Frank Capra, the man who contributed heavily to making Columbia Pictures the powerhouse it is today (and even more so to, well, all of cinema), also cost the studio an enormous sum of money. Spending a whopping $2.6 million – far more than any project the studio had previously attempted (and this was 1937, so… it was A LOT) – Capra created the dazzling fantasy that is LOST HORIZON.
An adaptation of the novel of the same name by James Hilton, the film tells the story of the lost British diplomat (played by the velvet-voiced Ronald Colman) who finds himself in the mystical city of Shangri-la deep in the Himalayas. The novel originally told of Shangri-la as a holy refuge against the coming global holocaust that mankind would bring upon itself, and although only some of this is present in the film, this fictional land feels sacred (even with the cultural appropriation so common in films of the era).
This is a world where you get the snow and ice of the high mountain peaks (PRODUCED WITH ACTUAL SNOW! IN A GIANT, REFRIGERATED BUILDING! REAL COLD BREATH!) and the strange magic of immortality. This is a world of action, adventure, romance, and fantasy. It’s a movie that dazzles the eye, even today, with its elaborate sets, models, and effects.
It’s fitting that the HFA is closing its series on the famous director, THE CAPRA TOUCH, with this grand opus. After all, although it was a spectacle, LOST HORIZON was the end of Capra’s time under Columbia – the then mystical world that allowed for him to create cinema history.
LOST HORIZON (1937) DIR. FRANK CAPRA
6/2 – 7PM
The Harvard Film Archive
24 Quincy Street
Cambridge, MA 02138