Cast & Crew
Edward Everett Horton
Robert Conway, a diplomat and author who is likely to become England's next Foreign Secretary, rescues ninety British citizens from a Chinese revolution. He, his brother George Conway, paleontologist Alexander P. Lovett, fugitive industrialist Henry Barnard, and tuberculosis-stricken Gloria Stone barely escape on the last Shanghai-bound airplane, but their plane is hijacked, and after a long journey, they crash in the mountains of Tibet. With their pilot dead, the group despairs of rescue, but soon, Chang, a lama of Shangri-La, arrives with porters and takes them to Shangri-La, a mysterious valley paradise. That night, Chang tells them that Shangi-La has no communication with the outside world except for the porters, who appear infrequently. The others are nervous, but Robert immediately feels at home, and enjoys a conversation with Chang, who tells him that Shangri-La was founded over two hundred years ago by the wise Belgian Father Perrault. At dinner that night, George rages about their kidnapping, then runs off with a gun to find Chang. Robert stops him, but when Chang appears, they threaten to hold him prisoner until he reveals the truth, and so Chang takes Robert to see the High Lama. Robert is both horrified and fascinated when he realizes that the High Lama is Father Perrault, now over two-hundred-years old, but quickly becomes inspired by Perrault's description of Shangri-La's mission of spreading brotherly love and saving the world's treasures from destruction. The next day, Robert goes to the Valley of the Blue Moon and finds Sondra, a beautiful resident of Shangri-La, who confirms Perrault's suggestion that it was her idea to kidnap Robert, as his books are rich with the same idealistic principles upon which Shangri-La is based. As the weeks pass, all of the group happily fit into the community, except for George, who has begun a friendship with lovely, young Maria. Robert learns from Chang that Maria is actually over sixty-years-old and that she will lose her youthful vigor if she ever leaves Shangri-La. As Robert and Chang discuss Maria, George bursts in, telling Chang he knows that the porters have been bribed not to help the kidnapped travelers, but that he is going to leave anyway, by whatever means necessary. Robert, torn between staying in Shangri-La or helping his brother, goes to Perrault for advice, but instead is given command of Shangri-La by the old priest just before he dies. George, meanwhile, tries to convince Gloria, Barnard and Lovett to leave, but they are content and wish to stay. George approaches Robert again, telling him that the porters are ready and they can leave immediately. Robert explains the philosophy behind Shangri-La, but George counters by summoning Maria, who confirms George's insistent belief that she was kidnapped by the insane lamas and has been forcibly kept in Shangri-La. Her story disturbs Robert, and so he leaves with them. As their arduous journey progresses, the porters leave Robert, George and Maria further and further behind, and even use them for target practice. The porters' cruelty backfires, however, when their gunfire starts an avalanche that buries them. The trio pushes on until, far outside Shangri-La, Maria reverts to her true age and dies. George, on the verge of madness after Maria's grotesque transformation, plunges off a cliff to his death, but Robert continues, eventually reaching a village. Through a series of cables to the prime minister in London, it becomes apparent that Robert, while being escorted to England by Lord Gainsford, had amnesia, but after regaining his memory, he escaped to return to Shangri-La. After ten months of searching for Robert, Gainsford gives up the chase and returns to London. He tells his fellow club members about Robert's amazing adventures as he attempted to find his lost horizon. As the men toast Robert's success, he climbs the mountains once more, in sight of the pass to Shangri-La, where he will rejoin Sondra and realize his dream of peace.
Edward Everett Horton
H. B. Warner
John T. Murray
Boyd Irwin Sr.
Mary Lou Dix
Chief Big Tree
James P. Smith
C. C. Coleman
E. Roy Davidson
Charles J. De Soria
Al "doc" Guyer
Hall Johnson Choir
Best Art Direction
Best Supporting Actor
Lost Horizon (1937)
A faithful adaptation of James Hilton's enormously popular novel of the same name, Lost Horizon begins with the rescue of a motley group of refugees from a Chinese revolution. Together, suave adventurer Robert Conway (Ronald Colman), his brother, George (John Howard), swindler Henry (Thomas Mitchell), prostitute Gloria (Isabel Jewell), and scientist Alexander (Edward Everett Horton), take off in a small plane that is secretly bound for the Tibetan Himalayas. When the plane crashes, the survivors find themselves stranded in the snow-capped mountains. Fortunately, they are rescued by a band of strangers led by an ancient Chinese man, Chang (H. B. Warner), who lead them to the Valley of the Blue Moon - a beautiful, sun-drenched landscape where nothing is known of war, crime, or hate.
Convinced that Hilton's novel had all the makings of a great film - fantasy, adventure, spectacle - director Frank Capra convinced Harry Cohn, head of Columbia, to advance him $2,000,000 for the production. Together with scenarist Robert Riskin, Capra researched everything from Tibetan culture, to language, to architecture, to clothing. Ten property men created over 700 props used in Tibetan daily life while droves of crewmen built 65 sets, raising Shangri-La over Columbia's Burbank ranch. When attention turned to casting, however, things would not move along so well. Putting Ronald Colman in the role of the elder Conway was easy enough. But casting the High Lama role would prove much more difficult. They first considered stage actor A. E. Anson, who was declared perfect after a screen test. Sadly, he died just after receiving news he got the part. Then Henry B. Walthall was chosen, but the Grim Reaper stepped in once again, before he could even be tested. After an exhaustive search, and numerous additional screen tests, Capra remembered 38 year old Shakespearean actor Sam Jaffe, who eventually got the role.
Shooting Lost Horizon took rather longer than expected. So long in fact, that the crew shot an entire film, Theodora Goes Wild (1936), during one of the breaks in the Lost Horizon schedule, and yet another picture, When You're In Love (1937), while Lost Horizon was being edited. Most of the production time was eaten up with the special requirements for re-creating the Himalayas in Los Angeles. For example, Capra shot snow scenes and airplane interiors inside a Cold Storage Warehouse, creating real snow and ice. A great move for credibility, but not so great for the equipment, which routinely froze up, cracked, split, stiffened, or shattered due to the cold temperatures of the set. Capra's shooting style also added to the delays. His habit for shooting multiple takes and angles led him to use over a million feet of film, causing constant confrontations with Harry Cohn. Though Cohn was willing to leave Capra alone to make his film, he frequently groused about the escalating costs, and at one point pleaded with the crew not to cash their checks for a week because Capra had used up all the money.. The ending of Capra's Lost Horizon is one of the only glaring deviations from the novel. In Hilton's book, we are left to imagine for ourselves Conway's success or failure. In the film, Capra "relents to hope" and we are shown Conway struggling through the snow, finding the pass that will lead him back to paradise.
After a bad first screening, Capra cut the first two reels of the film completely, which made the audience more receptive. Still, at more than three hours, Cohn knew it wouldn't work, and he took control of the editing away from Capra completely. Though Capra never admitted that Cohn re-cut the film, Variety reported that it was one of the main reasons Capra later brought suit against Columbia as part of a grievance over his pay. When all was said and done, however, Lost Horizon was named one of the 10 best films of 1937 by The New York Times and later won two Academy Awards, for Best Film Editing, and Best Art Direction. But much like Conway's struggle to return to Shangri-La, Capra found out that sometimes you have to make great sacrifices in your search for paradise.
Producer/Director: Frank Capra
Screenplay: Robert Riskin
Production Design: Stephen Gooson
Costume Design: Ernest Dryden
Film Editing: Gene Havlick; Gene Milford
Original Music: Dimitri Tiomkin
Principal Cast: Ronald Coleman (Robert Conway), Edward Everett Horton (Alexander P. Lovett), H.B. Warner (Chang), Jane Wyatt (Sondra), Sam Jaffe (High Lama), Margo (Maria).
BW-133m. Closed captioning.
by Bill Goodman
Lost Horizon (1937)
I think I'm going to like it here.- Robert Conway
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.- Lord Gainsford
You know, when we were on that plane, I was fascinated by the way the shadow followed us. 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.- Robert Conway
I wanted to meet the Conway who in one of his books said: "There are moments in every mans life, when he glimpses the eternal". That Conway seemed to belong here.- High Lama
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 bulk of passions and the will to destroy. I saw the machine column 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 of 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 difficult? What madness there is! What blindness! What unintelligent leadership! A scurrying mass of bewildered humanity, crashing headlong against each other, propelled by an orgy of greed and brutality. A 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.- High Lama
I understand you father.- Robert Conway
According to Hollywood Reporter news items, director Frank Capra planned on making Lost Horizon, the film rights to which had also been bid upon by director King Vidor, directly after Broadway Bill, but had to put it off to the 1935-36 program due to casting difficulties. He substituted Opera Hat, later retitled Mr. Deeds Goes to Town, on the production schedule. The unavailability of Ronald Colman then delayed the production even further. According to the program for the film's New York premiere, technical advisor Harrison Forman was a noted American explorer and authority on Tibet. The program states that the lamasery set, which measured 1,000 feet long and almost 500 feet wide and took 150 workmen two months to complete after they began on March 1, 1936, was constructed on the Columbia lot (which modern sources indicate is the Columbia Ranch in Burbank, CA); The Valley of the Blue Moon was located in Sherwood Forest, which was about forty miles from Hollywood; the rioting scene at Baskul was filmed at Municipal Airport, near Los Angeles; and the refueling sequence took place at Lucerne Dry Lake. According to Motion Picture Herald, Lost Horizon was Columbia's highest budgeted film (two million dollars) at that time.
The program also describes the original opening of the film, contained in the first two reels, which Capra says in his autobiography were burned by him after an unfavorable preview. The action of these two reels, according to the program, revolved around "Robert Conway," who is found by his friend "Lord Gainsford" and taken aboard the S.S. Manchuria to return to England. Because "Conway" suffers from amnesia, he cannot relate his adventures to "Gainsford" until one night in the ship's salon, he hears a piano recital. "Conway's" claim that the music is that of Chopin's, when the pianist asserts that it cannot be, sparks his memory and he is able to tell "Gainsford" about his experiences in Shangri-La. Most of the action in the released film was thus a flashback in the first version. This early sequence closely followed the original James Hilton novel. The released film, though roughly following the novel, has significant changes from it, specifically combining, removing or altering major characters and expanding some incidents that were merely alluded to in the book. New York Times reported that Hilton approved of the plot and character differences between his book and the film. New York Times also reported that the film had been scheduled for preview and release three times but was called back each time before it finally had its preview in March 1937. According to a March 16, 1937 Hollywood Reporter news item, the picture's ending was slightly altered while it was playing in New York before it began its general release. The news items stated that Columbia was "discarding the ending which depicts Jane Wyatt welcoming Ronald Colman back to Shangri-La and [would be] substituting instead the ending in which Colman is shown struggling through snow in an effort to regain Shangri-La."
There is a great deal of controversy surrounding the role of the High Lama, which was not finally cast until the film was far into production. Hollywood Reporter news items state that after Walter Connolly and Sam Jaffe had enacted the role, Capra filmed retakes with Ward Lane in an unspecified role, and David Torrence as the High Lama, then temporarily awarded the role to Torrence, who played the prime minister in the finished film. In Capra's autobiography, however, he mentions only testing a "ninety year old ex-stage star," who died after being told he was selected for the part, and wanting to test Henry B. Walthall, who died before he could be tested, and then giving the role to Jaffe. Another modern source lists Walthall, Fritz Leiber, Albert E. Anson and Connolly as those tested before Jaffe was selected. Lost Horizon was the last film of actors Hugh Buckler, Val Duran and John Miltern, who all died before the picture was released. Duran's surname is frequently spelled "Durand" by contemporary and modern sources. According to a Daily Variety news item, assistant director C. C. Coleman testified at a National Labor Relations Board investigation in 1938 that he spent seven weeks directing scenes for this film; the investigation was concerned with the question of whether assistant directors were ever called on to direct scenes.
A Hollywood Reporter news item states that the film had a premiere in Manila on the same day it opened in New York. Although some contemporary sources list Morris Stoloff as the musical director, the film credits Max Steiner, and a March 17, 1938 Hollywood Reporter news item stated that in an ad in Hollywood Reporter on March 10, 1938, "Columbia erred in giving Morris Stoloff credit for the music score for Lost Horizon, which Dmitri Tiomkin wrote." An February 18, 1937 Hollywood Reporter news item reported that Columbia had borrowed Gus Kahn from M-G-M to write the film's theme song with Tiomkin, but this was apparently not done. To publicize the film, Columbia sponsored a worldwide tour of an exhibition called "The Making of a Famous Motion Picture," which consisted of "more than fifty original water color sketches and art camera studies representing preliminary research work and technical arrangements."
According to a Hollywood Reporter news item, Germany banned the film because it "offends our most sacred feelings and also our artistic souls." Lost Horizon won Academy Awards for Best Art Direction and Best Film Editing, and was nominated for Best Picture, Supporting Actor (H. B. Warner), Assistant Director (C. C. Coleman), Sound Recording and Score. It was also selected as one of the ten best films of 1937 by the Film Daily Poll of Critics. In 1985, a newly-restored version of the film was completed, supervised by the National Center for Film and Video Preservation at the American Film Institute, which restored most of the 24 minutes cut from the original 132 minute road show version in subsequent re-issues. All of the original soundtrack, and all but six-and-a-half minutes of the original picture, were recovered. Modern sources state that Cary Odell based his set designs on the work of Frank Lloyd Wright, that Pala Indians of San Diego were cast as Tibetan extras and that some scenes were shot at Brent's Crag in the San Fernando Valley and Tahquitz Falls in Palm Springs, CA.
Modern sources also include Clem Horton in the cast and note that Lost Horizon contains footage of the Himalayas taken from the 1934 documentary Der Daemon der Berge. Modern sources list the following additional technical credits: Assistant Director Milton Carter; Addl photog Henry Freulich; Camera Operator Victor Scheurich and George Kelly; Assistant Camera Al Keller, William Jolley, Irving Klein, Roy Babbitt and Sam Rosen; Asst aerial cam Rod Tolmie; Choral dir Jester Hairston; Orchestration Herman Hand, Max Reese, William Grant Still, Bernhard Kaun, Hugo Friedhofer, George Parrish, Robert Russell Bennett and Peter Brunelli; Mus adv Max Rabinowitz and John Tettener; Microphones Buster Libbott; Head elec George Hager; Best boy Al Later; Ice house eng Regis Gubser; Head grip James Lloyd; Script clerk Eleanor Hall; Property master Jack Wren; Set dressers Ted Dickson and Fay Babcock; Makeup Johnny Wallace and Charles Huber; Wardrobe William Bridgehouse and Daisy Robinson; Hairdresser Rhoda Donaldson; Stills Alfredo Valente; Double for Jane Wyatt Mary Wiggins; Double for Ronald Colman Buddy Roosevelt; and Construction foreman Jim Pratt.
In Capra's autobiography, he mentions that Arthur Black was an assistant director on this film, but he did not receive credit as such. Modern sources also state that Sidney Buchman, the screenplay writer of Mr. Smith Goes to Washington, worked on the screenplay of this film without receiving credit. On September 15, 1941, Ronald Colman and Donald Crisp performed Lost Horizon on the Lux Radio Theater. Remakes of Lost Horizon appear to be based on both Hilton's book and Capra's film. They are: a 1956 Broadway musical entitled Shangri-La, with music by Harry Warren, book and lyrics by Jerome Lawrence, Robert E. Lee and James Hilton, and starring Dennis King and Carol Lawrence; a 1960 Hallmark Hall of Fame television broadcast of the stage production, starring Richard Basehart and Marisa Pavan; and the 1973 Columbia musical film, directed by Charles Jarrott and starring Peter Finch and Liv Ullman.
Released in United States 1937
Re-released in United States June 29, 1986
Released in USA on video.
Released in United States 1937
Re-released in United States June 29, 1986 (Los Angeles; using the AFI restoration print)