The Directors’ Chair: Foreign Correspondent
FOREIGN CORRESPONDENT (1940)
What a nifty little spitfire of a movie Foreign Correspondent is. Joel McCrea stands in for America in this ‘thirty-seconds-before-WWII-begins’ thriller. A Dutch ambassador (poignantly played by Albert Basserman) possesses “The MacGuffin” and the bad guys want it…by any means necessary.
And here stumbling in on the world scene is beat reporter, McCrea. His newspaper upgrades him to the level of foreign correspondent but Kronkite and Murrow, he ain’t. Broad, twangy monotone voice, trading in a fedora for a bowler he can’t keep track of, and a cavalier attitude towards world events…heck, that ain’t even our fight. Added to this fish-out-of-water trope are two more Hitchcock ingredients stirred in to make this a bona fide Hitchcock movie:
1. a feisty and pretty girl (this time not necessarily a blonde)
2. a smooth, sleek, cultured villain.
Well, he’s got that in Laraine Day and Herbert Marshall. There’s a slight twist…they are father and daughter, so loyalty gets a good going over. Now, I never really quite buy them as father and daughter no matter how many times Day says ‘cahnt’ instead of ‘caint.’ But what the hey. What matters is Marshall cares very much for her and she can be used as a pawn against him.
George Sanders makes a jolly good showing in this film. I love him as a journalist wanting to join forces with McCrea. He’s fast-talking, playful, charming and free-wheeling, physical and shows emotion. I’ve never seen Sanders like this again in his career.
Hitchcock has all sorts of set-pieces in Foreign Correspondent as it moves along at a clip:
* a chase underneath a sea of umbrellas
* a windmill turning the wrong way (mind your trenchcoat Joel)
* an assassin sent in as a body guard
* that spectacular plane crash (before CGI)
Two aspects in Foreign Correspondent are explored more and less in two later Hitchcock films. One is Lifeboat (1944) for reasons obvious after you see this 1940 film. And if I might stretch this a bit, the father ~ daughter relationship in Foreign Correspondent is given a nod in Notorious (1946) by the Alicia Hubermann character though it’s only touched upon there.
Boy-meets-girl, spy meets future son-in-law. And it all hangs in the balance by a kindly white-haired gentleman. Hitchcock’s works are such a many layered thing… there’s enough there to mine for its parts.
–Theresa Brown for Classic Movie Hub
Theresa Brown is a native New Yorker, a Capricorn and a biker chick (rider as well as passenger). When she’s not on her motorcycle, you can find her on her couch blogging about classic films for CineMaven’s Essays from the Couch. Classic films are her passion. You can find her on Twitter at @CineMava.