Thursday, November 18, 2010

"Lost Horizon", 1937 Ronald Colman, Jane Wyatt (Dimitri Tiomkin, Composer)

Lost Horizon"An endearing scene where Ronald Colman pursues stunning Jane Wyatt (Sonda) on a wild horseback chase over hill and dale!"

Dimitri Tiomkin (1898-1979) composed a magnificent score for this film. The Russian emigre had left his native country a few years after its revolution. He worked in Germany and France before coming to America in the early 1930's.

"Lost Horizon" was his first major Hollywood triumph, and earned him an Academy Award nomination. He would go on to win the award for composing the classic Gary Cooper/Grace Kelly Western "High Noon" (1952), "The High and the Mighty" (1954), and "The Old Man and the Sea" (1958) .

His work covered great scores for many action films and also he had a great romantic touch as you can listen to here.

Frank Capra's "Lost Horizon" was based on a James Hilton novel with a screenplay by Robert Riskin. In the story, six Westerners are flown out of the turmoil of a Chinese city under attack and hijacked to a mysterious Tibetan kingdom called Shangri-La. Here beauty, tranquility and longevity abound. Ronald Colman plays Robert Conway, an outstanding diplomat who is brought here, perhaps to save the rest of civilization from the destruction of war. In the end, he and some of the party brave the peaks of the Himalayas to return to their world--and they discover that some things can only exist in Shangi-La.

An excellent film, and one that was neglected for years until the UC-Los Angeles Film Archive restored the movie in 1985 to it's original running length. Some parts of the original 137 minute film could only be restored by using production stills and the soundtrack.

I was fortunate enough to see a premiere showing at the Pacific Film Achieve inBerkeley shortly after the restoration. It was worth it! What was a sad case of a valuable film that was chopped up and had parts badly neglected in storage by its studio (Columbia) now survives nearly whole as it was meant to be.

This is a small selection from the film. Tiomkin's romantic side as a composer is right on the mark.


  1. I love this film, Doug - it's among my top twenty-five favorites (yep; I have a list!)

  2. Me as well. Always happy to bring back some great film memories, Will. Hope you will blog about that list some time.

  3. I'm humbled! I kept thinking, I know this guy, but not too welI, & I remembered one piece composed by Tiomkin that I liked..El Cid, so I looked it up. I never knew until now that it was a music score. (I love Russian music, but apparently he wasn't one of my favourites?)

    I'll bet my husband had the movie you posted, in his vast collection. He loved very old black & whites. I have an antique shipping trunk about 4' x 6' filled to the brim with his videos.

    How 'quaint' the romanticism in the movie. Interesting!

  4. Tiomkin did so many scores for big action films in the 50s and 60s. His music is always memorable even if some of those films aren't.

    I have a lot of videos of older movies myself, Lucija--about 160 at last count. I grew up on old movies on late-night television when I could stay up to watch them. It's was so much fun to get a chance to see some of the best films, like this one, on a big screen! It's really the way they were meant to be seen--in a large theater with others. But new technologies have changed all that--for the better in many ways, but at a loss of a shared experience and the excitement that "going to the movies" can be.

    The romance is rather quaint. It's more of the charming things about films from this period . Another favorite film of mine with Ronald Coleman is "Random Harvest"(1940) co-starring Greer Garson. He's an World War I officer, a shell-shocked amnesiac who escapes from the treatment asylum and falls in love with Garson's character, a singer in a music hall. Later, the officer gets his memory back while away from her. He discovers he was a upper-crust business tycoon. And he also loses the memory of being with the music hall singer!

    My wife and I watch that one at least once a year. It's over-the-top romantic, but somehow works beautifully.

  5. Yes. I haven't seen a movie for at least eight years, but they were quite different than this. Do you know if Tiomkin ever wrote a score for a Hemingway novel/movie? I sort of doubt it. His Russian passion is too 'epic' I think, for Hemingway!

  6. Actually I just looked that up and Tiomkin did a score for "The Old Man and the Sea" (1958) with Spencer Tracy. The composer won his third Oscar.

    But I see your point---most of this great musician's scores have a passion and a sweep that doesn't lend itself to realism.

  7. Thank you. "The Old Man and the Sea" is quite different, I think.

  8. I have heard of this film, but certainly one the film club missed out on during my membership. Maybe it was out of circulation then

    I'll have a look at ebay and amazon to see how much it is to buy.

    Thank you for the review. I guess I'll have to dip into my Doug film fund!

  9. The original "Lost Horizon" is a film worth seeing in my opinion , Cassandra, especially as rental or a good buy on eBay.

    The restored version--which is something of a rare bird I gather -- gives you an idea what Capra and Riskin intended--a romance yes, but also a meditation on hope for a a better world.
    That must have hit home to audiences facing the perils of the Great Depression and the drumbeat of war from yammering dictators in Italy and Germany.

    You have a film fund for my movie blogs in your budget?! Bit of pressure there. I will continue to avoid reviewing any "turkey" flicks, on Thanksgiving Day or otherwise. ;-)

  10. The score is probably the best thing about that particular movie in my opinion.

  11. I wonder what the picture is like in the un-restored version. I had thought I may stand a chance of getting it restored.

    I suppose people needed to be given a lift with films during the depression. Would they have still been serializing films then, or were those days over?

    No matter how bad it gets now, nothing could have beaten the despair of that time.

    Tonight at 9.00 on BBC 2 there's a programme about John Kennedy's fight for the election and it reveals how ruthless it was against a good political man. Should be interesting.

    Hahaha, thank you, Turkey flicks eh? Looks in the Doug fund dish and wonders if it will cover cartoons. :-)

  12. I didn't see the movie, Doug....that bad, huh?

  13. Any un restored version of "Lost Horizon" would probably be missing only a few minutes of the film. The restoration started in 1974--I just discovered--and took about a dozen years to finance and complete. A few minutes of the "restored" version involve scenes with one of the co-stars (Everett Edward Horton) and for that the soundtrack is supplemented with stills from the story. any DVD under the "Columbia Classics" label. The biggest thing to be aware of is that parts of this film look great and some of it looks a bit off, because it is taken form 16mm television prints. The studio boss at Columbia, Harry Cohn, cut about half an hour out of the film at one point so the restoration project had to go hither and yon to reassemble the footage. (The complete soundtrack was found at the British Film Institute if my memory serves.)

    Movie serials were very big in America in the Great Depression. Almost all the main studio had "B" units turning out science fiction serials for kids or crime dramas and Westerns aimed for general audiences. The "eruption" of television in the 50's ended the multi-part serial

    No, I don't think anything could be as bad as what people went through in the 1930's, Cassandra. My father remembered getting off the streetcar with his older brother or his dad to see a movie on Saturday Afternoons in Portland, Oregon, and seeing grown men loitering in alleyways and city parks. The men would be wearing their only clothing, playing cards for matches in the cold because there was often no work to be had, or they had come from the docks or a mill in the morning that took a few day workers and shooed others away. It must have been horrible. I'm sure much of Britain was no better.

    I sometimes wonder if the Hollywood studio movies and those local theaters just might have saved some people from turning to hyper-radicalism and violence. Just a hunch.

    Yes, that should be a good documentary. John Kennedy was all about winning; he learned that from his father, Joe, a ruthless businessman and power broker. They weren't above making deals with organized crime to win a state primary, but then Kennedy turned against the Mob when he got in to the White House. Some say that was why he was killed in Dallas. I don't think we'll ever know.

    It seems a shame that turkeys, as far as I know, have never had a champion in any cartoon series. Such a nice North American bird, yet they just don't get respect :-)

  14. Thanks for doing this Sigurd. I was afriad I had said something that offended Lucija somehow at first. I hope they can put a stop to this nutcase in question.

    Thanks also for the invite. I look forward to exchanging views.

  15. All those "Comment deleted at the request of the author" were deleted by him. Her contacts must be wondering what's happened, and I have no idea who they all were, so I can't advise them.

    Thanks for accepting the invitation.