Lost Horizon (1937 film): Wikis


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Lost Horizon

Original poster
Directed by Frank Capra
Produced by Frank Capra
Written by Robert Riskin
Based on the novel by James Hilton
Starring Ronald Colman
Jane Wyatt
John Howard
Music by Dimitri Tiomkin
Cinematography Joseph Walker
Elmer Dyer
Editing by Gene Havlick
Gene Milford
Distributed by Columbia Pictures
Release date(s) March 2, 1937
Running time 132 minutes
Country United States
Language English
Budget $1.25 million

Lost Horizon is a 1937 American drama-fantasy film directed by Frank Capra. The screenplay by Robert Riskin is based on the 1933 novel of the same title by James Hilton.

The film exceeded its original budget by more than $776,000, and it took five years for it to earn back its cost. The serious financial crisis it created for Columbia Pictures damaged the partnership between Capra and studio head Harry Cohn, as well as the friendship between Capra and screenwriter Riskin, whose previous collaborations included Lady for a Day, It Happened One Night, and Mr. Deeds Goes to Town. [1]



Before returning to England to become the new Foreign Secretary, writer, soldier, and diplomat Robert Conway has one last task in 1935 China: to rescue 90 Westerners in the city of Baskul. He flies out with the last few evacuees, just ahead of armed revolutionaries.

Unbeknownst to the passengers, the pilot is replaced and their airplane is hijacked. It eventually runs out of fuel and crashes deep in the Himalayas, and their abductor is killed. The group is rescued by Chang and his men and taken to Shangri-La, an idyllic valley sheltered from the bitter cold. The contented inhabitants are led by the mysterious High Lama.

Initially anxious to return to civilization, most of the newcomers grow to love their new home, including paleontologist Alexander Lovett, swindler Henry Barnard, and bitter, terminally ill Gloria Stone, who miraculously seems to be recovering. Conway is particularly enchanted, especially when he meets Sondra, who has grown up in Shangri-la. However, Conway's younger brother George and Maria, another beautiful young woman they find there, are determined to leave.

Conway eventually has an audience with the High Lama and learns that his arrival was no accident. The founder of Shangri-la is said 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. Having read Conway's writings, Sondra believed he was the one, and the Lama agreed with her. The old man names Conway as his successor and then peacefully passes away.

George refuses to believe the Lama's fantastic story and is supported by Maria. Uncertain and torn between love and loyalty, Conway reluctantly gives in to his brother and they leave, taking Maria with them. After several days of grueling travel, she becomes exhausted and falls face down in the snow. They discover that she has become an old woman and died. 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, although 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 and Conway returns to Shangri-la.



Frank Capra had read the James Hilton novel while filming It Happened One Night, and he intended to make Lost Horizon his next project. When Ronald Colman, his first and only choice for the role of Robert Conway, proved to be unavailable, Capra decided to wait and made Mr. Deeds Goes to Town instead.[1]

Harry Cohn authorized a budget of $1.25 million for the film, the largest amount ever allocated to a project up to that time.[1] According to a 1986 Variety interview with Frank Capra, Jr., his father had wanted to shoot the film in color, but because the only suitable stock footage, such as scenes from a documentary about the Himalayas, he intended to incorporate into the film was in black and white, he was forced to change his plans. [2] In 1985, Capra, Sr. claimed the decision to film in black and white was made because three-strip color was new and fairly expensive, and the studio was unwilling to expand the film's budget in order to let him use it.[1]

Alternate poster by James Montgomery Flagg

From the beginning, Capra ran into difficulties that resulted in serious cost overrun. Principal photography began on March 23, 1936, and by the time it was completed on July 17, the director had spent $1.6 million. Contributing to the added expenses were the filming of snow scenes and airplane interiors at the Los Angeles Ice and Cold Storage Warehouse, where the low temperature affected the equipment and caused lengthy delays. The Streamline Moderne sets representing Shangri-La, designed by Stephen Goosson, had been constructed adjacent to Hollywood Way, a busy thoroughfare by day, which necessitated filming at night and heavily adding to overtime expenses. Many exteriors were filmed on location in Palm Springs, Lucerne Valley, the Ojai Valley, the Mojave Desert, the Sierra Nevada Mountains, and in what is now Westlake Village, adding the cost of transporting cast, crew, and equipment to the swelling budget. Capra also used multiple cameras to cover every scene from several angles, and by the time shooting ended he had used 1.1 million feet of film. For one scene lasting four minutes, he shot 6,000 feet, the equivalent of one hour of screen time. He spent six days filming Sam Jaffe performing the High Lama's monologues, then reshot the scenes twice, once with Walter Connolly because it was felt Jaffe's makeup was unconvincing and he looked too young for the role. A total of forty minutes of footage featuring the High Lama eventually was trimmed to the twelve that appeared in the final cut. Filming took one hundred days, thirty-four more than scheduled. As a result, the film's final cost, including prints and promotional advertising, was $2,626,620, and it remained in the red until it was reissued in 1942.[1]

The first cut of the film was six hours long. The studio considered releasing it in two parts but eventually decided the idea was impractical. Working with editors Gene Havlick and Gene Milford, Capra managed to trim the running time to 3½ hours for the first preview in Santa Barbara on November 22, 1936. Following a showing of the screwball comedy Theodora Goes Wild, the audience was not receptive to a drama of epic length. Many walked out, and those who remained laughed at sequences intended to be serious. The feedback was mostly negative, and Capra was so distraught he fled to Lake Arrowhead and remained in seclusion there for several days. He later claimed he burned the first two reels of the film, an account disputed by Milford, who noted setting the nitrate film on fire would have created a devastating explosion.[1]

Following the disastrous preview, Capra made extensive cuts and, on January 12, 1937, he reshot scenes with the High Lama written by Sidney Buchman, who declined screen credit for his work, which placed more emphasis on the growing desperation of the world situation at the time. Still unhappy with the film's length, Harry Cohn decided to intervene, cancelled the February 1 opening, and began to edit the film himself. When it premiered in San Francisco on March 2, it was 132 minutes long. During the film's initial release in selected cities, it was a roadshow attraction, with only two presentations per day and tickets sold on a reserved-seat basis. Because the box office returns were so low, the studio head deleted an additional fourteen minutes before the film went into general release the following September. Due primarily to the cuts made without his approval, Capra later filed a lawsuit against Columbia, citing "contractural disagreements" - among them the studio's refusal to pay him a $100,000 semi-annual salary payment due him - for doing so. A settlement was reached on November 27, 1937, with Capra collecting his money and being relieved of the obligation of making one of the five films required by his contract. In 1985, the director claimed Cohn, whom he described as the "Jewish producer," trimmed the film simply so theaters could have more daily showings and increase the film's chance of turning a profit.[1]

Critical reception

Frank S. Nugent of the New York Times called it "a grand adventure film, magnificently staged, beautifully photographed, and capitally played." He continued,

[T]here is no denying the opulence of the production, the impressiveness of the sets, the richness of the costuming, the satisfying attention to large and small detail which makes Hollywood at its best such a generous entertainer. We can deride the screen in its lesser moods, but when the West Coast impresarios decide to shoot the works the resulting pyrotechnics bathe us in a warm and cheerful glow." In conclusion, he observed, "The penultimate scenes are as vivid, swift, and brilliantly achieved as the first. Only the conclusion itself is somehow disappointing. But perhaps that is inescapable, for there can be no truly satisfying end to any fantasy . . .Mr. Capra was guilty of a few directorial clichés, but otherwise it was a perfect job. Unquestionably the picture has the best photography and sets of the year. By all means it is worth seeing. [3]

He later named it one of the ten best films of the year.[1]

The Hollywood Reporter called it "an artistic tour de force . . . in all ways a triumph for Frank Capra."[1]

Less enthusiastic was Otis Ferguson, who in his review for National Board of Review Magazine observed, "This film was made with obvious care and expense, but it will be notable in the future only as the first wrong step in a career that till now has been a denial of the very tendencies in pictures which this film represents."[1]

Awards and nominations

Stephen Goosson's elaborate sets won him the Academy Award for Best Art Direction, and Gene Havlick and Gene Milford shared the Academy Award for Best Film Editing.

The film was nominated for the Academy Award for Best Picture but lost to The Life of Emile Zola, and H.B. Warner lost the Academy Award for Best Supporting Actor to Joseph Schildkraut for the same film. Although Dimitri Tiomkin composed the music, the nomination for the Academy Award for Best Original Score went to Morris Stoloff, the head of the music department at Columbia Pictures. The Oscar went to Charles Previn of Universal Pictures for One Hundred Men and a Girl. John P. Livadary was nominated for the Academy Award for Best Sound but lost to Thomas Moulton for The Hurricane. Charles C. Coleman, nominated for the Academy Award for Best Assistant Director, lost to Robert Webb for In Old Chicago. This was the last year an Oscar was awarded in this category. [4]

Later releases

In 1942, the film was re-released as Lost Horizon of Shangri-La. A lengthy drunken speech delivered by the character of Robert Conway, in which he cynically mocked war and diplomacy, was deleted because it was feared such sentiments expressed at the height of World War II would prove to be unpopular with audiences. Capra felt the film made no sense without the scene, [1] and in later years film critic Leslie Halliwell described the missing twelve minutes as "vital." [5]

In 1952, a 92-minute version of the film was released. It 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.

In 1973, the American Film Institute initiated a restoration of the film. The project was undertaken by the UCLA Film and Television Archive and Columbia Pictures and took thirteen years to complete. Although all 132 minutes of the original soundtrack were recovered, only 125 minutes of film could be found, so the seven minutes of missing film footage were replaced with a combination of publicity photos of the actors in costume taken during filming and still frames depicting the missing scenes. [1]

Adaptations to other media

Lost Horizon was adapted as a radio play starring Ronald Colman and Donald Crisp for the September 15, 1941 broadcast of Lux Radio Theater. Colman reprised his role again for the November 27, 1946 broadcast of Academy Award Theater.

A stage musical called Shangri-La was produced on Broadway in 1956 but closed after only 21 performances. [6] It was staged for a 1960 Hallmark Hall of Fame television broadcast.

A 1973 musical film remake was a critical and commercial failure.

DVD release

Columbia Tristar Home Video released the restored version of the film on Region 1 DVD on August 31, 1999. It has an English audio track and subtitles in English, Spanish, Portuguese, Georgian, Chinese, and Thai. Bonus features include three deleted scenes, an alternate ending, commentary about the restoration by Charles Champlin and Robert Gitt, and a photo documentary with narration by film historian Kendall Miller.

A Region 2 DVD including the same bonus features plus the original theatrical trailer was released on February 26, 2001. It has audio tracks in English, French, German, Italian, and Spanish and subtitles in English, Spanish, German, French, Italian, Hindi, Portuguese, Turkish, Danish, Icelandic, Bulgarian, Swedish, Hungarian, Polish, Dutch, Arabic, Finnish, Czech, and Greek.


  1. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k l McBride, Joseph, Frank Capra: The Catastrophe of Success. New York: Simon & Schuster 1992. ISBN 0-671-73494-6, p. 328, pp. 351-366, 372-374, 380-383
  2. ^ Editors Guild Magazine
  3. ^ New York Times review
  4. ^ http://www.tcm.com/thismonth/article/?cid=17870
  5. ^ Halliwell, Leslie, Halliwell's Hundred. New York: Charles Scribner's Sons. ISBN 0-684-17447-2, pp. 180-183
  6. ^ Shangri-La at the Internet Broadway Database

External links



Up to date as of January 14, 2010
(Redirected to Lost Horizon (film) article)

From Wikiquote

Lost Horizon is a 1937 film about a group of travelers who find a utopian society in the Himalaya mountains.

Directed by Frank Capra. Written by Robert Riskin, based on the novel by James Hilton.
Mightiest entertainment in all screen history! taglines


Robert Conway

  • It's time we were told what it's all about. We want to know why we were kidnapped, why we're being kept here, but most important of all, do we get the porters and when? Until we get this information, my dear Mr. Chang, I am very much afraid we cannot permit you to leave this room....
  • [to the High Lama] It's astonishing and incredible, but...you're the man...You're still alive, Father Perrault!
  • When we were on that plane, I was fascinated by the way its shadow followed it. That silly shadow, racing along over mountains and valleys, covering ten times the distance of the plane, and yet always there to greet us with outstretched arms when we landed. And I've been thinking that somehow, you're that plane, and I'm that silly shadow. That all my life, I've been rushing up and down hills, leaping rivers, crashing over obstacles, never dreaming that one day that beautiful thing in flight would land on this earth and into my arms.
  • Something grand and beautiful, George. Something I've been searching for all my life. The answer to the confusion and bewilderment of a lifetime. I've found it, George, and I can't leave it. You mustn't either.
  • [to George, about Maria] She's a fragile thing that can only live where fragile things are loved. Take her out of this valley and she'll fade away like an echo.

Sondra Bizet

  • [to Robert] I saw a man whose life was empty...Oh I know, it was full of this and full of that. But you were accomplishing nothing. You were going nowhere, and you knew it. As a matter of fact, all I saw was a little boy whistling in the dark.
  • [to Robert] You're absolutely right. And I had to come all the way to a pigeon house in Shangri-La to find the only other person in the world who knew it. May I congratulate you?

George Conway

  • You may not know it, but you're all prisoners here who were literally kidnapped and brought here and nobody knows why. Well, I'm not content to be a prisoner. I'm going to find out when we're going to get out of this place. I'll make that Chinese talk if it's the last thing I do.
  • [to Robert] What else can I think after a tale like that?...I think you've been hypnotized by a lot of loose-brained fanatics.


  • To put it simply, I should say that our general belief was in moderation. We preach the virtue of avoiding excesses of every kind, even including excess of virtue itself...We find in the valley it makes for greater happiness among the natives. We rule with moderate strictness and in return we are satisfied with moderate obedience. As a result, our people are moderately honest, moderately chaste, and somewhat more than moderately happy.
  • There can be no crime where there is a sufficiency of everything.
  • It would not be considered good manners to take a woman that another man wanted.
  • A little courtesy all around helps to smooth out the most complicated problems.
  • We do not buy or sell or seek personal fortunes because, well, there is no uncertain future here for which to accumulate it.
  • In fact, Shangri-La is Father Perrault.
  • It is quite common here to live to a very ripe old age, climate, diet, and mountain water you might say, but we like to believe it is the absence of struggle in the way we live.
  • Age is a limit we impose upon ourselves.

Lord Gainesford

  • Last night, Conway recovered his memory. Kept talking about Shangri-La. Telling a fantastic story about a place in Tibet. Insisted upon returning there at once. Locked him in room, but he escaped us. Jumped ship during night at Singapore. Am leaving ship myself to overtake him, as fearful of his condition. Wrote down details of Conway's story about Shangri-La, which I am forwarding.
  • During those last ten months, that man has done the most astounding things. Well, he learned how to fly, stole an Army plane and got caught, put into jail and escaped, all in an amazingly short space of time, but this is only the beginning of his adventure. He begged, cajoled, fought, always pushing forward to the Tibetan frontier. Everywhere I went, I heard the most amazing stories of the man's adventures. Positively astounding, till eventually, I trailed him to the most extreme outposts in Tibet. Of course, he had already gone, but his memory, oh, oh... His memory will live with those natives for the rest of their lives. 'The man who was not human,' they called him. They'll never forget the devil-eyed stranger who six times tried to go over a mountain pass that no other human being dared to travel, and six times was forced back by the severest storms. They'll never forget the madman who stole their food and clothing, who they locked up in their barracks but who fought six of their guards to escape. Why, their soldiers are still talking about their pursuit to overtake him and shuddering at the memory. He led them the wildest chase through their own country. And finally, he disappeared over that very mountain pass that they themselves dared not travel. And that, gentlemen, was the last that any known human being saw of Robert Conway.
  • Yes. Yes, I believe it. I believe it because I want to believe it. Gentlemen, I give you a toast. Here's my hope that Robert Conway will find his Shangri-La. Here's my hope that we all find our Shangri-La.


  • Title Cards: In these days of wars and rumors of wars - haven't you ever dreamed of a place where there was peace and security, where living was not a struggle but a lasting delight? Of course you have. So has every man since Time began. Always the same dream. Sometimes he calls it Utopia - Sometimes the Fountain of Youth - Sometimes merely "that little chicken farm." One man had such a dream and saw it come true. He was Robert Conway - England's "Man of the East" - soldier, diplomat, public hero.
  • High Lama: [to Robert] I am placing in your hands the future and destiny of Shangri-La, for I am going to die. I knew my work was done when I first set eyes upon you. I've waited for you, my son, for a long time. I've sat in this room and seen the faces of newcomers. I've looked into their eyes and heard their voices, always in hope that I might find you. My friend, it is not an arduous task that I bequeath, for our order knows only silken bonds. To be gentle and patient, to care for the riches of the mind, to preside in wisdom while the storm rages without...You, my son, will live through the storm. You will preserve the fragrance of our history and add to it a touch of your own mind. Beyond that, my vision weakens but I see at a great distance a new world stirring in the ruins, stirring clumsily but in hopefulness, seeking its lost and legendary treasures, and they will all be here, my son, hidden behind the mountains in the Valley of the Blue Moon, preserved as by a miracle.
  • Maria: I'll die if I have to stay here another minute...Look at me, Mr. Conway, do I look like an old woman? Is this the skin of an old woman? Look into my eyes. Are these the eyes of an old woman?


George: We better make arrangements to get some porters immediately. Some means to get us back to civilization.
Chang: Are you so certain you are away from it?
George: As far away as I ever want to be.

Chang: The High Lama wishes to see you, Mr. Conway.
Robert: High Lamas or Low Lamas, do we get the porters?
Chang: The High Lama arranges everything.

High Lama: You may not know it, but I have been an admirer of yours for a great many years. Oh, not of Conway, the empire builder and public hero. I wanted to meet the Conway who, in one of his books said, 'There are moments in every man's life when he glimpses the eternal.' That Conway seemed to belong here. In fact, it was suggested that someone be sent to bring him here.
Robert: Of course, I have suspected that our being here was no accident. Furthermore, I have a feeling that we're never supposed to leave, but that for the moment, doesn't concern me greatly. I'll meet that when it comes. What particularly interests me at present is, why was I brought here? What possible use can I be to an already thriving community?
High Lama: We need men like you here, to be sure that our community will continue to thrive, in return for which Shangri-La has much to give you. You are still, by the world's standards, a youngish man. Yet, in the normal course of existence, you can expect twenty or thirty years of gradually diminishing activity. Here, however, in Shangri-La, by our standards, your life has just begun - and may go on and on.
Robert: Hmm. Of course, to be candid, Father, a prolonged future doesn't excite me. It would have to have a point. I've sometimes doubted whether life itself has any. If that is so, then long life must be even more pointless. No, I'd need a much more definite reason for going on and on.
High Lama: We have reason. It is the entire meaning and purpose of Shangri-La. It came to me in a vision long, long ago. I saw all the nations strengthening, not in wisdom, but in the vulgar passions and the will to destroy. I saw their machine power multiplying until a single weaponed man might match a whole army. I foresaw a time when man exalting in the technique of murder, would rage so hotly over the world, that every book, every treasure would be doomed to destruction. This vision was so vivid and so moving that I determined to gather together all things of beauty and culture that I could and preserve them here against the doom toward which the world is rushing. Look at the world today. Is there anything more pitiful? What madness there is! What blindness! What unintelligent leadership! A scurrying mass of bewildered humanity crashing headlong against each other, compelled by an orgy of greed and brutality. The time must come, my friend, when this orgy will spend itself, when brutality and the lust for power must perish by its own sword. Against that time is why I avoided death and am here and why you were brought here. For when that day comes, the world must begin to look for a new life. And it is our hope that they may find it here. For here, we shall be with their books and their music and a way of life based on one simple rule: Be kind. When that day comes, it is our hope that the brotherly love of Shangri-La will spread throughout the world. Yes, my son, when the strong have devoured each other, the Christian ethic may at last be fulfilled, and the meek shall inherit the Earth.
Robert: I understand you, Father.
High Lama: You must come again, my son.

Robert: Of course, I can't quite get used to this age thing.
Sondra: I'm thirty.
Robert: Oh, you're gonna make life very simple. It's inconceivable.
Sondra: What?
Robert: All of it. Father Perrault and his magnificent history. This place hidden away from the rest of the world with its glorious concepts. And now you come along and confuse me entirely.
Sondra: Oh, I'm sorry. I thought I was to be the light. But why do I confuse you? Am I so strange?
Robert: Oh, on the contrary, you're not strange. And that, in itself, is confusing. I had the same idea about, about Shangri-La. A sense that I've been here before, that I belonged here.
Sondra: I'm so glad.
Robert: I can't quite explain it, but everything is somehow familiar. The very air I breathe, the Lamasery with its feet rooted in the good earth of this fertile valley while its head explores the eternal. All the beautiful things I see - these cherry blossoms, you. All are somehow familiar. I've been kidnapped and brought here against my will. A crime, a great crime, yet I accept it amiably, with the same warm amiability one tolerates only from a very dear and close friend. Why? Can you tell me why?
Sondra: Perhaps because you've always been a part of Shangri-La without knowing it.
Robert: I wonder.
Sondra: I'm sure of it, just as I'm sure there's a wish for Shangri-La in everyone's heart. I've never seen the outside world, but I understand there are millions and millions of people who are supposed to be mean and greedy. And I just know that secretly, they're all hoping to find a garden spot where there's peace, security, where there's beauty and comfort, where they wouldn't have to be mean and greedy. Oh, I just wish the whole world might come to this valley.
Robert: Then it wouldn't be a garden spot for long.

Robert: I'm waiting for the bump.
Sondra: Bump?
Robert: When the plane lands at Shanghai and wakes us all up. [Sondra pinches his arm] Ouch!
Sondra: You see, it's not a dream.
Robert: You know, I sometimes think that the other is the dream, the outside world.

Sondra: I knew you'd come. And I knew when you did, you'd never leave. Am I forgiven for sending for you?
Robert: Forgiven. [He kisses her forehead]


  • Mightiest entertainment in all screen history!
  • Frank Capra's Mightiest Production
  • Mightiest of all motion pictures!
  • At Last! ...The Masterpiece Of America's Foremost Film Genius Blazes To The Screen!


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