Lost Horizon

To amuse me while I amused the cat I’ve been catsitting (not Veronica’s extra-large Kitty, but Dr. Deb’s extra-small Siamese), I watched the restored version of the 1937 Frank Capra film Lost Horizon on DVD. The Film Site has a spoiler-filled review, but suffice it to say that this is a standard utopian tale in which everyone is good and happy merely because everyone is good and happy, and the answer to all the obvious objections Our Hero raises is a naive “why?” from Our Heroine.

But it’s pretty for 1937, and Our Hero (Robert Conway, played by Ronald Colman) manages to enliven the dull talky parts with his awestruck gazing and general sense of wonder. The action scenes at the beginning and end were also helpful.

The alternate ending wasn’t a big change, but one of the other DVD features described the original framing sequence and the experience of filming at 24°F in a huge refrigerator (because Capra wanted to see the actors’ breath). One thing I didn’t learn from the extras was that Our Spunky Supporting Actress was supposed to be dying of consumption. A little coughing and six months to live says lung cancer to me.

Lost Horizon was not a success, and is remembered today mainly for its stupendous budget and the loss of the original print due to our oppressive copyright laws. It was based on the book of the same name by James Hilton, which is remembered mainly for allegedly being the first paperback ever published (Ballantine, 1939?). It’s still in print.

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