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Evening Standard (05/Jul/2010) - Bid to solve mystery of the missing Hitchcock silent film


  • article: Bid to solve mystery of the missing Hitchcock silent film
  • author(s): Louise Jury
  • newspaper: Evening Standard (05/Jul/2010)
  • keywords: Alfred Hitchcock


Bid to solve mystery of the missing Hitchcock silent film

THE British Film Institute is launching an international hunt for a missing film by Alfred Hitchcock. The Mountain Eagle disappeared not long after its release in 1926 and it is not even known whether it was shown in the UK.

But it is top of a list of most wanted films unveiled today in a Long Live Film project to mark the 75th anniversary of the BFI National Archive. The Mountain Eagle was the second of two films Hitchcock made in Germany, where he had been sent after his apprenticeship at the Gainsborough Studios in London to learn at the feet of European masters Fritz Lang and Friedrich Murnau.

Described by contemporary critics as imaginatively directed — if "full of unconvincing twists" — it is possible that Hitchcock may have destroyed the prints. It is the only one of his finished films that may not have survived.

Robin Baker, the archive's head curator, said its rediscovery "would be the happiest of outcomes".

Also on the most-wanted list is London, the 1926 adventure of a girl of the slums starring Dorothy Gish. It was directed by Herbert Wilcox who went on to make films including The Lady With The Lamp. Another missing film is A Study In Scarlet — the first Sherlock Holmes adaptation, directed by George Pearson in 1914 and starring James Bragington.

A separate initiative, Rescue The Hitchcock 9, aims to restore nine of the director's scratched and damaged early masterpieces. About Pounds 1 million is needed to repair his early silent films, including his directorial debut The Pleasure Garden, Easy Virtue — based on the Noel Coward play, and a rare frothy comedy, Champagne.

Hitchcock, who was born in Leytonstone in 1899 and died in 1980 in Los Angeles aged 80, was chosen because of his importance as a major British director. Each film could be fully restored for Pounds 100,000 — a gift of which would see the donor's name attached to the film. Donors giving more than Pounds 5,000 adopt a specific film from the shortlist and receive an on-screen credit while supporters pledging Pounds 25 or more will receive regular updates on progress.

"Even if we can't get all of them back to pristine condition, we can show them to a new audience who won't have seen them like this," Mr Baker said.