Back in 1922
, long before he'd receive the pseudonym
"The Master of Suspense
," twenty-three year old Alfred Hitchcock
directed and produced his first film. If you hadn't heard of it, there's a reason for that. It doesn't exist.
It was an independent film
called Number Thirteen
that was written as a comedy
about the English lower class
. Most of the production occurred in a studio in Islington London
. Alternately titled Mrs Peabody
, Number Thirteen was ill-fated
from the start. Partly funded by Clare Greet
who also co-starred in the film with Ernest Thesiger
, the rest of the funding came from the production company Wardour & F. Unfortunately they were not able to come up with enough money accumulatively, and production ended when the money ran out. Despite his efforts, Hitchcock was never able to complete the silent movie
and the black & white reels have apparently been lost. It is believed no one has ever seen the unfinished work.
The script was written by a publicity woman who had previously worked with Charlie Chaplin
. Hitch once said, "in those days they thought anyone who'd worked with Chaplin knew everything."
She personally asked Hitchcock to help her get her screenplay
to the screen, even though up until this point he had never written a single script himself or even designed a studio set. She saw something in him, and because she believed in him, others did too. Prior to this, he could only get set designer
and assistant director
jobs. He diligently accepted secondary shoots that other directors in the studio requested. Hitch accepted most any job he could get, eager to learn and hone his craft.
After his first failure, Hitchcock slowly became more desireable in the industry, and his name more famous. One year later, Hitchcock did successfully complete Always Tell Your Wife
. However, only the first reel of two has survived to today. If anyone were able to uncover an authentic copy of either Always Tell Your Wife's last reel or the full two reels of Number Thirteen, they would no doubt find themselves living a modern day Hitchcock thriller. More precious than the Hope Diamond
or The Maltese Falcon
, there are a lot of people out there who would pay a lot of money to get their hands on Hitchcock's earliest lost works. Some of those desperate people would also no doubt be willing to kill for it.
Still, it's good to know. Next time you find yourself working towards whatever greatness you hope to achieve, and you're not successful, just remember that even the great "Hitch" had some false starts before his fame and success kicked in.