Home Arts & Culture 1923 Hitchcock film found in New Zealand

1923 Hitchcock film found in New Zealand

 [googlead tip=”vertical_mare” aliniat=”stanga”] The first half of “The White Shadow”, the earliest known surviving feature film on which Hitchcock has a credit was discovered by the National Film Preservation Foundation at the New Zealand Film Archive.

So far, the specialists found the first three reels of the six-reel film made in 1923. No other copy of the movie is known to exist.

The White Shadowis a “wild, atmospheric melodrama” starring Betty Compson in dual roles as twin sisters, one angelic and the other “without a soul”. The film was made when Hitchcock was just 24 years old.

The White Shadow Alfred Hitchcock

The White Shadow Alfred Hitchcock


The White Shadow was directed by Graham Cutts, and Alfred Hitchcock is credited as writer, assistant director, editor and art director.

Hitchcock, whose suspense classics include Psycho, The Birds, Rear Window and Vertigo,  made his own directing debut two years later.

According to Annette Melville, Foundation Director, the reels of “The White Shadow” were found among films donated to the archive by the family of New Zealand projectionist and collector Jack Murtagh. “The White Shadow” was among the many silent-era movies salvaged by Hastings projectionist Jack Murtagh. After his death in 1989, the highly flammable nitrate prints were sent to the Film Archive for safekeeping by his grandson Tony Osborne.

“At the time, people said the plot was improbable. I’m putting a polite spin on it. Many said it was ridiculous,”

Melville said.

 “It’s a totally crazy, zany plot with soul migration back and forth and all these improbable meetings.”

 [googlead tip=”patrat_mediu” aliniat=”stanga”] “The White Shadow”, made in 1923, have turned up in a cache of unidentified American nitrate prints safeguarded for the last 23 years by the archive. The surviving reels will be preserved at Park Road Post Production in Wellington. Black and white duplicate negatives will be struck from the original nitrate material and color prints made which will replicate the tints used in the original print.

The Hitchcock film is just one of the treasures uncovered, including John Ford’s Upstream. They all owe their survival to Mr Murtagh’s passion for early cinema.

A restored print of “The White Shadow” will be shown September 22 at the Samuel Goldwyn Theater at Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences headquarters in Beverly Hills. The program also will feature two recently rediscovered short films, including one directed by and starring silent-era superstar Mabel Normand.  [googlead tip=”lista_mare” aliniat=”dreapta”]

David Sterritt, chairman of the US-based National Society of Film Critics and author of The Films of Alfred Hitchcock, said the film’s discovery was one of the most significant developments in memory for scholars, critics, and admirers of Hitchcock’s extraordinary body of work. The “lost” films would be preserved over the next three years in partnership with the US National Film Preservation Foundation, the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences, George Eastman House, the Library of Congress, the Museum of Modern Art and UCLA Film & Television Archive and made available in the United States.

Copies of the films would also be publicly available in New Zealand.

Alfred Hitchcock

Alfred Hitchcock

Alfred Hitchcock died in 1980, aged 80, after more than five decades of film-making.

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