Sunday Matinee: Lost Horizon

One of the 25 films that were added to the National Film Registry this year is Frank Capra’s 1937 movie Lost Horizon. Lost Horizon was based on a novel by James Hilton. It’s starts in China in 1935 where a revolution is taking place. Robert Conway (Ronald Colman) is a diplomat who tries to save 90 British citizens from the revolution. He then flees on the last plane with his George (John Howard), paleontologist Alexander Lovett (Edward Everett Horton), industrialist Henry Barnard (Thomas Mitchell) and the sickly Gloria Stone (Isabel Jewell). Their plane is hijacked and then crashes in the Himalayan Mountains.

From there the group discover a hidden city in the mountains called Shanghai-La. It’s a beautiful place and it seems to make the dying Gloria better. Robert meets the lovely Sondra (Jane Wyatt) and his brother meets the equally lovely Maria (Margo). It’s revealed that the city is over two hundred years old and was founded by Belgian priest named Father Perrault. It’s also revealed that the group have been kidnapped and brought to the city. George is furious. When Robert and George confront their guide he takes Robert to see the High Lama (Sam Jaffe).

The High Lama reveals that he is Perrault and he has lived for over 200 years trying to preserve the world’s treasures from destruction and bring brotherly love. Robert who has seen his share of war welcomes the High Lama’s ideas.

George in the meantime wants to leave. Maria convinces him that the whole place is a scam and the porters are allowed to leave when they want while they are forced to stay. George tries to convince everyone to leave but everyone else is content. Robert is torn and goes see the High Lama again.

Frank Capra was on a streak when he made this film. He just made It Happened One Night and Mr. Deeds Goes to Town. Lost Horizon was original six hours long but Capra cut it down to 132 minutes. It was then cut down to 118 minutes for the longest time but when it was restored in the 1980s while the original soundtrack was found several of the original scenes were discovered to be lost. The current version is missing 7 minutes which are replaced with stills.

Author: Shane Hnetka

Shane Hnetka has spent most of his life watching movies and reading comic books. He has decided to use this vast knowledge for evil instead of good.

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