Lost Horizon (1937)

118 or 125 mins | Fantasy, Drama | 1 September 1937

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HISTORY

According to HR 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 1 Mar 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 MPH , 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 ... More Less

According to HR 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 1 Mar 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 MPH , 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. NYT reported that Hilton approved of the plot and character differences between his book and the film. NYT 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 Mar 1937. According to a 16 Mar 1937 HR 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. HR 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 DV 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 HR 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 17 Mar 1938 HR news item stated that in an ad in HR on 10 Mar 1938, "Columbia erred in giving Morris Stoloff credit for the music score for Lost Horizon , which Dmitri Tiomkin wrote." An 18 Feb 1937 HR 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 HR 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 FD 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: Asst dir Milton Carter; Addl photog Henry Freulich; Cam op Victor Scheurich and George Kelly; Asst cam Al Keller, William Jolley, Irving Klein, Roy Babbitt and Sam Rosen; Asst aerial cam Rod Tolmie; Choral dir Jester Hairston; Orch 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; Ward 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 15 Sep 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. According to a 27 Nov 1961 news item, Frank Capra considered producing a version of the story, planning for Laurence Olivier to portray the role of "Conway," but that project never reached fruition. More Less

BIBLIOGRAPHIC SOURCES
SOURCE
DATE
PAGE
Box Office
6-Mar-37
---
Daily Variety
20 Feb 37
p. 3.
Daily Variety
5 Oct 38
p. 7.
Film Daily
22 Dec 36
p. 2.
Film Daily
4 Mar 37
p. 5.
Hollywood Reporter
7 Mar 35
p. 1.
Hollywood Reporter
27 May 35
p. 1.
Hollywood Reporter
31 May 35
p. 7.
Hollywood Reporter
26 Jun 35
p. 4.
Hollywood Reporter
1 Jul 35
p. 1.
Hollywood Reporter
13 Jul 35
p. 3.
Hollywood Reporter
19 Jul 35
p. 1.
Hollywood Reporter
23 Mar 36
p. 3, 10
Hollywood Reporter
24 Mar 36
p. 3.
Hollywood Reporter
6 Apr 36
p. 2.
Hollywood Reporter
17 Jul 36
p. 4.
Hollywood Reporter
16 Oct 36
p. 4.
Hollywood Reporter
24 Oct 36
p. 4.
Hollywood Reporter
21 Nov 36
p. 5.
Hollywood Reporter
16 Dec 36
p. 11.
Hollywood Reporter
17 Dec 36
p. 2.
Hollywood Reporter
23 Dec 36
p. 16.
Hollywood Reporter
12 Feb 37
p. 1, 3
Hollywood Reporter
18 Feb 37
p. 1.
Hollywood Reporter
20 Feb 37
pp. 2-4.
Hollywood Reporter
27 Feb 37
p. 2, 8
Hollywood Reporter
3 Mar 37
p. 4.
Hollywood Reporter
4 Mar 37
p. 1, 4
Hollywood Reporter
6 Mar 37
p. 10.
Hollywood Reporter
8 Mar 37
p. 1.
Hollywood Reporter
10 Mar 37
pp. 5-16, 18
Hollywood Reporter
11 Mar 37
p. 2.
Hollywood Reporter
16 Mar 37
p. 3.
Hollywood Reporter
17 Mar 37
p. 2.
Hollywood Reporter
10 Apr 37
p. 5.
Hollywood Reporter
1 Nov 37
p. 12.
Motion Picture Daily
23 Feb 37
p. 2.
Motion Picture Daily
4 Mar 37
p. 1, 26
Motion Picture Herald
30 May 36
pp. 16-17.
Motion Picture Herald
5 Sep 36
p. 79.
Motion Picture Herald
27 Feb 37
p. 9, 55.
Motion Picture Herald
6 Mar 37
p. 89.
Motion Picture Herald
28 Aug 37
p. 100.
Motion Picture Herald
4 Sep 37
p. 46.
MPSI
1 Aug 36
p. 24.
New York Times
21-Jun-36
---
New York Times
16-Aug-36
---
New York Times
14-Feb-37
---
New York Times
28-Feb-37
---
New York Times
4 Mar 37
p. 27.
New York Times
16-May-37
---
Variety
10 Mar 37
p. 14.
CAST
NAME
CREDITED AS
CREDIT
Robert Corey
+
PRODUCTION CREDITS
NAME
PARENT COMPANY
PRODUCTION TEXT
Harry Cohn, President; A Frank Capra Production
NAME
CREDITED AS
CREDIT
DIRECTORS
Dial dir
Asst dir
WRITER
PHOTOGRAPHY
Photog
Aerial photog
Spec cam eff
ART DIRECTORS
Asst art dir
Asst art dir
FILM EDITORS
Film ed
Film ed
SET DECORATORS
Int dec
Set sketcher
Set photog
COSTUMES
Costume impressions sketcher
MUSIC
Mus dir
Mus score
SOUND
Sd eng
MAKEUP
Hair
Makeup
PRODUCTION MISC
Tech adv
Dog trainer
Bird trainer
First aid
Mus instruments supplier
Still photog
Press rep
SOURCES
LITERARY
Based on the novel Lost Horizon by James Hilton (New York, 1933).
AUTHOR
DETAILS
Release Date:
1 September 1937
Premiere Information:
San Francisco premiere: 2 March 1937
New York opening: week of 3 March 1937
Los Angeles premiere: 10 March 1937
Production Date:
23 March--17 July 1936
retakes December 1936.
Copyright Claimant:
Columbia Pictures Corp. of California, Ltd.
Copyright Date:
2 March 1937
Copyright Number:
LP6952
Physical Properties:
Sound
Western Electric Noiseless Recording
Black and White
Duration(in mins):
118 or 125
Length(in feet):
12,094
Length(in reels):
14
Country:
United States
Language:
English
PCA No:
2061
SYNOPSIS

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 ... +


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. +

Legend
Viewed by AFI
Partially Viewed
Offscreen Credit
Name Occurs Before Title
AFI Life Achievement Award

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