Tagline – Frank Capra’s Greatest Production
Starring – Ronald Colman (Robert Conway), Jane Wyatt (Sondra Bizet), Edward Everett Horton (Lovett), John Howard (George Conway), Thomas Mitchell (Barnard).
Released – March, 1937
Directed By – Frank Capra
Produced By – Colombia Pictures Corporation
Distributed By – Colombia Pictures
Description – Millions to make it!…Two years in production!…The best seller that set a new style in romance floods the screen with splendor and drama!
Writer, soldier, and diplomat Robert Conway is about to become England’s new Foreign Secretary. Before returning home from China to assume his new position, Conway has one more assignment to complete. He is to rescue 90 Westerners in the city of Baskul.
This mission is accomplished, with little time to spare, as the plane carrying Conway and the remaining evacuees, takes off just before the area is overrun by armed revolutionaries. While it seems to be a clean escape, Conway and the rest of the passengers are unaware that their plane has been hijacked.
The new route results in the plane running out of fuel and crashing deep in the Himalayan Mountains. The hijacker is killed in the crash. Seemingly in the middle of nowhere, the desperate group are rescued by a mysterious people led by a man named Chang and taken to an Eden-like valley called Shangri-La where they meet the people’s leader known as the High Lama.
Initially, the group are anxious to get back to civilization. As time passes many in the group begin to believe that Shangri-La is not only beautiful, but magical and want to stay. Among them is Conway himself who has met and fallen for the enchantingly beautiful Sondra. Paleontologist Alexander Lovett, swindler Henry Barnard, and terminally ill Gloria Stone, who miraculously seems to be recovering, also want to stay. Conway’s younger brother George and another local young woman named Maria want to leave.
The High Lama, who is the founder of Shangri-La, and is said to be hundreds of years old, wants to meet with Conway. He has been preserved, along with the paradise’s other inhabitants, by the magical properties of Shangri-La.
However, his time to pass is near. He would like to pass on his responsibility of keeping Shangri-La safe to someone who is wise and knowledgeable of the modern world. Having read the writing’s of Conway, and with Sondra’s suggestion that Conway is “the one”, they arranged for his abduction. The High Lama passes quietly after naming Conway as his successor.
Conway’s brother George refuses to believe the Lama’s story and his position is supported by Maria. Giving in to loyalty, Conway agrees to leave the paradise with his brother and Maria. Their departure comes with a warning. It is said that Maria, like the Lama, is much older than she appears.
Grueling travel, changes in Maria, a loss of sanity that results in death, a rescue, memory loss, and regret soon follow.
NOTABLE: Lost Horizon won Academy Awards for Best Art Direction, and Best Film Editing. The picture was also nominated for Best Picture, Best Actor in a Supporting Role (H. B. Warner), Best Assistant Director, Best Music, Score, and Best Sound, Recording.
The film exceeded its original budget and almost doubled in cost. It took five years to earn the money back causing a serious financial crisis for Columbia Pictures and damaging the relationship between director Frank Capra and studio head Harry Cohn.
David Niven and Louis Hayward tested for the role of George Conway before it went to John Howard just two days prior to filming.
A scene where a model was used for Jane Wyatt that depicted her swimming in the nude caused some trouble with the California State Censor Board. The board required two signed affidavits from Columbia stating that the models breasts were covered. Columbia complied, but the scene was shot with the model bare-breasted.
The blizzard sequences shot in the film were done using bleached corn flakes.
The characters portrayed by Jane Wyatt and Edward Everett Horton were not in the original novel by James Hilton. They were added to provide romantic interest and comic relief.
Personal Note: This is one of the great film classics of the late 1930’s, providing a rare film experience with a strong finale.