Alfred Hitchcock's Early Film Work, Long Thought Lost, Returns to the Screen

Lost and Found: "The White Shadow"

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The White Shadow
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As the latest presentation in a screening series of archival rediscoveries unspooling under the banner "Lost and Found," the Academy presented the American re-premiere of the first three reels of "The White Shadow," which was shown in the U.S. in 1924 as "White Shadows." Believed for decades to be lost, the picture is thought to be the earliest surviving feature film work of Alfred Hitchcock.

Following the screening, Oscar®-winning actress Eva Marie Saint, who starred in Hitchcock's "North by Northwest," offered a description of the remaining scenes which are still lost.

"This is one of the most significant developments in memory for scholars, critics, and admirers of Hitchcock’s extraordinary body of work," said David Sterritt, chairman of the National Society of Film Critics and author of The Films of Alfred Hitchcock. "At just 24 years old, Alfred Hitchcock wrote the film’s scenario, designed the sets, edited the footage, and served as assistant director to Graham Cutts… Hitchcock’s own directorial debut came only two years later. These first three reels of ‘The White Shadow’more than half the filmoffer a priceless opportunity to study his visual and narrative ideas when they were first taking shape."

The tinted print of "The White Shadow," which is an atmospheric melodrama starring Betty Compson in a dual role as twin sisters, one angelic and the other "without a soul," was discovered during the National Film Preservation Foundation’s second round of research to identify American prints of early films held at the New Zealand Film Archive. It was among the many silent-era movies salvaged by New Zealand projectionist and collector Jack Murtagh. After his death in 1989, the highly flammable nitrate prints were sent to the New Zealand Film Archive for safekeeping by Tony Osborne, Murtagh’s grandson. 

"The White Shadow" is among the "lost" films from the New Zealand Film Archive being preserved and accessed through the five major American film archives that are collaborating with the NFPF on the project: the Academy Film Archive, George Eastman House, the Library of Congress, the Museum of Modern Art, and UCLA Film & Television Archive. The title is being preserved at Park Road Post Production in New Zealand and the new preservation master and exhibition print will be added to the Academy Film Archive’s permanent collection.

The evening’s presentation included a screening of "Won in a Closet" (1914), a film starring and directed by Mabel Normand, and "Oil’s Well," a Monty Banks comedy. Both films were part of the New Zealand Film Archive collection and have now been added to the collection of the Library of Congress and the Museum of Modern Art, respectively. Michael Mortilla provided live musical accompaniment.

Event Information

Thursday, September 22, 7:30 p.m.
Samuel Goldwyn Theater
Don't Show Again