Alfred Hitchcock made his first movie in 1924. The White Shadow was thought to have been lost forever, until three of the six reels were found mislabeled in the New Zealand Film Archive. Now the National Film Preservation Foundation has made it available online.
What made this a big deal is that "The White Shadow" is as close to being a Hitchcock film as a movie can get without actually qualifying. The director was Graham Cutts, a leading English filmmaker of the '20s. With that name, he should have been an editor. Instead, it was Hitchcock who edited it. He also wrote the script, based on a novel by the English dramatist Michael Morton, and was assistant director and art director. (Right: Hitchcock in the '20s.)
"The White Shadow" is the sort of hokey melodrama that flourished during the silent era. The plotting is shameless. The settings are overblown (an English country manor, a Parisian cabaret). The emotions are excessive.
Compson plays twins: naughty Nancy and good-girl Georgina. Nancy seems more high-spirited than evil, and Georgina's kind of a drip. Compson's pleasure in playing the two parts is palpable. It almost compensates for Clive Brook's very evident boredom as an American playboy who falls in love with one and ends up mistaking the other for her.