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Saturday, November 20, 2010

The Last Horizon (released in 1937) - starring Ronald Colman and Jane Wyatt, and directed by Frank Capra

This 1937 movie directed by Frank Capra is adapted from the novel of the same name by James Hilton. This fantasy movie starred Ronald Coleman and Jane Wyatt.
Richard Conway is a man of many talents and is the new British Foreign Secretary. He is a famous Writer, Soldier and highly sought after diplomat. As an armed revolution threatens China he rescues the stranded foreigners in Baskul and escapes with the last of the evacuees. But unknown to him their plane is hijacked and crashes in a remote Himalayan kingdom killing their abductor. They are rescued and taken to Shangri-La, an idyllic valley sheltered from the bitter cold which is headed by a mysterious head Lama.
Here the passengers find their idyllic life very much to their liking. Most of the newcomers grow to love Shangri-La, including paleontologist Alexander Lovett, swindler Henry Barnard, and bitter, terminally ill Gloria Stone, who miraculously seems to be recovering. Richard finds the lovely Sondra whose allure and beauty mesmerizes him. But his younger brother George and another young woman Maria from Shangri-La are bent upon leaving the place. They constantly try to persuade Richard to leave the place.

Richard gets an audience with the Lama, who tells him that his presence in Shangri-La is no accident. His talent and wisdom had impressed them to choose him to be the leader of Shangri-La. The Lama informs him that Shangri-La is a mystical place where people do not age, fall sick or wither with age. He designates Richard as his heir and passes away.
George, depicts the story as mere fantasy and persuades Richard to leave the place. They move on with Maria who upon leaving Shangri-La reaches her real age and dies. George looses his sanity and commits suicide. Richard continues his journey and slowly looses his memory. But on the voyage back to England he remembers all and jumps from the ship rendering him untraceable. He anyway gives an account of his adventures to others traveling with him. Then he makes him way to Shangri-La to continue his task entrusted to him by the Lama.
The movie has major deviations from the book and this has been a sore point with the audience who wanted a faithful adaptation. This movie was one of the expensive movies made in the 30's which drove a rift between the studio and the director. It was not received well and never recovered its money for a long time, meeting costs after 5 years. After it was re-shot and edited it was released to garner some box office success. The critical reception was a mixed one with some critics praising it and others rubbishing the work. It was nominated for 7 academy awards wining the award for Best Art Direction, and Best Film Editing. It lost the award for the best Picture narrowly to the ultimate winner “The life of Emile Zola”. But the movie pioneered high technological advances which were used to film the Himalayan Scenes. A watchable movie if you are interested in the sci-fi Genre.

The Last Horizon (released in 1937) - starring Ronald Colman and Jane Wyatt, and directed by Frank Capra

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