Greatest Film Scenes
and Moments

Lost Horizon (1937)


Written by Tim Dirks

Title Screen
Movie Title/Year and Scene Descriptions

Lost Horizon (1937)

In director Frank Capra's classic adventure and romantic fantasy about Shangri-La:

  • the opening scene of the last group of white westerner refugees flown out to Shanghai on a plane, as bullets flew about an airfield in war-torn China in 1935, and the introduction of the main character: courageous British diplomat (Foreign Secretary-designate), Far Eastern writer and idealistic dreamer Robert Conway (Ronald Colman)
  • after being hijacked, the plane's crash-landing in the Tibetan Himalayas, followed soon by the first views of the idyllic valley of Shangri-La - a paradise on Earth - where the group of survivors was led by Chang (H.B. Warner)
  • Robert Conway's spying on 30 year-old Sondra (Jane Wyatt in her film debut) skinny-dipping in a mountain pool, and his growing romance with her
  • the scene of Sondra explaining to world-weary Robert how she was orphaned after her explorer-parents died during a lost expedition in the "wild country beyond the pass," and how she was brought up at Shangri-La and the aging process had slowed: ("Perhaps because you've always been a part of Shangri-La without knowing it... I'm sure of it, just as I'm sure there's a wish for Shangri-La in everyone's heart. I've never seen the outside world, but I understand there are millions and millions of people who are supposed to be mean and greedy. And I just know that secretly, they are all hoping to find a garden spot where there is peace, security, where there's beauty and comfort, where they wouldn't have to be mean and greedy. Oh, I just wish the whole world might come to this valley") - Robert was still astounded by the promise of life at Shangri-La and his feelings of deja-vu, as they talked in a cherry-blossoming orchard
  • the High Lama's (Sam Jaffe) discussion with Conway about the reason and purpose for the establishment of Shangri-La: ("We have reason. It is the entire meaning and purpose of Shangri-La. It came to me in a vision long, long ago. I saw all the nations strengthening, not in wisdom, but in the vulgar passions and the will to destroy. I saw their machine power multiplying until a single weaponed man might match a whole army. I foresaw a time when man exulting in the technique of murder, would rage so hotly over the world, that every book, every treasure would be doomed to destruction. This vision was so vivid and so moving that I determined to gather together all things of beauty and culture that I could and preserve them here against the doom toward which the world is rushing. Look at the world today. Is there anything more pitiful? What madness there is! What blindness! What unintelligent leadership! A scurrying mass of bewildered humanity crashing headlong against each other, compelled by an orgy of greed and brutality. The time must come, my friend, when this orgy will spend itself, when brutality and the lust for power must perish by its own sword. Against that time is why I avoided death and am here and why you were brought here. For when that day comes, the world must begin to look for a new life. And it is our hope that they may find it here. For here, we shall be with their books and their music and the way of life based on one simple rule: Be kind. When that day comes, it is our hope that the brotherly love of Shangri-La will spread throughout the world"); when he finished, the High Lama stood and smiled with a broad, toothless grin
The High Lama's Description of the Purpose for Shangri-La
  • the sequence of the High Priest's designation of the idealistic, like-minded Robert Conway as his successor (the High Priest had arranged with Sondra for Conway's abduction) before he was to peacefully expire at about 200 years of age: ("I am placing in your hands the future and destiny of Shangri-La, for I am going to die. I knew my work was done when I first set eyes upon you. I've waited for you, my son, for a long time. I've sat in this room and seen the faces of newcomers. I've looked into their eyes and heard their voices, always in hope that I might find you. My friend, it is not an arduous task that I bequeath, for our order knows only silken bonds. To be gentle and patient, to care for the riches of the mind, to preside in wisdom while the storm rages without...You, my son, will live through the storm. You will preserve the fragrance of our history and add to it a touch of your own mind. Beyond that, my vision weakens but I see at a great distance a new world stirring in the ruins, stirring clumsily but in hopefulness, seeking its lost and legendary treasures, and they will all be here, my son, hidden behind the mountains in the Valley of the Blue Moon, preserved as by a miracle")
  • while leaving the Valley, Robert's one last look back, in a closeup image, for a final tearful and anguished view of the paradise refuge - one of the film's most memorable and powerful moments - as he departed from Shangri-La
  • the withered aging of Maria's (Margo) face after leaving the idyllic paradise where she had grown up, as Robert's impulsive younger brother George (John Howard) screamed at his brother who was carrying Maria slung on his back: ("Look at her face! Her face! Look at her face!"); George could not bear to see the decomposing body of the beloved woman (who was actually over 60 years of age) - and he committed suicide by throwing himself off the cliff
George's Reaction to Maria's Withering Face
  • the next-to-last scene regarding the missing Robert Conway, who had been found alive in a Chinese mission suffering from amnesia (about the entire previous year); as Conway was being brought home to England by explorer Lord Gainsford (Hugh Buckler) aboard the SS Manchuria, he remembered Shangri-La on his return voyage - and jumped ship - determined to return to Shangri-La; back in England after a futile 10 month search for Conway, Gainsford offered a toast and salute: ("Yes. Yes, I believe it. I believe it because I want to believe it. Gentlemen, I give you a toast. Here's my hope that Robert Conway will find his Shangri-La. Here's my hope that we all find our Shangri-La")
  • the film's final image - a bearded and fatigued Robert Conway struggled through the snow to regain and recapture his lost dream by returning to Shangri-La - he viewed the sanctuary of the lost valley through an elusive mountain entrance, and the bells pealed again

First View of Shangri-La

Sondra Caught Skinny-Dipping

Sondra's Wish: "Oh I just wish the whole world might come to this valley"

Growing Romance

The High Priest Designating Robert as His Successor

Robert's Last Look Back at Shangri-La

Lord Gainsford's Toast to Robert and Shangri-La

Robert's Return to Shangri-La


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