Lost Horizon

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

Director(s): Frank Capra
Production: Sony Pictures Home Entertainment
  Won 2 Oscars. Another 1 win & 5 nominations.
 
IMDB:
7.8
Rotten Tomatoes:
92%
Unrated
Year:
1937
149
1,272 Views

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.

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.

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