Mislabeled as “Twin Sisters,” Alfred Hitchcock’s earliest credited film, The White Shadow, had been rescued from a stash of unidentified ignitable nitrate prints that had been safeguarded at the New Zealand archive since 1989.
Twenty-four-year-old Hitchcock had been the writer, assistant director, editor and production designer for Graham Cutts’ White Shadow, a film that features the American actress Betty Compson as twin sisters — one good, one evil.
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The film provides a glimpse of the “missing link” in the legendary filmmaker’s transformation from an obscure fiction writer to a legendary director, David Sterritt, the chairman of the National Society of Film Critics said.
“He was a creative young man who had already done some writing,” Sterritt, a Hitchcock expert, told the LA Times. “We know the 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 son of a greengrocer, Hitchcock had worked his way up from an advertising designer at a cable company. First he started to write short fiction for the company’s in-house publication, and eventually got hired at a film studio as a title designer. It took him five years to turn himself into a director after that. The mastermind behind numerous classics, including Vertigo and Psycho, Hitchcock is known for creating suspense and unforeseen twists.
Even the discovery of the long lost film, comes with a Hitchcockian suspense: only the first three reels, spanning about 30 minutes, have been found, and the rest are still missing. After the first half of the movie, the audience will be left hanging at the September 22 “re-premiere” at the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences’ Samuel Goldwyn Theater.
“Who knows, maybe someday the rest of it will turn up, (and) we can put the pieces together,” Randy Haberkamp, at the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences, told Reuters. “Perfect for Hitchcock.”