When discovery is the only thrill
The idea of stumbling on a piece of undiscovered art at a junkyard sale is a fantasy that many collectors and aficionados share. Who wouldn’t? With countless influential films, recordings and transcripts still considered “lost” to history, the discovery of several reels from an early Alfred Hitchcock film in New Zealand this week may bring to mind a dashing Indiana Jones-like character, excavating prized cultural artifacts in hidden catacombs.
Hitchcock was only 24 when he made “The White Woman,” and many believed that the movie would be lost to the annals of time. Its discovery has raised the hopes of people like David Sterritt, author of “The Films of Alfred Hitchcock,” to proclaim it nothing short of a miracle:
“This is one of the most significant developments in memory for scholars, critics and admirers of Hitchcock’s extraordinary body of work. These first three reels of ‘The White Shadow’ — more than half the film — offer a priceless opportunity to study his visual and narrative ideas when they were first taking shape.”
But the truth may be far less dramatic: “The White Woman” was poorly received when it was released in 1924 as a follow-up to Hitchcock’s other missing film, “Woman to Woman.” The Independent quotes two other Hitchcock biographers, who call the film “a total failure” and “a box-office disaster” before concluding: