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Film: Lost Horizon

Lost Horizon is a 1937 film by Frank Capra, based on the novel of the same name by British author James Hilton (of Goodbye, Mr. Chips fame).

Passengers aboard a small airplane discover that they have been kidnapped by someone posing as their assigned pilot. The plane crashes in the Himalayan mountain range along the border of China. The dying pilot's last words indicate there is a lamasery near by at Shangi-La and they will find help there. The passengers go to the lamasery and uncover a mystery.

The novel was filmed again in 1973 as a spectacular star-studded musical flop.

When the negative was restored in The Seventies, it was decayed so badly that seven minutes could not be salvaged. However, an intact soundtrack was found. The film as it exists today uses still pictures along with dialogue to illustrated those extra seven minutes.

The 1937 film provides examples of:

  • Age Without Youth: Averted - you live long and age proportionately in Shangri-La.
  • The Chosen One: Conway was specially selected to go to Shangri-La, and the other passengers were considered wonderful, accidental additions to the lamasery who all (excepting Conway's brother George) found reasons to be happy there.
  • Despair Event Horizon: George charges over it after seeing Maria age half a century and die in a matter of hours after leaving Shangri-La, and runs headlong over a cliff to his death.
  • Determinator: When Conway is rescued, he is absolutely determined to return to Shangri-La, and in the film's pentultimate scene, Lord Gainsford tells the members of the Embassy Club in London the stories he has heard of Conway learning to fly and stealing an Army plane, making six attempts to cross a supposedly uncrossable mountain pass, fighting off six guards to escape from a Tibetan jail after being imprisoned for stealing food and clothing, and leading the local military on a wild goose chase through their own country.
  • Hidden Elf Village: The people of Shangri-La are not exactly disdainful of the outside world, but their attitude can rather succinctly be summed up as smiling, shaking their heads, and saying, "What silly people."
  • Hurting Hero: Robert Conway, though he is professionally successful, admits to feeling a great emptiness in his life, and the fact that this comes through in his writing is what leads the higher-ups at Shangri-La to bring him there.
  • Incurable Cough of Death: Subverted, in that Gloria's incurable cough of death actually is cured by the magic of Shangri-La.
  • Lost World: The high mountains all around mean that no one ever goes to Shangri-La except the porters that visit once every few years.
  • MacGuffin Location: Shangri-La may be the setting of most of the film and the ultimate goal of most of the characters, especially Conway, but the film is more about how Shangri-La affects the characters (such as Gloria recovering from her tuberculosis, Lovett learning to relax and enjoy himself, and especially Conway finding a sense of purpose in life) than about the place itself.
  • Mighty Whitey: Featuring a modern Mighty Whitey in the 1930s, when the old-fashioned version was still in vogue. The mostly Chinese and Tibetan monks there prove themselves to be wise, intelligent, competent, and well-rounded characters. However, the white Conway turns out to be better at being a monk than the best of the Tibetans, and it turns out that the founder and leader of the monastery is a European who arrived in the 15th century.
  • No Immortal Inertia: The inhabitants of Shangri-La do age, but much more slowly there than they would do in the outside world. As Maria demonstrates, if they leave the village, they quickly advance to the age they would be if they had never been to Shangri-La.
  • The Outside World: Shangri La is hidden from the rest of the world in the Himalayan mountains. Visitors can come and go (though due to its location very few visit) but natives face a terrible price for leaving.
  • Rapid Aging: Happens to Maria when the Conway brothers take her with them as they attempt to return to the outside world. As they trek through the mountains after their porters have been buried in an avalanche, a horrified George screams, "Bob! Bob, look at her face! Her face, look at her face!", and we see a lifeless, wrinkled old woman's face.
  • The Shangri-La: Shangri-La fits the description perfectly, a mysterious yet idyllic village nestled in the Himalayas tended to by people who have cast off the stresses and strains of the world beyond, accessible only with the help of insiders.
  • Skinnydipping: Including a rather daring scene for 1937, in which Jane Wyatt's body double actually leaves the pool while nude. Shot from a considerable distance away, but still.
  • Stock Footage: The 1937 film borrowed a few shots of snowy mountain peaks from a documentary to make it more realistic.
  • Utopia: Shangri-La. Through moderation in all things moral and material, the inhabitants are all (with one or two exceptions), to quote Chang, "more than moderately happy."
  • Yellowface: The very British H.B. Warner plays Chang, the #2 man at Shangri-La.

Leonard Part 6Creator/Columbia PicturesMajor Dundee
The Good EarthAcademy AwardA Star Is Born
The Life of Émile ZolaFilms of the 1930sNothing Sacred

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