Exhibition Reel of Two Color Film (ca. 1929)

An experimental color short in Brewster Color, preserved by George Eastman House and presented on the More Treasures DVD set.

Earliest Surviving Feature Linked to the Filmmaker

Two-Month Run Begins November 15

Contact: Barbara Gibson (NFPF, 510-531-4521, gibson@filmpreservation.com)

San Francisco, CA (November 15, 2012)—Lost for decades, The White Shadow (1924), the earliest surviving feature with Alfred Hitchcock credits, will screen on the National Film Preservation Foundation’s website beginning on November 15. The first half of this mysterious melodrama starring Betty Compson as twin sisters—one angelic and the other “without a soul”—turned up last year among a cache of unidentified American nitrate prints at the New Zealand Film Archive. The NFPF’s free presentation of the discovery is made possible by contributors to the 2012 “For the Love of Film” Blogathon and Fandor.com.

Hitchcock broke into the film industry in 1920 as a title-card designer. Within three years, he was writing scripts, designing sets, and taking on every production job thrown his way. For The White Shadow, a British feature directed by Graham Cutts and picked up for international distribution by Hollywood’s Lewis J. Selznick Enterprises in 1924, the British/American filmmaker is credited as assistant director, art director, editor, and writer. The White Shadow is thought to be the first surviving film on which Hitchcock collaborated with Alma Reville, who became his wife in 1926.

The opening three reels of the six-reel feature were uncovered in 2011 during research by the NFPF to identify American silent-era titles held by the New Zealand Film Archive. David Sterritt, Chairman of the National Society of Film Critics and author of The Films of Alfred Hitchcock, hailed the discovery as “one of the most significant developments in memory for scholars, critics, and admirers of Hitchcock’s extraordinary body of work.” The film was preserved at Park Road Post Production in New Zealand under the supervision of the NZFA and the Academy Film Archive of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences.

The White Shadow will be presented for free streaming, with the following extras:

  • Program notes about the film by David Sterritt
  • Newly recorded musical score created by Michael D. Mortilla who, with Nicole Garcia, reprises the performance from the gala premiere at the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences in 2011
  • A short bio of New Zealand projectionist Jack Murtagh, who salvaged the film
  • Slide shows about the film’s discovery, the New Zealand Film Archive, and the Academy Film Archive

The 43-minute presentation, which will run two months, is made possible by contributors from around the world. “Not everyone has the ability to attend the special screenings of The White Shadow in Los Angeles, Washington, or New York,” said Jonathan Marlow, co-founder of Fandor, the curated on-demand movie service that is donating webhosting for the event. “We’re thrilled to play our part in making this fascinating discovery available everywhere.” Fandor’s gift matches cash donations raised through the Internet fundraising drive organized by the 2012 “For the Love of Film” Blogathon, spearheaded by Marilyn Ferdinand, Roderick Heath, and Farran Smith Nehme. The campaign mobilized support from more than 100 film fans across five continents.

The film is among 176 early long-unseen titles recovered and sent to the United States through a multi-year preservation collaboration of the New Zealand Film Archive / Ngā Kaitiaki O Ngā Taonga Whitiāhua, the American film community, and the National Film Preservation Foundation. Some 70 percent are thought to survive nowhere else. Already 24 other films are available for free viewing on the NFPF website. For more about the project, click here.

About the NFPF. The National Film Preservation Foundation is the nonprofit organization created by the U.S. Congress to help save America’s film heritage. Since opening its doors in 1997, the NFPF has supported film preservation in all 50 states, the District of Columbia, and Puerto Rico and has helped save more than 1,976 films. The NFPF is the charitable affiliate of the National Film Preservation Board of the Library of Congress.

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