THE WHITE SHADOW

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The first three reels of the six-reel silent feature directed by Graham Cutts. Alfred Hitchcock served as scriptwriter, assistant director and arts director. (He would direct his first feature, The Pleasure Garden, the following year.)

THE WHITE SHADOW was rushed into production to again use US star Betty Compson following the success of Woman To Woman (1923) from the same creative team. “It was as big a flop as Woman to Woman had been a success," recalled co-producer Michael Balcon in 1969.

“A plot-heavy, often preposterous drama about twin sisters [both played by Compson] who lead different kinds of lives, because one has a soul (“a white shadow”, indicating purity) and the other is a hedonist. The favourite daughter turns her back on her stern father, who loses his mind as a result but somehow finds his way to Paris, where she has adopted a new identity at a Bohemian nightclub called The Cat Who Laughs. (Later, in what is described as “a vagrant flash of understanding,” he regains his senses—only to be struck by his daughter’s car back home in England. That incident, mercifully, occurs in the missing second half of the picture.) Meanwhile, a proper gentleman (Clive Brook) falls in love with the “bad” sister, so the “good” sister takes her place in his arms rather than see her sibling disgraced ....” - Leonard Maltin; Leonard Maltin’s Movie Crazy; blogs.indiewire.com; retrieved 4/10/2011.

“Until the late 1920s, [director Graham] Cutts was considered the saviour of the British film industry, ‘a sure-fire maker of box-office attractions’ (Kinematograph Weekly) and courted by American studios ...

“While Hitchcock's rise to authorial pre-eminence effectively displaced his mentor, Cutts's '20s films were noted for their spectacular production values, experimental virtuosity of camerawork and lighting and the intense performances and attractive characterisations of his actors, several of whom rose to stardom under his direction ... He used unexpected camera angles and movement, often combined with glass filters and framing devices, to traverse between depth and surface and recognised the voyeuristic potential of the camera to explore subjectivity and sexuality, a domain which Hitchcock would later claim as his own.” - BFI Screen Online; screenonline.org.uk; retrieved 4/10/2011.

“It’s tempting to extrapolate that THE WHITE SHADOW’s story of identity and duality is an early exploration of themes Hitchcock later pursued in Vertigo.” - Leonard Maltin; Leonard Maltin’s Movie Crazy; blogs.indiewire.com; retrieved 4/10/2011.

These reels were salvaged by Hastings, New Zealand, projectionist Jack Murtagh and later housed with his collection in the New Zealand Film Archive (later Ngā Taonga Sound & Vision). Missing the opening credits, the reels were identified in 2011 (by US National Film Preservation Foundation researcher Leslie Lewis) when the film was thought lost. The film was preserved at Park Road Post Production in Wellington. At a September 2011 ‘re-premiere’ in Los Angeles, Eva Marie Saint read out a synopsis of the missing reels.

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Year 1924

Reference number F21667

Collection Film and Video Collection

Media type Moving Image

Place of Production UNITED KINGDOM

Genre Feature

Duration 00:36:00

Production company Balcon, Freedman & Saville.

Viewing locations Digital file available to view at medialibrary, Wellington

Credits Director: Graham Cutts
Assistant Director: Alfred Hitchcock
Scriptwriter: Alfred Hitchcock
Art Director: Alfred Hitchcock
Producer: Michael Balcon
Producer: Victor Saville
Cast: Betty Compson
Cast: Clive Brook
Cast: Henry Victor
Cinematography: Claude L. McDonnell
Based On The Story “‘Children Of Chance’ by: Michael Horton
Editor: Alma Reville

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