LOST HORIZON (1937) B/W 133m dir: Frank Capra
w/Ronald Colman, Jane Wyatt, Edward Everett Horton, John Howard, Thomas Mitchell, Margo, Isabel Jewell, H.B. Warner, Sam Jaffe, Hugh Buckler
This is a lovely, moving story of escapees from a revolution who find refuge of several sorts in a magical valley in which the only law is to "be kind." Taken from James Hilton's Utopian novel, the film contains uniformly expert acting, and the years have added a patina of romance and nostalgia to its other magical qualities.
From The Movie Guide: "Frank Capra's classic romantic fantasy leaves the standard 'Capraesque' middle-class milieu of most of his beloved masterpieces for a vividly realized world of strange adventure and fantasy. ...
"LOST HORIZON came to epitomize its audience's image of Utopia. Capra's paradise on earth --- with its pure air, bright sun and untroubled centuries of blissful life --- became so entrenched in the public imagination that Shangri-La became a household word. Though Hilton wrote the novel (published in 1933) in six weeks, Capra took two years to transfer the tale to celluloid. The magnificent Shangri-La set constructed by art designer Stephen Goosson was the largest ever built in Hollywood. For two months, 150 workmen labored to build the 1,000-foot-long, 500-foot-wide lamasery, with its deep flights of marbled stairs and huge patio, broad terraces, rich gardens, lily-coated pools, and main building influenced by art deco and Frank Lloyd Wright. Little Columbia Studios and its tough boss, Harry Cohn, staggered under the burden of the film's $2.5 million cost, which amounted to half of the company's entire yearly budget.
"All of the painstaking care Capra took with LOST HORIZON shows; the film is directed with swift pace, inventive shots, and splendid acting. Capra was at a high point in his career. Two reels were eliminated after a problematic preview screening. LOST HORIZON was released in a cut version of 118 minutes to universal applause. Columbia had itself a box-office blockbuster which returned many millions to its depleted coffers and remained popular in re-release for decades. Everything about LOST HORIZON reflects quality work, from Robert Riskin's bright and literate script to Dimitri Tiomkin's stirring music, the outstanding special effects and Joseph Walker's evocative soft-focus photography."
Running at 133 minutes, the film will most likely incorporate stills (with their accompanying soundtrack) in place of a few scenes that have been lost.
The film won Oscars for Best Interior Decoration and Editing. It was also nominated for Best Picture, Supporting Actor (Warner), Score, Sound, and Assistant Director.
Beware the 1973 musical remake with Peter Finch and Liv Ullmann.