Lost Hitchcock Film Discovered in New Zealand

Aug 3, 2011  •  Post A Comment

A missing film that is believed to be the first feature on which Alfred Hitchcock received a credit has been discovered in New Zealand, the Los Angeles Times reports.

The find is incomplete, consisting of the first 30 minutes of a 1923 silent movie called “The White Shadow.”

The story reports: “Hitchcock, who was just 24 at the time, was the writer, assistant director, editor and production designer on the melodrama, starring Betty Compson as twin sisters — one good and one bad — and Clive Brook. ‘The White Shadow’ will have its ‘re-premiere’ Sept. 22 at the Academy of Motion Picture Arts & Sciences’ Samuel Goldwyn Theater. The silent film will be added to the academy’s Hitchcock collection, which also includes the legendary director’s papers.”

The film was found in the New Zealand Film Archive, where it had been safeguarded since 1989 as part of a collection of unidentified nitrate prints from the U.S. The story adds: “That’s when Tony Osborne, the grandson of New Zealand projectionist and collector Jack Murtagh, brought the highly unstable nitrate material to the archive. Because the archive only has the funding to restore its country’s vintage films, experts couldn’t spend much time with the American releases (though ‘White Shadow’ was a British film it was released in the U.S. in 1924 by Lewis J. Selznick Enterprises). Selznick’s son, producer David O. Selznick, would bring Hitchcock to America 15 years later to make ‘Rebecca.’"

Said Frank Stark, head of the New Zealand archive: "We took quite a lot of care into storing them. It was kind of an investment. We would wind through these films every 18 to 24 months, which enabled us to keep them from getting stuck, and if there were problems we were able to correct them."

The Times adds: “Last year, the National Film Preservation Foundation, the nonprofit charitable affiliate of the National Film Preservation Board of the Library of Congress, received a grant to send an archivist down to the New Zealand archive to check out the American films in the collection. Some 75 features, shorts, newsreels and fragments were discovered last year and divided up between the academy’s archive, the UCLA Film & Television Archive, the Library of Congress, the George Eastman House and the Museum of Modern Art. The biggest find in that cache was the 1927 John Ford film ‘Upstream,’ which was screened at the academy last year.”

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