Lifestyle & Belief

First Hitchcock film found in New Zealand archive


Picture taken in May 1972 of British film director Alfred Hitchcock (1899-1980) posing on a boat in Cannes before the international film festival.

The only copy of the first film ever made by Alfred Hitchcock has been discovered in a New Zealand archive.

The first 30 minutes of the 1923 British film, "The White Shadow," is considered to be the earliest feature film in which Alfred Hitchcock has a credit, The LA Times reports.

All copies of The White Shadow had long been given up as lost by Hitchcock fans and experts have described the find as "priceless", the Telegraph reports.

Three further reels are still missing.

Hitchcock, who was just 24 at the time, was the writer, assistant director, editor and production designer on the melodrama, starring Betty Compson as twin sisters — one good and one bad — and Clive Brook.

Hitchcock cut his teeth on what is described as a "wild, atmospheric melodrama" before going on to establish himself as a master of suspense in a directing career that lasted five decades.

The National Film Preservation Foundation and the New Zealand Film Archive announced the discovery today.

 "The White Shadow" will have its "re-premiere" September 22 at the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences' Samuel Goldwyn Theater, LA Times reports.

The silent film will be added to the academy's Hitchcock collection, which also includes the legendary director's papers.

"What we are getting is the missing link," said David Sterritt, chairman of the National Society of Film Critics and author of "The Films of Alfred Hitchcock", LA Times reports.

"He was a creative young man who had already done some writing. We know the kind of creative personality he had when he was young and we know a few years later he started directing movies himself. What we don't know is how these things were coalescing in his imagination."

The copy of The White Shadow was found thanks to Jack Murtagh, a projectionist in the provincial New Zealand town of Hastings, an eccentric collector of films, cigarette cards, stamps and coins.

After Mr Murtagh's death in 1989, his private collection of highly flammable nitrate film prints was sent for safekeeping to the national archives by Tony Osborne, his grandson.

Other early titles found in his collection have also aroused interest, including a copy of John Ford's 1927 comedy Upstream.

"He would be quietly amused by all the attention now generated by these important film discoveries," Mr Osborne said.