Dr. Joe’s Book of the Month – James Hilton’s “Lost Horizon”

BLOG #40, SERIES #6
WEDNESDAYS WITH DR. JO
DR. JOE’S BOOK OF THE MONTH CLUB #45
JAMES HILTON’S LOST HORIZON
October 7, 2015

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Since the advent of this novel in 1933, Shangri-La, the setting for this utopian novel, has come to mean a place of peace and contentment to people all around the world.

James Hilton (1900 – 1954) was, like most of his contemporaries, deeply impacted by what contemporaries called “The Great War” (World War I). A war so horrific, many wondered if it would doom civilization. Hilton, born in England, wrote several books exploring aspects of the war. This one, however, set in 1931, conceptualized a mythical utopia set high in one of the remotest parts of the Himalayas. Here, if the world self-destructed, civilized life could be given a chance for a rebirth in Shangri-La, where the High Lama has discovered the secret of extending life beyond even 200 years.

The vehicle bringing five passengers (four British, one American) is a high altitude plane that somehow made it to the mountains of the Blue Moon.

It is a riveting romance that has fascinated readers and movie-goers ever since it was printed. Its original publisher: William Morrow & Co., Inc. It was widely reprinted in hardback by Grosset & Dunlap and in trade paper by Pocket Books.

Questions readers will ask themselves are these: How much of this book could be true? What lessons about life can be learned by reading it? Is it a true happier-ever-after utopia—or might it have elements of a dystopia in it?

When you purchase your own copy, be sure it is unabridged. It’s not a very long book anyway.

M O V I E S

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(1983Twyman Catalogue)

Two movies have been made from this book:

1937 – B&W – 138 minutes –
Frank Capra (Producer and Director)
Robert Riskin (Writer)
Dimitri Tiompkin (Musical Score)
Actors: Ronald Colman, Jane Wyatt, Sam Jaffe, H. B. Warner, Thomas Mitchell, Edward Everett Horton, Isabelle Jewell, Margo – Academy Awards (2).
Nominated for 5 Academy Awards, including Best Picture, Best Supporting Actor.

It is a rare movie masterpiece that touches the heart of all who experience its dream—that some little plot of earth exists to which one can retreat, safe from the ravages of time and the world—one’s own little Shangri-La.

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(1980 Clem Williams Film Catalogue)

1973 – Color – 150 min. – Columbia

Charles Jarrott (Director)
Ross Hunter (Producer)
Larry Kramer (Screenwriter)
Burt Bacharach (Music)
Hal David (Lyrics)
Actors: Peter Finch, Liv Ullmann, Sally Kellerman, Charles Boyer, George Kennedy, Michael York, Olivia Hussey, Sir John Gielgud

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BOOK OF THE MONTH – COLLODI (CARLO LORENZINI’S “PINNOCHIO”

BLOG #39, SERIES #5
WEDNESDAYS WITH DR. JOE
DR. JOE’S BOOK OF THE MONTH CLUB #34
COLLODI (CARLO LORENZINI’S) PINOCCHIO

September 24, 2014

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Pinocchio, the film, is greater than Pinocchio, the book. Nevertheless, it is well worth while to experience both. Little is known of Carlo Lorenzini other than his authorship of this one book. He was born in 1826 in Italy and died in 1890. The book was published under the penname Carlo Collodi, as Le avventure di Pinnochio in 1882.

I personally held off reading this book until only recently. Even in translation the text is simplistic and lacking any kind of narrative beauty. Just simple Anglo-Saxon sentences telling the story in plain words any child could understand.

The print story would be plenty scary to a child, but the film is one of the most terrifying films (to a child) ever made. According to Disney scholar, Christopher Finch, Pinnochio is probably Disney’s greatest film.

After the incredible world-wide success of Snow White, Disney had a lion by the tail: he not only had to keep all his raw talent busy and happy but also figure out how he was going to pay them all. Over 750 artists, 80 musicians, 1,500 shades of color, and one-million drawings were involved in bringing Pinnochio to life.

Back in the Depression years [released in 1940] when it was created, the film cost $2,600,000; today its cost would be staggering. To give you an example, just the multiplane scene where the camera zooms down on the village with school bells ringing and pigeons gradually circling down to houses—only a few seconds worth—cost $45,000!

The plot: how a little wooden puppet must prove himself worthy of becoming a real boy. The film itself is characterized by action,  Scan_Pic0116excitement, and terror rather than humor. As a case in point, William K. Everson considers the scene where Lampwick turns into a donkey (it all starts, almost as a joke, with long ears; he begs Pinocchio to help him as his hands turn into hoofs. As he becomes more frantic, the music grows louder and more discordant. Finally, with the metamorphosis almost complete, he screams “Mama!!,” his cry turning into a loud bray as we see the finishing touches of his shadow on the wall) to be one of the screen’s supreme moments of horror.

The Monstro (whale) sequence is another of the film’s highlights. And Stromboli is generally considered to be one of Disney’s greatest villains. One of the film’s most amazing pieces of animation, from a technical standpoint, occurs when Pinocchio is trapped in a cage inside Stromboli’s wagon. The wagon is moving and Pinocchio is inside the swinging cage, while lightning flashes outside cause changes in color and shadow!

In Pinocchio, Disney reached not only the height of his powers but the apex of what critics consider the realm of the animated cartoon.

Strangely enough, in spite of its magnificent animation, it was the music that garnered the Academy Awards: “Best Original Musical Score” and “Best Song” (“When You Wish Upon a Star”), which has since become Disney’s most symbolic song.

So in conclusion, you should both read the book and experience the movie. The book was published in 1927 by Houghton Mifflin Company. Many reprints have followed.