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Sunday 4 December 2016

Hitchcock surprises from beyond grave as lost film found

Paul Chapman in Wellington and Nick Allen in Los Angeles

Published 04/08/2011 | 05:00

In a twist the Master of Suspense himself would have enjoyed, Alfred Hitchcock's earliest surviving film has been found languishing in a vault in New Zealand.

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All copies of 'The White Shadow', a silent film released in 1924, had been thought lost and cinema historians have described the discovery as "priceless".

Three reels containing the first half of the film had been stored in the New Zealand Film Archive, where the search is continuing for the other three reels.

The director was 24 when he worked on what was billed as a "wild, atmospheric melodrama" starring Betty Compson as twin sisters, one angelic and the other "without a soul". He was credited as assistant director and also wrote the scenario, designed the sets and edited the footage.

'The White Shadow' owes its survival to Jack Murtagh, a projectionist in the town of Hastings, who was a collector of films, cigarette cards, stamps and coins.

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

Other lost films rediscovered included a copy of John Ford's 1927 comedy 'Upstream'.

The Hitchcock film was discovered by an American archivist, Leslie Lewis. She found two reels marked 'Twin Sisters' and one with a label saying 'Unidentified American film'.

'The White Shadow' will be shown publicly in Hollywood in September. (© Daily Telegraph, London)

Irish Independent

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