored Maria to her true age. Horrified, George loses his sanity and jumps to his death.

Conway continues on and eventually meets up with a search party sent to find him, though the ordeal has caused him to lose his memory of Shangri-la. On the voyage back to England, he remembers everything; he tells his story and then jumps ship. The searchers track him back to the Himalayas, but are unable to follow him any further. In the final scene, Conway returns to Shangri-la, to the waiting Sondra.

Lost scenes

Famously, Frank Capra personally presided over the burning of the first reel of this film after a disastrous preview. This footage has never been restored.

No complete original print of this movie is known to have survived, as several reels of the original nitrate negative deteriorated in the late 1960s. Several years after its initial release, an "edited" version was presented, which aimed to downplay the supposedly Communist themes associated with utopia, as well as to limit the sympathy shown towards the Chinese, whose relationship with the American government grew strained in the years following World War II. A total of twenty-seven minutes was cut.

A combination of the collapse of the production code and an interest in restoring old films resulted in an attempt in the 1970s to find an original print of the film. As is often the case, this meant examining archives of early Hollywood films overseas, where reels were frequently neglected. The original soundtrack was recovered intact, but seven minutes, spread out over several scenes, remain either compromised or lost.

According to an introduction in the print shown on Turner Classic Movies, the UCLA Film and Television Archive and Columbia Pictures have restored as much as possible, and have used still photos to fill out the missing scenes. Subsequent releases of "Lost Horizon" on both video and DVD present a restored version that is close as possible to the original theatrical release. All 132 minutes of the original soundtrack have been recovered, whereas only 125 minutes of film footage was located. Some of the restored footage is faded and fuzzy in appearance due to the deteriorated condition of certain sections of the recovered film. As to the seven minutes of film footage still missing, a combination of publicity photos of the actors in costume (taken during filming) and still frames copied from elsewhere in the film is shown while the soundtrack plays. The introduction to the restored version proclaims " [their] search for the missing footage goes on".



According to film historian Kendall Miller in the documentary bonus feature on the "Lost Horizon" DVD, the exterior of the lamasery was built on the Columbia Ranch in Burbank, California, and took a month and a half to construct. The outdoor scenes showing the daily lives of villagers and Conway and Sondra's horseback ride were filmed in Sherwood Forest (Westlake Village), north of Los Angeles, except for the waterfall scene, which was shot in Palm Springs, California. An aerial shot of Ojai Valley taken from an outlook on Highway 150 was used in the scene where Chang points out Shangri-la to Conway. The Tibetan high plateau where the hijacked plane lands for refueling was a dry lake bed on the southern edge of the Mojave Desert in Victorville, CA, a location also used for John Ford's "Stagecoach".cite web |url=http://www.chicagomaroon.com/online_edition/print/7617 |title=Doc Spotlight |publisher="The Chicago Maroon" |date=2002-04-23] The Sierra Nevada mountains served as the Himalayas during the shots of the plane's flight.

The movie is notable for the visible breath of the actors in the scenes inside the frigid, crashed aircraft and on the frozen trek to Shangri-La. These sequences were some of the first to be filmed inside the Los Angeles Ice and Cold Storage Warehouse, at a temperature between 20-24 degrees Fahrenheit.

Black and white

Scenes of the avalanche and the vast frozen landscape of the Himalayas came from a black and white documentary. According to Frank Capra Jr., the director's son, "Lost Horizon" would have been filmed in color, but because the only suitable stock footage was in black and white, his father decided to shoot his movie that way. [ [http://www.editorsguild.com/v2/magazine/archives/0507/columns_history.htm Editors Guild Magazine - Columns - Maggie's Corner ] ]

Academy Awards

* Best Art Direction - Stephen Goosson
* Film Editing - Gene Havlick and Gene Milford

* Best Picture - Frank Capra
* Best Supporting Actor - H. B. Warner
* Best Assistant Director - Charles C. Coleman
* Original Music Score - Score by Dimitri Tiomkin, but the nomination was for the head of the department Morris Stoloff
* Best Sound, Recording - John P. Livadary


*Ronald Colman as Robert Conway
*Jane Wyatt as Sondra Bizet
*H.B. Warner as Chang
*Sam Jaffe as the High Lama
*John Howard as George Conway
*Edward Everett Horton as Alexander P. Lovett
*Thomas Mitchell as Henry Barnard
*Margo as Maria
*Isabel Jewell as Gloria Stone


External links

*imdb title|id=0029162|title=Lost Horizon
*amg title | id=1:30150 | title=Lost Horizon
* [http://www.editorsguild.com/v2/magazine/archives/0507/columns_history.htm/ Frank Capra's struggle to make "Lost Horizon"]

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