Thirty minutes (the first three reels of six) from Alfred Hitchcock’s The White Shadow have been discovered in a New Zealand vault. The silent feature is the earliest surviving film of the legendary director and is described as an “atmospheric melodrama starring Betty Compson in a dual role as twin sisters, one angelic and the other being ‘without a soul.’” Hitchock served as assistant director on the film to Graham Cutts and he also served as the art director, editor, and writer. The White Shadow was previously thought to be lost due to nitrate degeneration.
The film was one of 75 uncovered last year remote storage vault held by the New Zealand Film Archive and saved by Kiwi projectionist and film enthusiast Jack Murtagh who passed away in 1989. You may recall that one of the movies previously uncovered was the John Ford silent film Upstream (1927), another picture previously considered lost. Variety reports that a restored print of The White Shadow reels will also be presented to the British Film Institute for its Hitchcock rescue project. It’s wonderful that these early films have survived, are being restored, and I’m excited to hear what other gems they’ll uncover.