Movie Critique – Foreign Correspondent

For review of other books or movies by Alfred Hitchcock, go here on my LiveJournal Blog or here on WordPress Blog.

Stars: 5 / 5
Recommendation: A masterfully constructed entertaining and exciting thrill of a story from the great master himself, Alfred Hitchcock. A forgotten gem of a movie that keep you on te edge, with the best possible special effects for that time.

Foreign Correspondent is a 1940 American spy thriller film directed by Alfred Hitchcock and produced by Walter Wanger; released by United Artists. The film stars Joel McCrea, Laraine Day, Herbert Marshall, George Sanders, Edmund Gwenn, Albert Basserman, and Robert Benchley.

The film is set right before the World War II begins. John Jones (portrayed by Joel McCrea) is appointed the foreign correspondent by the editor of New York Morning Globe, Mr. Powers (portrayed by Harry Davenpot) to figure out the Nazi situation and if there would be a war. In the process, Jones meets several political leaders including Stephen Fisher (portrayed by Herbert Marshall), leader of Universal Peace Party; and Dutch diplomat Van Meer (portrayed by Albert Basserman). And accidentally uncovers a political conspiracy spread across continents ultimately leading to the war.

The plot was written by a plethora of writers, but only four of them got credited in the end – James Hilton and Robert Benchley for dialogues; and Charles Bennett and Joan Harrison for the actual Screenplay of the film. The plot was based on the 1935 political memoir titled Personal History by Vincent Sheean.

This is the second Hollywood film by Hitchcock after he left England, the first one being 1940 American romantic psychological thriller Rebecca. The film was nominated for six Academy Awards including Best Picture and Best Supporting Actor for Albert Basserman; but did not win any.

Joel McCrea’s character John Jones was loosely based on real-life American broadcast journalist and war correspondent Edward Roscoe Murrow. The marriage proposal his character does to Laraine’s Carol is actually the eccentric marriage proposal that Hitchcock did in his real life to his wife Alma Reville.

We see a very young Loraine Day, 19 yrs old at the time of the filming, in the role of Carol Fisher, daughter to Marshall’s Stephen Fisher. Although I have not seen many of her movies or TV shows, her final film or TV appearance was in the American crime drama series, Murder, She Wrote. She is seen in two episodes as Constance Fletcher.

Joel McCrea’s opponent in both his love interest and professional interest in the film is another reporter Scott ffolliott, portrayed by none other than George Sanders. He brings the much needed comic relief and a triangle to the love story in an otherwise what would have been a grim war film.

Edmund Gwenn plays the part of Rowley, McRae’s Jones’ bodyguard. But we fondly know him for his role of Kris Kringle in the 1947 American Christmas comedy-drama Miracle on 34th Street. And Albert Basserman as Van Meer was excellent in his performance. He was the highlight of the entire film in my opinion.

Herbert Marshall popular for his radio appearances in shows such as Suspense, Lux Radio Theatre, The Screen Guild Theatre, and more prominently in the espionage drama The Man Called X. This is the second film I am watching where Marshall is on the wrong side of the law. The other one that I watched was the 1947 American film noir High Wall. He was the most sought out actor in the 30s, 40s and 50s, on film, radio and theatre at that time.

After completing the filming, Hitchcock goes to Britain and returned back to confirm that the Germans were indeed going to begin bombing on England. So before it was released, he brought in Ben Hecht to rewrite the ending of the film, the scene in the radio station. At the time of the filming, America was still not part of World War II but was very pro to be involved in the war.

It is so surprising that people didn’t believe there would be a war or holocaust even happened, at the time of it’s actual occurrence. Sad that it took so many lives and so many years of dredging for proof before anyone could believe it.

The chase scene in film which appears 30 minutes into the movie, was replicated in the 1963 American comedy-heist film Pink Panther as an homage to Hitchcock. Here is the scene from Pink Panther:

This is the third collaboration of the four films that Edmund Gwenn and Hitchcock worked on together. The other three were – 1931 British drama film The Skin Game; 1934 British biographical film Strauss’ Great Waltz aka Waltzes from Vienna; and 1955 American Technicolor black comedy film The Trouble with Harry.

The opening credits come with a disclaimer which we didn’t normally see in the movies of that era. And there is a prologue that rolls at the end of the opening credits, dedicating to all the foreign correspondents – To those intrepid ones who went across the seas to be the eyes and ears of America… To those forthright ones who early saw the clouds of war while many of us at home were seeing rainbows… To those clear-headed ones who now stand like recording angels among the dead and dying… To the Foreign Correspondents – this motion picture is dedicated.

A masterfully constructed entertaining and exciting thrill of a story from the great master himself, Alfred Hitchcock. A forgotten gem of a movie that keep you on te edge, with the best possible special effects for that time.

Spoiler Alerts:

Movie Trivia:

  1. The film was adapted to a 60 minute radio broadcast by Academy Award Theater which aired on July 24, 1946. Joseph Cotten played the lead.
  2. Look for Hitchcock’s cameo appearance as a pedestrian reading newspaper and walking past Joel McCrea’s John Jones, in the beginning of the film.

Eduardo Cianneli (who plays the role of Mr. Krug) has his last name mis-spelled in the end credits, although spelt correctly in the opening credits.

Grammatical / Historical / Location / Character Errors:

Hotel Carlton is misspelled as “Carleton” on the cap of the doorman who opens the door to the cab for Van Meer.

Despite explicitly mentioned that Scott ffolliott dropped the Capital F from his last name in the end credits when the cast list is shown, it appears as “Ffolliott”.

The date on the telegram that Jones receives is Aug 25 1939. A little while later when he is walking out of the hotel, you can see a street vendor selling newspaper with the headline “Poland Invaded”. In reality Poland wasn’t invaded until Sept 1, 1939.

Notice the purser on the ship, his fake moustache seems sliding down.

  1. A bunch of crew members are seen reflected twice on the taxi cabs through the film – Once when Jones and Carol are getting out of their taxi; second time when Jones and Rowley are boarding a taxi.
  2. Carol sinks into water while coming out of the crashed plane and her hair gets all wet. But the very next scene her hair is completely dry when shown from another angle.

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