Post has spoilers. Sorry for length.
I adore Ronald Colman. Not only is his voice swoon worthy so is his face and his acting. I get the whole Shangra La deal... but they were kidnapped. They hijack a plane killing the pilot. There are five passengers aboard the plane to take them away from war torn China. There is Ronald, some big deal diplomat, his younger brother George played by John Howard (he played another put upon George in Philadelphia Story), Isabel Jewell (one of my favorite character actresses) plays a very sick woman of ill repute, Thomas Mitchell plays Barnard a once wealthy man that was charged with embezzlement or some sort of rich person crime, hence that is why he fled US, then to flee China and end up in Shangra La and Edward Everett Horton as Lovett a teacher round out the gang. They are taken to this portal escaping the brutal weather, snow, strong winds and as they get to the other side there is another world, beautiful weather, magnificent skies, a peaceful environment. They are taken to this magnificent palace made of the finest materials. The art is by the the most acclaimed artists. They are given very swank pajama style frocks. They each have amazing rooms. At dinnertime they have fine wine and tons of delicious food. They are met by Chang played by H.B. Warner who is in charge of making them comfortable and is definitely a big wig. All are confused. Ronald gets pretty comfy but his brother and others have doubts and do not trust H.B.. The next morning Ronald goes out to do some exploring. He goes by horseback. Soon he sees this lovely woman that is also on horseback and he follows her. The woman is Sondra played by Jane Wyatt. He thinks he lost her but stops when he comes to a pristine body of water where he catches a glimpse of the pristine naked bod of Jane Wyatt taking a swim. Jane knew he was there all along, the little impette. He was smitten.
Sondra has been in Shangra La since she was a child. Sondra was actually the reason they were kidnapped. She had read Ronalds books and thought he would be perfect to take over the job of Grand Poobah Father Perrault. Father Perrault was thought dead a long time ago but he found Shangra La. One thing about Shangra La is that you live a long time. You also look young for a very long time. Father Perrault played by Sam Jaffe looks like he's a zillion years old (I think he's about 180) There is always a perfect climate, everyone is happy. The children are taught by Sondra and they sing with joy every day. It is supposed to be Utopia, but there is not equality. There are the hunters that do not wear fine silk pajamas. They dress like natives you see on Gilligans Island, the other natives do some kind of work in Shangra la. They don't live in a palace, they live in huts. There are people that serve the food and take care of the needs of Chan, Sondra and Father Perrault. There is a love interest for Ronalds brother played by Margo. She lives in the palace too. These palaces are humongous. Now the white people will live in the palace while the other worker bees sing zip a dee dooda going about their daily chores. Isabel Jewell washes off the horrific smeared makeup and suddenly is not ill. Lovett is a teacher and a priss but soon sees himself looking and feeling younger, Thomas Mitchell is happy there is no crime in Shangra La, no extradition. He is happy to stay there and out of the big house. He also starts feeling pangs of love for the now heathy and lovely Isabel. All are content but George. He wants out. He hates it there and adding fuel to the fire Margo tells him the alleged cruelty of Chang and Father Perrault. George believes Margo when she tells him she is 18, but Chang warns him that she is 80. If she or anyone leaves Shangra La pretty soon after they will look and feel their true age. George does not believe them. He tells his brother he is going to leave and take Margo. Ronald is torn. He loves Shangra La and Sondra and the idea of being Big Man On Campus. He also loves his brother and feels a duty to him. There are men that bring supplies to S La but come not so frequently. Finally they come and George is going to leave with Margo. The bells start chiming like crazy because Father Perrault had just died. Ronald being a stand up guy decides he must help his brother, leaving Sondra heartbroken. The other castaways want to stay. It does not end well for the three travelers. The brutal weather is devastating. The Sherpas get lost in an avalanche. Margo feeling her age can't go on so they find a cave to take respite in. While in the cave someone is able to light a match and to Georges horror he sees Margo as the old lady she is. He backs away in horror and falls down a mountain. At least he made it out of Shangra La. Ronalds gets back to England and tells his story. People don't believe him. He runs away to try to find his way back to Shangra La. I think you can figure out the ending.
My very verbose post in fewer words means there was a class system in Shangra La just like everywhere else. The elites in the palaces and the worker bees in their huts. I can't blame George. That kind of life is not for everyone. Is it truly Utopia when they kill an innocent man then kidnap the passengers just to get Ronald there? Equality for all never seems to work, not even in Shangra La. That said its worth a watch. I like the movie. The acting is great. I'd go now, no botox ,no illness. But only if I get to wear the very chic p.j.s and live in the palace.