03 August 2011

Hitchcock Found

Betty Compson in The White Shadow

The White Shadow, an early Alfred Hitchcock film long thought lost, has been discovered in a vault at the New Zealand Film Archive.

The missing film, which was made in 1923 and released the following year, is one of the earliest works by the film legend who served as assistant director, art director, and editor on the film as well as writer. Only three of the original six reels were found but in the world of silent film, that's a great find.

Discovered by an archivist from the National Film Preservation Foundation, the film had been mistakenly labeled Twin Sisters. An American exhibition print distributed by Lewis J. Selznick Enterprises, the Selznick logo is visible on some of the intertitles, which probably explains why the British film was with a series of unidentified American films. On dangerously flammable nitrate stock, it is now in the process of being restored and will be screened next month at the Academy of Motion Pictures Arts and Sciences headquarters in Beverly Hills.

The White Shadow stars American actress Betty Compson who plays twin sisters, one good and one not so good, while the lead male role is played by stiff Clive Brooks. Even with Hitchcock's involvement, it was a flop when it was released.

The reels are from the collection of Jack Murtagh, a New Zealand projectionist whose grandson donated the collection to the archive when his grandfather passed away in 1989. Thank God for people like Jack who had the foresight to keep copies of films like these. The majority of films made during the silent era are now lost to us. Let's hope that there are more Jack Murtaghs out there with hidden treasures.

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