According to New Zealand news website Scoop, three reels of The White Shadow, a silent feature film from 1923 have been discovered in the New Zealand Film Archive. What makes the discovery so special is that it is believed to be the earliest example of the work of legendary British director Alfred Hitchcock. While he did not direct the film, the then 24 year old Hitchcock is credited as the assistant director and also wrote the scenario, designed the sets and edited the film. Author of The Films of Alfred Hitchcock and Chairman of the National Society of Film Critics, David Sterritt, said that;
These first three reels offer a priceless opportunity to study his visual and narrative ideas when they were first taking shape. What we are getting is the missing link, one of those few productions where we are able to bridge that gap of Hitchcock, the young guy with all these ideas, and Hitchcock the film maker. Even though he didn't direct it, he was all over it.
Directed by Graham Cutts, The White Shadow starred actress Betty Compson in a dual role as twin sisters, one angelic and one without a soul in a wild, atmospheric melodrama. Within two years of the film being released Hitchcock made his own directorial debut with the The Pleasure Garden. The film reels were part of a collection donated to the archive 23 years ago by the family of Jack Murtagh, a projectionist and avid film collector in the New Zealand town of Hastings. Also included in the vast collection was a copy of director John Fords 1927 comedy Upstream, another film thought to have been lost. [caption id="attachment_95552" align="aligncenter" width="224" caption="Alfred Hitchcock circa 1923"][/caption]While the surviving three reels of The White Shadow comprise of about 30 minutes of footage the search is now continuing through the collection to see if the other three reels of the film still exist. The film canisters are now in the safe hands of Park Road Post Production in Wellington where the film will be fully restored and preserved with plans for a re-premiere of the film on September 22 at the Samuel Goldwyn Theater at the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences headquarters in Beverly Hills.