I’ve always had mixed feelings about Frank Capra’s Lost Horizon (1937). Part of it works. Part of it doesn’t. I’m not troubled by its supposedly communist overtones (they’re largely in the reading of the film), but I’ve never been comfortable with the scene where Ronald Colman and H.B. Warner discuss women as if they’re property. I’m even less comfortable with those parts of the “restored” version where the soundtrack plays and missing footage is replaced by stills from the film, as it pulls me out of the movie every time. If ever a movie needed suspension of disbelief this story—of a group of folks Shanghaied to the mythical land of Shangri-La for the express purpose of recruiting one of their number to take over the reins of the utopian community housed in the hidden recesses of the Himalayas—is it.
Still, it’s an important movie—sometimes a brilliant one—and perhaps an even more important piece of popular culture. It’s also interesting in that Lost Horizon is at once typical of Frank Capra’s work, and yet completely unlike anything else he made. And there’s no denying that it afforded Ronald Colman one of his finest roles. It certainly needs seeing.