Lost Hitchcock film found in New Zealand
The discovery of the 1923 film "The White Shadow" with Betty Compson offers scholars a chance to see early Alfred Hitchock.
August 3rd, 2011
11:15 AM ET

Lost Hitchcock film found in New Zealand

Researchers combing through a New Zealand film vault have found a lost work of legendary filmmaker Alfred Hitchcock.

The film, titled "The White Shadow," was made in 1923 and released in 1924. It may be the earliest known work of Hitchcock, according to the National Film Preservation Foundation, which will help restore the movie along with the New Zealand Film Archive, the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences, George Eastman House, the Library of Congress, the Museum of Modern Art and UCLA Film & Television Archive.

Only three reels of the six-reel film are known to have survived, according to the New Zealand Film Archive.

Hitchcock is credited with writing the film as well as being its assistant director, editor and art director. Graham Cutts was the director.

"This is one of the most significant developments in memory for scholars, critics, and admirers of Hitchcock’s extraordinary body of work," David Sterritt, author of "The Films of Alfred Hitchcock," said in a statement. "These first three reels of 'The White Shadow' more than half the film offer a priceless opportunity to study his visual and narrative ideas when they were first taking shape."

Hitchcock was 24 when "The White Shadow" was made. He had broken in to the film industry three years earlier.

Sterritt said having to work under Cutts made Hitchcock's achievement in "The White Shadow" more remarkable.

"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, whose professional jealousy toward the gifted upstart made the job all the more challenging," Sterritt said in the statement.

Film archivists describe "The White Shadow" as "a wild, atmospheric melodrama starring Betty Compson in a dual role as twin sisters, one angelic and the other 'without a soul.' ”

It features "mysterious disappearances, mistaken identity, steamy cabarets, romance, chance meetings, madness, and even the transmigration of souls," according to the film archive's release. "Critics faulted the improbable story but praised the acting and 'cleverness of the production.' ”

The three reels of the film were found in the collection of Jack Murtagh, a New Zealand projectionist. His grandson, Tony Osborne, gave the collection to the New Zealand Film Archive after Murtagh died in 1989.

Leslie Anne Lewis of the National Film Preservation Foundation was researching the films in the New Zealand archive when she came across two prints that looked to her like the work of a master, according to the archive.

The New Zealand archive's inventory listed the film as "Two Sisters" since it was missing its opening credits. Lewis was able to use the film's stars, distributor and storylines to link it to movie reviews from the time and make a positive identification, according to the archive.

The reels are on highly flammable nitrate. Technicians at Park Road Post Production in Wellington, New Zealand, will make black-and-white duplicate negatives as part of the restoration process.

"We feel privileged to be involved in such an important project," lab chief Brian Scadden said in a statement.

Internet Movie Database lists Hitchcock as a director of 67 titles, both movies and television. He was nominated for the best director Oscar five times with no wins, but his 1940 film "Rebecca" won for best picture. He received the Irving G. Thalberg Memorial Award for lifetime achievement during the 1967 Oscar ceremonies.

Hitchcock directed his last film, "Family Plot," in 1976. Other notable films include "The Birds" (1963), "Psycho" (1960), "Rear Window" (1954) and "Lifeboat" (1944). He died in 1980.

Once "The White Shadow" is restored, plans will be made for public screenings and online viewing, according to the film archive.

Because only the first three reels of the film have been found, the ending will, of course, be a cliffhanger.

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Filed under: Movies • New Zealand • Showbiz
soundoff (48 Responses)
  1. RUFFNUTT

    new movie? i downloaded that movie off rufflix weeks ago..

    August 3, 2011 at 11:16 am | Report abuse |
  2. RUFFNUTT

    thinkm they'll do a remake of it?

    August 3, 2011 at 11:17 am | Report abuse |
    • steeve-o

      Of course, as opposed to coming up with a new movie? No way, that's not today's Hollywood. Make it 3D, starring the Rock, J Lo and Robin Williams, and an animated shark with voiceover by Adam Sandler.

      August 3, 2011 at 1:00 pm | Report abuse |
  3. Curious

    HERE'S YOUR PAPER! HERE'S YOUR PAPER!

    August 3, 2011 at 11:26 am | Report abuse |
  4. Curious

    "and now a word from our shponsers"

    August 3, 2011 at 11:37 am | Report abuse |
  5. banasy

    Wasn't that a series from the 70's starring Ken Howard?

    August 3, 2011 at 11:54 am | Report abuse |
  6. Critic

    Dear CNN, please proofread your articles before you post them. Fourth paragraph: "Hitchkock." And he's listed as the assistant director twice in the same list. Nice.

    August 3, 2011 at 12:37 pm | Report abuse |
    • Retired Military in San Antonio

      Hey 'Critic',

      He's listed as the 'Assistant Director' because........well........wait for it, now........he WAS the Assistant Director!!

      From the story: "Graham Cutts was the director"....

      Jus' sayin'......

      August 3, 2011 at 12:55 pm | Report abuse |
    • Bellabiv Devot

      Hey Retired Military in San Antonio,

      He was listed as assistant director TWICE.

      That is the issue you idiot.

      August 3, 2011 at 12:58 pm | Report abuse |
    • mb2010a

      Is that ALL you got from the article...picky, picky, picky.

      August 3, 2011 at 1:05 pm | Report abuse |
    • Eric

      But did he assistant direct twice? The criticism is valid, unless perhaps he directed with two personas, one angelic, one without a soul.

      August 3, 2011 at 1:12 pm | Report abuse |
  7. Retired Military in San Antonio

    Hey 'Critic',

    He's listed as the 'Assistant Director' because........well........wait for it, now........he WAS the Assistant Director!!

    From the story: "Graham Cutts was the director"....

    Jus' sayin'......

    August 3, 2011 at 12:54 pm | Report abuse |
    • scott

      He's listed as the assistant director twice.

      Just sayin'....

      August 3, 2011 at 1:12 pm | Report abuse |
  8. palintwit

    How about a re-do of "Human Centipede"? This time starring the entire Palin family with special guest star Michele Bachmann 'bringing up the rear'.

    August 3, 2011 at 1:01 pm | Report abuse |
    • txgi307

      Dude...naw...

      August 3, 2011 at 1:07 pm | Report abuse |
    • millipede

      I'd buy that. I got cash if I can sew her mouth to Sarah Palin's ass.

      August 4, 2011 at 5:10 pm | Report abuse |
  9. Jamie

    The sentence reads "Hitchkock is credited with writing the film as well as being its assistant director, editor, assistant director and art director." That says he is "assistant director" twice.

    August 3, 2011 at 1:06 pm | Report abuse |
  10. svann

    Sad its only half the film though.

    August 3, 2011 at 1:08 pm | Report abuse |
  11. mb2010a

    I don't think it will be a big winner...who wants to see half a movie? Of course, unless a you're Harry Potter fan.

    August 3, 2011 at 1:08 pm | Report abuse |
  12. Mary

    How about a remake of "Night of the Lepus" starring congress?

    August 3, 2011 at 1:09 pm | Report abuse |
  13. Rick

    Who said it was lost? I found it listed on the IMD movie data base. Also someone here said they even downloaded it to watch. Once again CNN sensationalizing headlines.

    August 3, 2011 at 1:21 pm | Report abuse |
    • Cedar Rapids

      Lost as in no copies of the movie are known to exist 'lost', not 'forgotten' or 'unknown'

      'Also someone here said they even downloaded it to watch'
      the guy was trying to make a joke.

      August 3, 2011 at 1:36 pm | Report abuse |
  14. Kayla

    YAY I love old films :D

    August 3, 2011 at 1:48 pm | Report abuse |
  15. Guest

    "Hitchkock is credited with writing the film as well as being its assistant director, editor, assistant director and art director." And he was also assistant director, assistant director and assistant director. Oh, and let's not forget assistant director.

    August 3, 2011 at 2:08 pm | Report abuse |
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