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Lost Horizon

Screening on Film
Directed by Frank Capra.
With Ronald Colman, Jane Wyatt, Edward Everett Horton.
US, 1937, 35mm, black & white, 132 min.

Browsing in the Union Station’s newsstand for something to read on the train, I saw a book [...] Lost Horizon, written by the English writer James Hilton. I read it; not only read it, but dreamed about it all night. [....]

The High Lama said he saw all nations strengthening—not in wisdom but in vulgar passions and the will to destroy. He saw their machine power multiplying until a single-weaponed man might match a whole army… Anticipating the holocaust, Shangri-La had, for nearly two centuries, been accumulating the treasure of the mind and the wisdom of the ages. [....]

Had the High Lama been able to scour the whole world for a man to carry on his vision of Shangri-La, he would have selected Ronald Colman. Beautiful of face and soul, sensitive to the fragile and gentle, responsive both to poetic visions and hard intellect—cultured actor Ronald Colman was born to play the kidnapped foreign secretary who ‘understood’ his kidnapping. [....]

With wind machines, snow machines, and back-projection machines we conjured up the Arctic rigors of the Himalayas. The snow the actors crunched through was snow; the fluted outcroppings of glacial ice shimmered real because they were real. The breath-showing puzzle—ludicrously ‘solved’ once by dry ice in actor’s mouths—was cracked by an ice house. The key to misty breath, red noses, and frosty eyebrows was so obvious it had been overlooked—lower the temperature, fool. — FC

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