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The Times (04/Aug/2011) - Commentary: The White Shadow



The discovery of any silent film, even incomplete, is exciting. And when a name such as Alfred Hitchcock is attached to the find, it understandably makes headlines.

The White Shadow, the discovery of which was announced yesterday, was directed in 1923 by Graham Cutts. It came from a published novel and was adapted for the screen by Hitchcock, who was also an art director.

Cutts was disparaged in retrospect by Hitchcock, who was reluctant to give credit to others. But he is one of a long list of talented collaborators from whom, at the time, Hitchcock learnt. The discovery of The White Shadow will be wasted if we simply siphon off everything interesting in it and ascribe it to the great man.

The American writer Jane Sloan memorably characterised Hitchcock as a sponge. He was not so much a cinematic originator as a figure who drew insights and techniques from a rich succession of sources and collaborators.

The White Shadow should help to deepen our understanding of this process. And above all, the publicity around it may help the drive to discover the twin holy grail of film archivists: Hitchcock's first solo film as director, the unfinished Number Thirteen, and his second official film as director, The Mountain Eagle (1926). Watch this space.