Lost Horizon [1937]

Director: Frank Capra
Stars: Ronald Colman, Jane Wyatt, Edward Everett Horton, John Howard, Thomas Mitchell
Genre: Fantasy, Musical, Adventure
Rating: Unrated
Runtime: 149 minutes

James Hilton's novel Lost Horizon proposes a perfect hidden community within the uncharted Himalayas, a land where peace reigns and the inhabitants live for hundreds of years. So indelible is this mythical land that its name has entered the culture: Shangri-La. Director Frank Capra, riding high during his mid-'30s hot streak, spared no expense in creating Hilton's paradise onscreen, taxing the coffers of Columbia Pictures and the patience of mogul Harry Cohn. The results, however, are magical: shimmering, seductive, and maybe a bit foolish, truly the creation of an idealist (understandably, the spectacular art direction won an Oscar). And Capra's hero is an idealist, too. Ronald Colman, at his most marvelously elocutionary, plays a wise diplomat whose plane crashes in the snows of Tibet. He and the other survivors are guided to Shangri-La, where they wrestle with the invitation to stay. The young Jane Wyatt plays Colman's love interest, but leaving a more lasting impression are H.B. Warner, as the benevolent Chang, and Sam Jaffe, in great old-age makeup, as the wizened High Lama. This version has been restored as closely as possible to Capra's original cut; the film had circulated for many years in a trimmed form. Lost Horizon was remade, notoriously and hilariously, as a big-budget musical in 1973; it was a complete flop. --Robert Horton

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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 vulgar passions and the will to destroy. I saw the 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 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 pitiful? 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.

Robert Conway:
I understand you father.

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