|Ronald Colman and Jane Wyatt star in LOST HORIZON (1937).|
It's easy to see how Capra could have been seduced into the prospect of making the most of what he had, because few directors before him had been more indulged. The budget, including the construction of the dazzling Shangri-La, reportedly ran to $1.5 million (equal to more than $25,000,000 today), and Capra's initial rough cut is said to have run six hours. There is much about it that could not possibly be bettered (Ronald Colman and Jane Wyatt particularly), but even if those six minutes (represented here by surviving soundtrack and production photos) were recovered, the film would still be lacking answers to some aggravating questions - like why the Russian woman character played by Margo wants so desperately to escape an apparent Paradise.
|Shangri-La, designed by Stephen Goossen.|
Also restored is the Harry Cohn-demanded alternate ending, which was in place for most of the film's theatrical release but has not been generally available for somewhere north of 60 years. The two endings pose a difficult choice; the familiar one supports the film's conception of Shangri-La as a form of faith, while the alternate one makes it more tangible and unambiguous and gives the audience exactly what it wants. I like them both, but only one really supports the ideas carefully woven into the story.
Another thing about the ending: are we sure that the actor in protagonist Robert Conway's final closeup is actually Ronald Colman? It doesn't look like him to me, and the uncertainty of this - especially coming after so much stock footage of snowy mountainsides - may be the real reason we respond to having Jane Wyatt brought back there.
(c) 2017 by Tim Lucas. All rights reserved.