The very first Alfred Hitchcock film — a silent picture about a pair of twin sisters — has been discovered more than eight decades after its release.
The L.A. Times reports that the first 30 minutes of “The White Shadow,” which earned Hitchcock his very first film credit at the age of 24, had been sitting at the New Zealand Film Archive since 1989, after the grandson of a New Zealand projectionist and collector donated the reels to the Archive. The footage wasn’t discovered and fully restored until recently because the Archive focuses on vintage works from New Zealand. “Shadow” — a British film that was released in America — had been stored with several unidentified American nitrate prints without anyone realizing its significance.
Leslie Lewis, a nitrate expert for the National Film Preservation Foundation, the charitable arm of the Library of Congress’s National Film Preservation Board, gets the credit for making the discovery earlier this year.
“I realized that this was most likely a film that Hitchcock worked on,” she told the Times. “I went to the archive the next day and used their research library to pull out some contemporary reviews and summaries and confirmed it was ‘White Shadow.’”
Hitchcock acted as writer, assistant director, editor and production designer on the film, which stars American actress Betty Compson in a dual role as twin sisters, one of whom is good and one of whom is evil .(Told you this was Hitchcock.) The film will have its re-premiere on Sept. 22, when it screens at the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences’ Samuel Goldwyn Theater in Beverly Hills.
In a bit of added intrigue, the Guardian notes that no one knows where the final three reels of the six-reel “White Shadow” are. So the first half of the first movie worked on by the Master of Suspense is discovered, but no one can find the ending? That sounds like fodder for a pretty good thriller, actually. If someone decides to make it, let’s hope they direct it in a style best described as Hitchcockian.