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According to Hollywood Reporter news items, director Frank Capra planned on making Lost Horizon, the film rights to which had also been bid upon by director King Vidor, directly after Broadway Bill, but had to put it off to the 1935-36 program due to casting difficulties. He substituted Opera Hat, later retitled Mr. Deeds Goes to Town, on the production schedule. The unavailability of Ronald Colman then delayed the production even further. According to the program for the film's New York premiere, technical advisor Harrison Forman was a noted American explorer and authority on Tibet. The program states that the lamasery set, which measured 1,000 feet long and almost 500 feet wide and took 150 workmen two months to complete after they began on March 1, 1936, was constructed on the Columbia lot (which modern sources indicate is the Columbia Ranch in Burbank, CA); The Valley of the Blue Moon was located in Sherwood Forest, which was about forty miles from Hollywood; the rioting scene at Baskul was filmed at Municipal Airport, near Los Angeles; and the refueling sequence took place at Lucerne Dry Lake. According to Motion Picture Herald, Lost Horizon was Columbia's highest budgeted film (two million dollars) at that time.
The program also describes the original opening of the film, contained in the first two reels, which Capra says in his autobiography were burned by him after an unfavorable preview. The action of these two reels, according to the program, revolved around "Robert Conway," who is found by his friend "Lord Gainsford" and taken aboard the S.S. Manchuria to return to England. Because "Conway" suffers from amnesia, he cannot relate his adventures to "Gainsford" until one night in the ship's salon, he hears a piano recital. "Conway's" claim that the music is that of Chopin's, when the pianist asserts that it cannot be, sparks his memory and he is able to tell "Gainsford" about his experiences in Shangri-La. Most of the action in the released film was thus a flashback in the first version. This early sequence closely followed the original James Hilton novel. The released film, though roughly following the novel, has significant changes from it, specifically combining, removing or altering major characters and expanding some incidents that were merely alluded to in the book. New York Times reported that Hilton approved of the plot and character differences between his book and the film. New York Times also reported that the film had been scheduled for preview and release three times but was called back each time before it finally had its preview in March 1937. According to a March 16, 1937 Hollywood Reporter news item, the picture's ending was slightly altered while it was playing in New York before it began its general release. The news items stated that Columbia was "discarding the ending which depicts Jane Wyatt welcoming Ronald Colman back to Shangri-La and [would be] substituting instead the ending in which Colman is shown struggling through snow in an effort to regain Shangri-La."
There is a great deal of controversy surrounding the role of the High Lama, which was not finally cast until the film was far into production. Hollywood Reporter news items state that after Walter Connolly and Sam Jaffe had enacted the role, Capra filmed retakes with Ward Lane in an unspecified role, and David Torrence as the High Lama, then temporarily awarded the role to Torrence, who played the prime minister in the finished film. In Capra's autobiography, however, he mentions only testing a "ninety year old ex-stage star," who died after being told he was selected for the part, and wanting to test Henry B. Walthall, who died before he could be tested, and then giving the role to Jaffe. Another modern source lists Walthall, Fritz Leiber, Albert E. Anson and Connolly as those tested before Jaffe was selected. Lost Horizon was the last film of actors Hugh Buckler, Val Duran and John Miltern, who all died before the picture was released. Duran's surname is frequently spelled "Durand" by contemporary and modern sources. According to a Daily Variety news item, assistant director C. C. Coleman testified at a National Labor Relations Board investigation in 1938 that he spent seven weeks directing scenes for this film; the investigation was concerned with the question of whether assistant directors were ever called on to direct scenes.
A Hollywood Reporter news item states that the film had a premiere in Manila on the same day it opened in New York. Although some contemporary sources list Morris Stoloff as the musical director, the film credits Max Steiner, and a March 17, 1938 Hollywood Reporter news item stated that in an ad in Hollywood Reporter on March 10, 1938, "Columbia erred in giving Morris Stoloff credit for the music score for Lost Horizon, which Dmitri Tiomkin wrote." An February 18, 1937 Hollywood Reporter news item reported that Columbia had borrowed Gus Kahn from M-G-M to write the film's theme song with Tiomkin, but this was apparently not done. To publicize the film, Columbia sponsored a worldwide tour of an exhibition called "The Making of a Famous Motion Picture," which consisted of "more than fifty original water color sketches and art camera studies representing preliminary research work and technical arrangements."
According to a Hollywood Reporter news item, Germany banned the film because it "offends our most sacred feelings and also our artistic souls." Lost Horizon won Academy Awards for Best Art Direction and Best Film Editing, and was nominated for Best Picture, Supporting Actor (H. B. Warner), Assistant Director (C. C. Coleman), Sound Recording and Score. It was also selected as one of the ten best films of 1937 by the Film Daily Poll of Critics. In 1985, a newly-restored version of the film was completed, supervised by the National Center for Film and Video Preservation at the American Film Institute, which restored most of the 24 minutes cut from the original 132 minute road show version in subsequent re-issues. All of the original soundtrack, and all but six-and-a-half minutes of the original picture, were recovered. Modern sources state that Cary Odell based his set designs on the work of Frank Lloyd Wright, that Pala Indians of San Diego were cast as Tibetan extras and that some scenes were shot at Brent's Crag in the San Fernando Valley and Tahquitz Falls in Palm Springs, CA.
Modern sources also include Clem Horton in the cast and note that Lost Horizon contains footage of the Himalayas taken from the 1934 documentary Der Daemon der Berge. Modern sources list the following additional technical credits: Assistant Director Milton Carter; Addl photog Henry Freulich; Camera Operator Victor Scheurich and George Kelly; Assistant Camera Al Keller, William Jolley, Irving Klein, Roy Babbitt and Sam Rosen; Asst aerial cam Rod Tolmie; Choral dir Jester Hairston; Orchestration Herman Hand, Max Reese, William Grant Still, Bernhard Kaun, Hugo Friedhofer, George Parrish, Robert Russell Bennett and Peter Brunelli; Mus adv Max Rabinowitz and John Tettener; Microphones Buster Libbott; Head elec George Hager; Best boy Al Later; Ice house eng Regis Gubser; Head grip James Lloyd; Script clerk Eleanor Hall; Property master Jack Wren; Set dressers Ted Dickson and Fay Babcock; Makeup Johnny Wallace and Charles Huber; Wardrobe William Bridgehouse and Daisy Robinson; Hairdresser Rhoda Donaldson; Stills Alfredo Valente; Double for Jane Wyatt Mary Wiggins; Double for Ronald Colman Buddy Roosevelt; and Construction foreman Jim Pratt.
In Capra's autobiography, he mentions that Arthur Black was an assistant director on this film, but he did not receive credit as such. Modern sources also state that Sidney Buchman, the screenplay writer of Mr. Smith Goes to Washington, worked on the screenplay of this film without receiving credit. On September 15, 1941, Ronald Colman and Donald Crisp performed Lost Horizon on the Lux Radio Theater. Remakes of Lost Horizon appear to be based on both Hilton's book and Capra's film. They are: a 1956 Broadway musical entitled Shangri-La, with music by Harry Warren, book and lyrics by Jerome Lawrence, Robert E. Lee and James Hilton, and starring Dennis King and Carol Lawrence; a 1960 Hallmark Hall of Fame television broadcast of the stage production, starring Richard Basehart and Marisa Pavan; and the 1973 Columbia musical film, directed by Charles Jarrott and starring Peter Finch and Liv Ullman.