AFI Catalog of Feature Films
Movie Detail
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Lost Horizon
Director: Frank Capra (Dir)
Release Date:   1 Sep 1937
Premiere Information:   San Francisco premiere: 2 Mar 1937; New York opening: week of 3 Mar 1937; Los Angeles premiere: 10 Mar 1937
Production Date:   23 Mar--17 Jul 1936; retakes Dec 1936.
Duration (in mins):   118, 125, 130 or 133
Duration (in feet):   12,094
Duration (in reels):   14
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Cast:   Ronald Colman (Robert Conway)  
    Jane Wyatt (Sondra)  
    Edward Everett Horton ([Alexander P.] Lovett)  
    John Howard (George Conway)  
    Thomas Mitchell ([Henry] Barnard)  
    Margo (Maria)  
    Isabel Jewell (Gloria [Stone])  
    H. B. Warner (Chang)  
    Sam Jaffe (High Lama)  
    David Torrence (Prime minister)  
    Hugh Buckler (Lord Gainsford)  
    Val Duran (Talu)  
    Milton Owen (Fenner)  
    Richard Loo (Shanghai airport official)  
    Willie Fung (Bandit leader)  
    Victor Wong (Bandit leader)  
    John Burton (Wynant)  
    John Miltern (Carstairs)  
    John T. Murray (Meeker)  
    Dennis D'Auburn (Aviator)  
    Noble Johnson (Leader of porters)  
    John Tettemer (Montaigne)  
    Matthew Carlton (Pottery maker)  
    Joe Herrera (Candle maker)  
    Margaret McWade (Missionary)  
    Ruth Robinson (Missionary)  
    Carl Stockdale (Missionary)  
    Wyrley Birch (Missionary)  
    Richard Masters (Servant)  
    Alex Shoulder (Servant)  
    Ernesto Zambrano (Servant)  
    Manuella Kalili (Servant)  
    Max Rabinowitz (Seiveking)  
    Boyd Irwin Sr. (Assistant foreign secretary)  
    Leonard Mudie (Foreign secretary)  
    Neil Fitzgerald (Radio operator)  
    Derby Clark (Radio operator)  
    Beatrice Curtis (Passenger)  
    Mary Lou Dix (Passenger)  
    Beatrice Blinn (Passenger)  
    Arthur Rankin (Passenger)  
    Norman Ainsley (Steward)  
    David Clyde (Steward)  
    George Chan (Chinese priest)  
    Barry Winton (Englishman)  
    Robert Corey (Englishman)  
    Eric Wilton (Englishman)  
    Henry Mowbray (Englishman)  
    Wedgwood Nowell (Englishman)  
    Eli Casey (Porter)  
    Richard Robles (Porter)  
    Chief Big Tree (Porter)  
    James P. Smith (Porter)  
    Charles Dempsey (Porter)  
    Robert Lugo (Porter)  
    Moning Gonzales (Porter)  
    George Kaluna (Porter)  
    Delmar Ingraham (Porter)  
    Ira Walker (Porter)  
    Tom Campbell (Porter)  
    Glenn Howard (Porter)  
    Antonion Herrera (Porter)  
    Pat Tapia (Porter)  
    Joe Shoulder (Porter)  
    Ed Thorpe (Porter)  
    Joe Molina (Porter)  
    Harry Lishman (Porter)  
    Sonny Bupp (Boy being carried to plane)  
    Lawrence Grant    
    Kui Kang    

Summary: 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. 

Production Company: Columbia Pictures Corp. of California, Ltd.  
Production Text: Harry Cohn, President; A Frank Capra Production
Distribution Company: Columbia Pictures Corp. of California, Ltd.  
Director: Frank Capra (Dir)
  Harold Winston (Dial dir)
  C. C. Coleman (Asst dir)
Writer: Robert Riskin (Scr)
Photography: Joseph Walker (Photog)
  Elmer Dyer (Aerial photog)
  E. Roy Davidson (Spec cam eff)
  Ganahl Carson (Spec cam eff)
Art Direction: Stephen Goossón (Art dir)
  Lionel Banks (Asst art dir)
  Paul Murphy (Asst art dir)
Film Editor: Gene Havlick (Film ed)
  Gene Milford (Film ed)
Set Decoration: Babs Johnstone (Int dec)
  Cary Odell (Set sketcher)
  Schuyler Crail (Set photog)
Costumes: Ernst Dryden (Cost)
  Dan Grossbeck (Costume impressions sketcher)
Music: Max Steiner (Mus dir)
  Dimitri Tiomkin (Mus score)
  Hall Johnson Choir (Voices)
  Charles Maxwell (Orch)
Sound: Edward Bernds (Sd eng)
Make Up: Helen Hunt (Hair)
  Jack Dawn (Makeup)
Production Misc: Harrison Forman (Tech adv)
  Charles J. De Soria (Dog trainer)
  Rennie Reniro (Dog trainer)
  Archie Beckingsale (Bird trainer)
  Al "Doc" Guyer (First aid)
  Henry Eichman (Mus instruments supplier)
  Irving Lippman (Still photog)
  Hy Daab (Press rep)
Country: United States

Source Text: Based on the novel Lost Horizon by James Hilton (New York, 1933).
Authors: James Hilton

Copyright Claimant Copyright Date Copyright Number
Columbia Pictures Corp. of California, Ltd. 2/3/1937 dd/mm/yyyy LP6952

PCA NO: 2061
Physical Properties: b&w:
  Sd: Western Electric Noiseless Recording

Genre: Fantasy
Subjects (Major): Diplomats
  Imaginary lands
Subjects (Minor): Aged persons
  Airplane accidents

Note: 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.  

Bibliographic Sources:   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.
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.

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