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In a major film find, the very first movie by Alfred Hitchcock has just been discovered in a New Zealand archive.

The archive announced the discovery of the first 30 minutes of a 1923 British film, 'The White Shadow,' believed to be the earliest feature film directed by the master of suspense. Their find is the only known copy in existence. "[They] offer a priceless opportunity to study [Hitchcock's] visual and narrative ideas when they were first taking shape," said David Sterritt, chairman of the National Society of Film Critics and author of 'The Films of Alfred Hitchcock.'

Hitchcock was only 24 when he wrote and edited the melodrama, which stars Betty Compson in a dual role as good and bad sisters. He was also the art director and assistant director of the piece. Sterritt says that the film's director was a "hack" who resented the "gifted upstart" working under him.

'White Shadow' was discovered in a collection of unidentified American nitrate prints that had been kept at the New Zealand archive since 1989. It languished at the archive as priority was given to restoring New Zealand's own films. This year, a grant enabled an archivist to check the American films in the collection and unearthed the Hitchcock film, which was originally labeled 'Twin Sisters.'

"What we are getting is the missing link," said Sterritt.

Although the film isn't complete, it will have a 're-premiere' September 22 at the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences' Samuel Goldwyn Theater in Los Angeles. The silent film will also be added to the Academy's Hitchcock collection.


[via LA Times, THR]

More about Hitchcock's lost film in the AP ShowBiz Minute

ShowBiz Minute: Mills, Hitchcock, Kutcher