Alfred Hitchcock’s “The White Shadow” (1923) Found in New Zealand
“The White Shadow” (also known as “White Shadows”) is a 1923 silent melodrama directed by Graham Cutts, produced by Michael Balcon and Alfred Hitchcock (twenty-four years old at the time) was given credit as the writer, assistant director, editor, and art director. The film is based off of “Children of Chance”, a novel written by Michael Morton. “The White Shadow” is currently believed to be the earliest preserved film with Hitchcock being a creditor and no other copy is known to be in existence. The first three reels of the six reel movie were discovered, totaling thirty minutes. The restored film will be shown at the Samuel Goldwyn Theater at the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences headquarter inBeverly Hillson September 22, 2011. After its showing, it will be added to the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Science’s Hitchcock archive.
The movie was found by Leslie Lewis, a nitrate expert with the National Film Preservation, under funding from a grant provided by the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation. The objective was to search through preserved American films in the New Zealand Film Archive. The three reels were found during the second search through the archive. The reels were labeled as “Twin Sister”. But when Lewis reviewed the movie, she determined it was “The White Shadow”. The film found its way toNew Zealandin 1989 by Tony Osborne (grandson of New Zealand projectionist and collector Jack Murtagh), and then donated from the family’s personal collection to the New Zealand Film Archive. Because the archive only had funding to preserve works fromNew Zealand, “The White Shadow” was neglected and overlooked throughout the years.
Current reviews state the film provides interesting elements such as ‘mysterious disappearances, mistaken identity, steamy cabarets, romance, chance meetings, madness, and even the transgression of souls’. However, during the films production it was criticized as ‘improbable and ridiculous’ but the acting was applauded. The plot of the film revolves around twin sisters Nancy Brent and Georgina Brent, one angelic and one evil. Actress Betty Compson portrays both twin sisters and co-stars include Clive Brook, Henry Victor, A.B. Imeson, Olaf Hytten and Daisy Campbell.
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