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  • What a movie!

    I literally could not believe how great this movie was once I'd seen it for the first time. After a short intro we are thrust directly into the action and from there on in, it's one thrilling set-piece after another.

    We go from kidnapping to assassination, to car chase, to discovery of plot, to escape from a hotel, to a twist regarding the leader of the enemy, to a wonderful sequence with a hired bodyguard who is in fact an assassin, to a fake kidnapping set up by the heroes, to torture scene, to rescue, to plane crash at sea...

    It's dizzying that this was all intended for one film and when the end credits rolled you really felt like you'd got your money's worth. If I'd have watched this movie when it came out in the forties, I would have praised Hitchcock all night for giving me ten superb movies in one for my dollar.

    In short (although you can hardly call these ramblings short) check this movie out. If you're a fan of escapist, thrilling adventures populated by superb characters (see George Sanders as ffolliot, and Robert Benchley as Stebbins) you will be delighted. This is one of Hitch's lesser seen gems and deserves to be rediscovered without delay
  • While not as well-known today as some of his later films, Alfred Hitchcock's spy thriller "Foreign Correspondent" is entertaining, exciting, and masterfully constructed. Though lacking the star power of some of the great director's more famous movies, the cast is very good, the settings are wonderfully conceived, and the story and writing keep the viewer's attention at all times. It has everything we hope for from Hitchcock: action, suspense, and a good dose of humor.

    The plot is a complicated one, beginning when American reporter Johnny Jones (Joel McCrea) is sent to Europe just before the outbreak of World War II. Expected to send back news about the possibility of war, Jones stumbles across an espionage ring that is using kidnapping and murder in an attempt to get important government secrets for use in the coming war. The action goes from England to Holland and back to England, with Jones constantly escaping from danger as he tries to get the details of the spy plot for his newspaper. It does take some effort to follow everything that is happening, but there are many action sequences and a lot of good writing - with many fine touches of humor - that make it easy to pay attention.

    In the lead role, McCrea performs with the easy-going understatement that typifies the heroes of Hitchcock's earlier films. Laraine Day is pleasant if unspectacular as McCrea's romantic interest, whose father (played nicely by Herbert Marshall) is also one of the key figures on the international scene. The supporting cast also has some fine actors. George Sanders for once gets to play a good guy, Robert Benchley is very funny as McCrea's fellow foreign correspondent, and Albert Basserman is touching as an old diplomat who has seen too much of the world's troubles.

    But it is the action sequences and the settings that really make the film. Hitchcock's expert hand can be seen in almost every setting, and he displays a wealth of creative ideas here equal to any of his films. Particularly good are the memorable windmill scenes and the exciting climactic sequence in mid-ocean. This final sequence is not only thrilling, it also perfectly completes all of the film's action and themes.

    "Foreign Correspondent" contains plenty of excitement, humor, and suspense, along with some of Hitchcock's best set pieces. It is highly recommended.
  • Alfred Hitchcock directed many great movies, but few testify to his ability at marrying suspense, action, and comedy as does "Foreign Correspondent," a film which coincidentally carries Hitchcock's boldest political statement: That neutrality doesn't work when others are bent on war.

    Joel McCrea stars as American newspaperman Johnny Jones, sent to Europe on the eve of World War II by the newspaper's publisher precisely because he's a man of action unschooled in politics and economics, "someone who doesn't know the difference between an 'ism' and a kangaroo," the old publisher declares. Jones goes along with the idea, even with changing his byline to the pompous "Huntley Haverstock," because as he puts it, "give me an expense account, and I'll cover anything." Fate intervenes when a photographer apparently murders Europe's last hope for peace right in front of Jones, spurring the reporter to react in a way that leads to a series of outrageously precarious and double-crossing incidents culminating in a plane crash-landing into the Atlantic Ocean.

    Hitchcock arrived in the U.S. with a flourish, his first Hollywood movie being the Oscar-winning "Rebecca," and this his second that same year, 1940. Some back in Great Britain complained Hitchcock's leaving his native country as it faced Hitler all alone was desertion, but Hitchcock was doing all he could for King and Country, as "Foreign Correspondent" pulls all the stops to shake American viewers from their neutrality.

    That sort of desperation would ruin most films, but here it only prods Hitchcock to singular and repeated acts of inventiveness as he shakes the tree. We see Jones climb out the window of the Hotel Europe, knock out the letters "EL" to underscore the film's message, and find his way into the hotel room of the girl he has been trying unsuccessfully to woo. There's an assassination in the rain and shot from above so we see little more than wet hats and umbrellas, and a long sequence inside a creaking windmill that has you thinking our hero's about to be discovered by the bad guys every 20 seconds. The film feels more vital for sequences like this: You can't imagine anyone trying to get away with this, yet Hitchcock keeps pulling it off.

    Then there's the other revolutionary element of the film, its humor, ever-present throughout the picture in a way that doesn't cut against the grain of the suspense so much as amplify it, by keeping you off-guard and invested in the action. This is best exemplified by Edmund Gwenn's plummy turn as an evil assassin (no spoiler, he's introduced to us that way) bent on killing Jones, but so affable and borderline-snarky in his menace you can't root against him as much as you'd like to. As Gwenn's Rowley leads Jones up a church steeple to set up an accident, you wonder how Jones will get out of it but still chuckle at how Rowley tries to keep Jones from going back down: "You must see the 'orse guards!" Gwenn is one of two fantastic examples of reverse casting, the other being George Sanders as a good guy named ffolliett.

    Hitchcock is very careful in presenting the bad guys. He never says they're Germans, though the implication is obvious. The chief baddie is ruthless but not without decent impulses, in a way that mirrors but goes beyond Willy in his later "Lifeboat." Hitchcock knew when the film was released, he would be attacked by those who wanted to keep appeasing Germany. For "Foreign Correspondent" to be successful, it needed to bring the audience along without noticing the ride, laughing with and pulling for Jones right up until the moment he does a radio broadcast in London while bombs burst around him, an eerie foreshadowing of what Edward R. Morrow would be doing for real only days after "Foreign Correspondent" opened in theaters.

    You can't help but admire a film that was on the right side of history, but "Foreign Correspondent" may play better now than it ever did because of the way its pure cinema techniques work today, a style Tarantino and Leone admirers will no doubt recognize and appreciate, but that anyone can enjoy.
  • Warning: Spoilers
    Alfred Hitchcock was always pushing the envelope, and 1940's "Foreign Correspondent" is no different. With America still in the midst of trading with both sides of the European war, Hitchcock made a spy thriller that quite clearly cast the Germans as the bad guys (minus the word Nazi, which only appears once at the beginning of the film) while being shamelessly patriotic (the last scene is both inspiring and laughable).

    But Hitchcock could afford to go out on a limb. He started making FC a week after the release of "Rebecca," a movie that garnered large amounts of critical acclaim and won Best Picture. But with all the praise heaped on Hitchcock's first American movie, his second has often gone unnoticed, although it is certainly up to par with - if not better than - "Rebecca".

    Foreign Correspondent tells the story of Johnny Jones, an American newspaper writer chosen to go to England to report on the war as Huntley Haverstock for the New York Globe. While in England, he attempts to interview a Dutch statesman, Van Mier, but instead witnesses the man's assassination. The resulting pursuit throws Jones/Haverstock into a Nazi spy ring that intends to use a secret clause to create German victory in the impending war. Along the way, Jones/Haverstock meets an English reporter who assists him and the daughter of a renowned pacifist.

    The acting is excellent all around, with special kudos given to Robert Sanders as the English reporter, Scott ffoliot, and to Edmund Gwenn in a minor but important roll as Rowly, the friendly hit man. Laraine Day and Joel McCray have that special chemistry that adds to the romance part of the movie, while McCray and Sanders' straight-faced humor is enjoyable.

    Hitchcock's directing is magnificent, like usual. As always, there are certain scenes that are signature Hitchcock: The assassination chase through the sea of umbrellas, and later in the Dutch countryside. The tower murder scene. And the plane crash scene has inspired cinematic plane crashes for decades.

    All in all, Foreign Correspondent shows Hitchcock at his best, in the midst of a string of movies that saw him reach the top of the British filmmaking world and rapidly ascend to the same position in America. And it once again proves that Hitchcock was indeed the father of the spy-thriller genre.
  • The first half hour of Hitchcock's "Foreign Correspondent" looks like it can either be a light romantic comedy or a oddly fashioned drama about current events. But then, there's this scene in the rain, where our hero, played with energy by Joel McCrea, attends a crowded political meeting. McCrea notices his new friend, an elderly ambassador acts vacant and glassy eyed. Then, this mysterious photographer steps in. The photographer has next to his camera, a gun.... At this point "Foreign Correspondent" becomes an inventive chase thriller, darting across the audiences' eyes at a berserk chase. This was the first time that Hitchcock had all of Hollywood's tools at his disposal, and what a spellbinding, constantly fun classic came of it. I look forward to this film making it's DVD debut!
  • This film is a true gem, that had all of the touches we have come to associate with films of the master. While "Rebecca" (from the same year) may have garnered more recognition, it was an extremely brooding film that lacked the trademark Hitchcock sense of humor.

    "Foreign Correspondent" however, had it all. The suspense is unrelenting, building to a spectacular climax. It had many of those dazzling Hitchcock sequences: the assassination in Amsterdam, the scene in the cathedral tower and, especially, the sequence in the windmill, which is pure magic!

    Of course, it also had that classic sense of humor and a slew of terrific character roles, including Edmund Gwenn as the most cherubic and cheerful hit man you've ever seen! The final scene was strictly American propaganda, but that can probably be forgiven considering the subject matter of the film and the time of it's release.

    All in all, a wonderful example of the master at his best, that deserves to be dusted off and enjoyed alongside some of it's more celebrated cousins!
  • Admittedly, partly due to the presence of Joel McCrea, this is one of my favorite Hitchcock films. As with "Saboteur," Hitchcock wanted Gary Cooper (and in this case, Joan Fontaine - he wanted Barbara Stanwyck for "Saboteur) but couldn't get them. Cooper turned down the role of Johnny Jones and lived to regret it.

    Today, "Foreign Correspondent" can be seen as a fierce call to bring America into the war. It's amazing today how long America stayed out. In the film, Johnny Jones, writing under the pen name of Huntley Haverstock, is given the assignment of going to Europe and digging around for information about the impending war - and particularly to have a conversation with Professor Van Meer, who may be one of the men who can help keep the peace. Johnny witnesses Van Meer being killed right in front of him, and chasing the perpetrators, he winds up searching a windmill, in one of the many remarkable scenes in the film. While on assignment, he falls in love with Carol Fisher, whose father is the head of a peace-making movement.

    The film is striking for its underlying humor and lightness despite the seriousness and shock value of the events. It's also remarkable for some against type casting, i.e., George Sanders is a newsman and a good guy for a change, and Edmund Gwenn - Santa Claus! - is a killer. That's another remarkable scene.

    There are several spectacular moments. The rainy scene on the steps when Van Meer is killed is one; when Jones looks for the perpetrator, all he can see is a sea of same-colored umbrellas. The windmills are another - claustrophobic inside, a peaceful picture outside. There is a marvelous shot of Johnny escaping from killers by slipping out of his hotel bathroom window and walking along the ledge. The lit-up sign HOTEL EUROPE can plainly be seen, and Jones breaks one of the lights as he goes by. Best of all is the airplane crash into the ocean which is fantastic and looks both agonizing and real. The final scene of the film, a radio broadcast, was added some time later - five days before the Germans started bombing, in fact.

    Shot in black and white, "Foreign Correspondent" is loaded with atmosphere and the tension of the coming war. Joel McCrea, a very likable, easygoing actor in the same vein as Cooper, though maybe a bit livelier, is excellent in his role here as a gentle but adventurous man caught up in bizarre circumstances. Laraine Day, never used much by her own studio (MGM) and often loaned out, is great as the pretty, intelligent, and principled Carol. As Scott ffolliott, Sanders is charming and plays beautifully with Day and McCrea. Herbert Marshall has a slightly different role for him and is very effective.

    Though many may not agree, I consider this one of Hitchock's best films and totally underrated. Why did Gary Cooper turn it down? It was a thriller, which in those days was considered a B-class genre. After "Foreign Correspondent," this was no longer true.
  • Action, romance, comedy, political intrigue...Alfred Hitchcock's Foreign Correspondent(1940) has got it all. The film deals with very serious subject matter, the run up to the disastrous World War II in Europe, but Hitchcock's comedic treatment of the life and death circumstances make the film infinitely more watchable. Joel McRae is an outstanding leading man and the rest of the great international ensemble cast doesn't miss a dramatic or comedic note at any point in the film. The characteristic hitchcockian suspense is present throughout but it's the comedic moments that really make the film shine. In only his second Hollywood film, Hitchcock was in top form in showing the unique style of storytelling that would change the medium and influence film makers for 70 years and counting.
  • Hitchcock may not have wanted him, but Joel Mac Crea's "everyman" performance as "Huntley Haverstock" is the most purely likeable and accessible protagonist Hitchcock has ever had. And, that works perfectly for the movies which gets plenty of the dark and mysterious and perverted from the magnificent supporting cast (including Marshall, Gwenn, Sanders, and many others...). But McCrea's feckless honesty and stubborn determination (rather than the more usual-for-Hitchcock obsession) work refreshingly in contrast with the others.

    All the other typical master touches, impeccable camera work, a great score, intricate interwoven plotlines, and many dualities are all on hand for a truly great and unforgettable cinematic experience.

    Watch this film!
  • Warning: Spoilers
    Alfred Hitchcock popularized the term "MacGuffin" as being "what the spies are after, but the audience doesn't care." In this movie, the MacGuffin is Clause 27 of a treaty between two countries. It is a secret clause, so secret in fact that it is only known to the two people who signed the treaty, because it was never written down.

    Now, whether it is a treaty, a contract, or any other kind of agreement, the whole point in writing it down and having people sign it is so that there is no question as to what was agreed to. Anything not written down can be denied later, especially since there are no witnesses to this oral agreement between the two signatories. I guess we are to assume that the two diplomats trust each other so much that an oral agreement and a handshake will suffice.

    This raises the question as to how anyone other than the two signatories knows of the existence of Clause 27. The spies know about it, as does Scott ffolliott, so I guess the two signatories must have announced that they had signed a treaty with an unwritten clause. It seems to me it would have been better to keep not only the content of the clause a secret, but its existence as well.

    One of the signatories is Van Meer. To find out what is in Clause 27, the spies kidnap Van Meer with the idea of torturing him until he talks. But to keep the world from knowing that Van Meer has been kidnapped, they get a man who looks like Van Meer to take his place so he can be assassinated. Presumably, the impostor did not know about that part of the plan.

    If the world thinks Van Meer has been assassinated, then that means that as far as everyone else is concerned, only one person knows what is in Clause 27. Van Meer might have trusted this other fellow, but can we expect the country he represented to honor a secret clause whose content is known only to the diplomat of the other country and take his word for it? So with Van Meer's faked assassination, it would seem that the clause has just become worthless. Or maybe the spies were planning on releasing Van Meer after he spilled his guts saying, "Fooled you. Van Meer is alive after all, but you still have to honor the secret clause that we now know about."

    Moving right along, if I had been Van Meer and the spies started torturing me to tell what was in Clause 27, I would have just made up something. After all, it's a secret, so how would the spies have known the difference?

    But enough of this. The point of the MacGuffin, as noted above, is to give the spies something to pursue that the audience is not expected to care about. But that's just the problem. Maybe we are not supposed to care about what the MacGuffin is, but we sure are supposed to care about what makes the MacGuffin important. Over and over again, we are continually being prodded with a preachy message about the need to take a strong stand against Germany. In short, this is another of Hitchcock's propaganda films, the first one being "The Lady Vanishes" (1938). This is why Stephen Fisher, who is the leader of the Universal Peace Party, a pacifist organization, actually turns out to be a Nazi spy. You can't trust those peaceniks. The problem is not with the message per se, but with the enervating effect of propaganda. Who wants to watch a movie and be lectured to? Of course, there are enough good scenes in the movie, especially the one in the windmill, to make the movie enjoyable overall, but it is somewhat spoiled by the warmongering.

    Fisher has a daughter named Carol who is the love interest of the title character, Johnny Jones, who is forced to take on the pseudonym of Huntley Haverstock. He agrees to get Carol to go to the country with him so that ffolliott can make Fisher think his daughter has been kidnapped and thus arrange a prisoner exchange for Van Meer. The pretense is that Haverstock needs to hide from the spies, who are trying to kill him, because he knows who they are. When Carol and Haverstock get to Cambridge, they get a room at a hotel.

    Ooh la la. One room for the two of them! Even if it is just for the afternoon, it sounds very cozy, and Carol seems just fine with it. But then ffolliott calls Haverstock and tells him he needs more time to talk to Fisher, and so Haverstock will need to keep Carol there overnight. Haverstock agrees and makes an arrangement with the hotel for another room for Carol. Carol overhears this and is appalled.

    Now, I know that things back then were different regarding sex, but I cannot figure this one out. The very fact that Haverstock is getting a separate room for her indicates that his intentions are honorable. But the woman who was just fine having one room for the afternoon is outraged that he would get a separate room for her for the night. I guess she thought that the second room was just for appearances, and that he was planning on slipping into her room later that evening, just the sort of thing a man might have on his mind while hiding from spies who want to assassinate him. Since they were hiding from the spies, she should have figured that something had come up necessitating a longer stay. The reasonable thing for her to do was go up to him and say, "Why are you getting another room for me so we can stay overnight?" But not much else in this movie makes sense, so there is no reason for this scene to be any different.
  • Warning: Spoilers
    For what it's worth, I think this is one of Hitchcock's top films. **SPOILERS AHEAD** Some people have commented on the over-the-top dialogue. I must admit that I found the characters rather whimsical, but I think that is the point. From Edmund Gwenn's (great casting) larking cutthroat to George Sanders' wry snobbery to Eddie Conrads's eyebrow-rustling Latvian, Hitchcock puts together a very light-hearted setting. Into this brush of sparkling romance, hack journalism, and "amateur politics" comes a nest of Axis spies. The McGuffin is a particular clause of a peace treaty, and our cast is whirled around this center. Many of the set-pieces-- the assassination, the windmill, the crash landing-- are virtuosi in themselves but are not meant to distract from a weak script, unlike many of today's films. The main plot, the secret kidnapping of a diplomat, keeps its steam. Subplot #1, the romance between lovely Laraine Day and McCrea, is charming and believable. Subplot #2, the intrigue, is masterfully handled by Hitch, and it is his forte. When first viewing this, you will be glued to the screen, attempting to figure things out before Hitchcock, in typical fashion, releases the pressure by revealing some "secret" thing. The patriotism is perfectly suited to 1940, and we in America would do well to heed the warnings against isolationism even today. I give it a 10.
  • In 1939, the editor of the New York Globe invites the tough reporter John Jones (Joel McCrea) to be the substitute for the inefficient Stebbins (Robert Benchley) as foreign correspondent in London. His first assignment is to interview the Dutch leader Mr. Van Meer (Albert Basseman) in his lecture for peace in London to know about the possibility of a declaration of war against Germany. Johnny meets Stephen Fisher (Herbert Marshall), the leader of the organization Universal Peace Party that promotes peace, and his beautiful daughter Carol Fisher (Laraine Day), and he has a crush on Carol. When Van Meer is apparently murdered in Amsterdam, Johnny follows the assassin with Carol and the journalist Scott ffolliett (George Sanders) through the countryside and discovers that Van Meer has been abducted indeed. However, nobody believes on the truth and he tangle with an international conspiracy.

    "Foreign Correspondent" is a highly entertaining adventure, with a suspenseful story of espionage and an enjoyable romance, with Joel McCrea and Laraine Day showing a perfect chemistry. But the greatest attraction is the plot based on the beginning of the World War II in 1939 practically in real time. My vote is eight.

    Title (Brazil): "Correspondente Estrangeiro" ("Foreign Correspondent")
  • bkoganbing24 May 2007
    In a recent viewing of my VHS copy of Foreign Correspondent, I hadn't realized how dated it was and also how silly the plot was. Not worthy of the master of suspense.

    Foreign Correspondent was the second film that Alfred Hitchcock made in America and it was a one shot deal for independent producer Walter Wanger. That other well known independent producer David O. Selznick got some big bucks for Hitch's services.

    Or maybe he saw how ridiculous the story line was for Foreign Correspondent. Hitchcock's all purpose McGuffin in this story is a person, the Dutch Foreign Minister played by Albert Basserman.

    The devilishly clever Nazis hatch a scheme in which they kidnap Basserman, substitute a double and assassinate the double. So after getting Basserman, what do they do? They don't spirit him away to Germany, they take him to England instead. Supposedly so that collaborator Herbert Marshall can get the text of a secret clause in a treaty the Dutch have signed with some other country not named. A little sodium pentathol in Germany would have done the trick.

    I think the idea was totally ridiculous and I can't believe Alfred Hitchcock didn't find it so.

    The purpose of this film was an attack on those in Great Britain dubbed the Cliveden set who hung out at Lady Nancy Astor's estate named Cliveden. These folks wanted peace at any price with Hitler and it's still a subject today for debate whether they were just fools or out and out traitors. Hitchcock opts for the latter.

    Still the film has its Hitchcockian touches his fans love so well. The chase scene through the windmill country, the climax when the Atlantic clipper with Joel McCrea, Laraine Day, George Sanders, and Herbert Marshall is shot down after war is formally declared. Even at that, I can't believe that a submarine possessed sufficient fire power to down an airliner, why didn't the airliner just raise altitude?

    Joel McCrea was Hitchcock's second choice after Gary Cooper turned him down. Hitchcock and McCrea got along well, he wanted to use him for later films like Saboteur, but they never worked together again.

    And that's a pity because Foreign Correspondent isn't Hitchcock at his best.
  • Warning: Spoilers
    Story of a crime reporter (Joel McCrea) suddenly thrust into the international arena as a foreign correspondent for a major New York paper, assigned to Europe in the weeks leading up to the outbreak of the Second World War. While trying to cover the efforts being made to avert war our protagonist manages both to fall in love and also to uncover a plot to subvert the peace process.

    The film includes some really great set pieces, featuring wonderful sets, special weather effects and large crowds all used to great effect. For those familiar with Hitchcock's work there are also some obvious early versions of motif's that would be used again in later films ("Notorious", "North by Northwest", "Vertigo" and "The Man Who Knew to Much" to name a few).

    The two leads Joel McCrea and Larraine Day are fine in their roles and largely effective but don't have the transcendence of the later actors Hitchcock's films would feature so effectively. The supporting cast though is extremely effective and includes; Herbert Marshall, George Sanders, Albert Basserman (nominated for an Oscar), Robert Benchley, Edmund Gwenn (the future Kris Kringle from "Miracle on 34th Street" plays a hired killer) and Eduardo Cianelli.

    The cinematography is as to be expected quite good and includes some wonderful images. The score is effective though perhaps not up to the later Hitchcock scores from Bernard Herrmann.

    The comedic elements of the film which was apparently largely added by Robert Benchley are good but seem somewhat out of place. The story has strong elements as well but I think the script needed to be tighter, perhaps another rewrite could have made this film truly great, although it already had a great many writer – perhaps too many Foreign Correspondent would be nominated for 6 Oscars including Best Picture, although it would win none. Another Hitchcock film the far superior "Rebecca" would win Best Picture that year.
  • Ignorant American reporter Joel McCrea (John Jones) is given the pseudonym Huntley Haverstock and sent on a mission to Amsterdam to get a story about politician Albert Bassermann (Van Meer) and obtain some news about the impending war in Europe. Well, he certainly gets involved. Can he live to tell what he knows?

    The film is a little too long, and the first half an hour is pretty boring. We then get some tense scenes, starting with a shooting. At last, some suspense. Unfortunately, the realism of the film is sloppy at this point. For example the victim's killer would have been caught about 20 times over. Also, the killer's getaway car would not just have disappeared like that on a large empty road, given that the pursuers had the car in sight. Another instance of stupidity occurs at this point in that the bad guys don't seem to be looking out for the car that has been chasing them. These villains are cretinously stupid not to have someone pick up that McCrea is snooping around the windmill. He stands out like a sore thumb.

    Another memorable section sees hit-man Edmund Gwenn (Rowley) bide his time and attempt his murderous instructions on McCrea. He has a couple of goes. And while these are suspenseful, Gwenn plays for comedy so it's never quite effective. And that's a problem with this film, there is far too much light-heartedness (eg, the Latvian bloke) which takes away any real danger.

    George Sanders (ffolliott) turns up after the first boring half an hour that wasn't necessary and immediately becomes the best of the cast. In fact, the lead man McCrea completely disappears from the proceedings after about two thirds of the film and we follow Sanders as he unravels and solves the whole mystery. By himself. McCrea wasn't needed – Sanders even already knew about wealthy aristocratic Herbert Marshall (Fisher).

    The film does have two other memorable sequences. The first is the sea of umbrellas as the assassin makes his getaway – very creative. The other is what elevates this film to the score I have given it – namely, the whole plane crash episode. I found this particularly eerie given the current explanation of what happened to that Air Malaysia plane recently. The one that just disappeared. There is real footage of the view that the pilots would have had as the plane dives towards the sea. We then get the water pouring in and a frightening aftermath. Maybe the passengers were already dead come the impact in the real life situation. Still, it made me think and go all sombre about it.

    Unfortunately, this film lacks something. Oh yeah, Hitchcock is easy to spot in this one, so keep an eye out near the beginning.
  • During the WWII , an American journalist (Joel McCrea) is sent to London by his chief (Harry Davenport) to report a pacifist convention when he becomes romantically involved with the daughter (Laraine Day) of the organizing (Herbert Marshall) . Meanwhile , he befriends an elderly diplomat (Albert Bassermann) but he's abducted by a Nazi spy-ring . The reporter accompanied by a cynic adventurer (George Sanders) travel towards Holland to uncover the clues ; later on , they head to London .

    As tells Hitchcock in the famous dialog with Francois Truffaut , this is a B-film (though in big budget) , a thriller plenty of adventures and action . Gary Cooper rejected the starring role (although he regretted later) and is hired a second-class actor , Joel McCrea , of whom Hitch says to be pretty soft ; besides , a beautiful Laraine Day . The film has similar premise than ¨Lady vanishes¨ but with a male character , an elderly diplomat with a secret clause . It also appears the Hitchcock's usual themes as the innocent hero involved in continuous adventures .

    The film highlights are the umbrellas and windmill scenes , Hitch tells how it was shot in Holland and he felt really appealed the filming a killing among tulips . The spectacular plane crashing is shot in transparency and a water tank and the passengers-wreck in a big pond . In the interview with the famed French director, Truffaut , regarding this film , Hitch talks about the ¨McGuffin¨ , here is ¨the 27 clause of a peace treatise¨ only known by the kidnapped diplomatic . For Hitchcock , the McGuffin is a gimmick , and isn't important in the plot . The origin is a Scottish name . Hitch explains as two men come into a train . The first asks : what is this packet ? ; the second answers : Oh,it's a McGuffin! ; the first again asks : What's a McGuffin? ; and he subsequently answers : It's a devise to hunt lions in the Adirondaks mountains ; the another answers : But if there aren't lions in the Adirondaks!; and ultimately says : Then , it isn't a McGuffin! .
  • Warning: Spoilers
    Sometimes Alfred Hitchcock would get hold of a Big Idea and run with it and the results were usually disappointing -- "Rope," "Spellbound," "The Wrong Man." But there's nothing pretentious about "Foreign Correspondent." There's a secret clause to one of those secret treaties, and there's a murder or two, the kidnapping and torture of an old man, and an impending war, but these are ground instead of figure -- pegs on which to hang an adventure story blended with some comedy and romance.

    Joel McRae is an ordinary reporter sent to Europe to root out the real dope behind the winds of war. A Hollander, Mr. Van Meer (Albert Basserman) is the tender-minded architect of a plan to keep the peace, and Steven Fisher (Herbert Marshall) is his chief functionary. Other important characters include Herbert Marshall's naive and trusting daughter (Laraine Day) and a flippant but right-thinking British reporter (George Sanders). McRae and Day fall for one another. Sanders plays a rather important role in the story. And mention must be made of Robert Benchley too, as Stebbins, McRae's careless and self-indulgent colleague in London. Edmund Gwenn is a thug hired by the bad guys (that is, the Germans) to see to it that McRae ceases his meddling, permanently. Eduardo Cianelli appears as a Nazi thug.

    It's not exactly a who-dunnit because we discover half-way through the movie that Herbert Marshall is a spy working for the other side to discover the contents of the secret clause in the secret treaty. Instead, it's a salubrious mixture of Hitchcock set pieces that promote suspense and generate laughs.

    The plot moves from New York to Amsterdam to London and is full of surprises. Here are some striking incidents. (1) A double for Van Meer is assassinated on the steps -- shot in the face, in fact, like the citizen in "Battleship Potyemkin" -- and the killer gets away by bustling through a crowd of umbrellas. The scene was shot on a California stage. And why did Hitchcock set it up as he did? Well, he stated, it's Holland, and what does Holland have but rain, tulips, and windmills? (2) McRae, Day, and Sanders chase the murderer's car and it suddenly disappears next to a windmill. McRae pokes around in the windmill with unexpected results. If you've ever wondered what the inside of a windmill looks like, this will give you some idea of what the inside of a windmill looks like inside the head of the art director, Alexander Golitzen. (3) The Trans-Oceanic clipper crashes into the sea near the end and you have never seen such panic and such wild and wind-blown seas.

    There isn't space to detail the plot but it isn't, as I say, all that important anyway, serving mostly as a link between episodes and sometimes even a little confusing. But everything else is outstandingly entertaining. Robert Benchley contributed to the dialog. He was a humorist for the New Yorker for some time and was readily recognizable to the audience because he had his own series of short subjects that, I must say, weren't very funny. He made up for it by having the face of a resigned Humphrey C. Earwicker and a keen ear for absurdist dialog that was honed at Harvard. During an earnest conversation he's interrupted by the phone ringing. He picks it up, shouts, "No," and slams it back down. A few minutes later, there is another ring, and Benchley says, "No -- tell him it's ridiculous!", and hangs up immediately. No explanation is ever offered. (It must have appealed to Hitchcock because it ran parallel to his own sense of whimsy.) Benchley wrote all his own dialog and most likely contributed some other bon mots. When Laraine Day rises to give a presentation at a boring meeting, a luncheon guest leans towards McRae and remarks that "the female of the speeches is deadlier than the male," but it's almost lost in the background clatter.

    The casting is notable in many ways. Herbert Marshall was familiar to the audience of the time -- but as a humane, avuncular, sophisticated, presence in films, not a heavy. Edmund Gwenn, a heartless killer, is so short and harmless that he was to play Santa Claus in "Miracle on 34th Street." Martin Kosleck, a Jew who managed to escape from Europe, is introduced as the Nazi goon he was to play for the rest of his movie career. George Sanders, always reliable, is at the top of his form here. Albert Basserman, the elderly do-gooder, was nominated for an Academy Award.

    Not to be missed if you're looking for an exciting and delightfully engaging film.
  • While the cinematography and settings were impressive I found the story to be far too convenient and the "love interest" unbelievable. Every cab, party, room next door and passerby contains someone Jones has met (Latvian fellow funny, so lets throw him in this scene). Assassination, run through umbrellas so well done. Windmill scene stretches credulity as there is no way he wouldn't have been noticed in such a tight space. It was hard to care about kidnapping and the secret since there was no reveal as to. its importance or bearing on the impending war. (and why was airplane flying so low? Well shot as early disaster scenes go though). Still not sure why she was upset about the 2nd room as in 1940 that would seem appropriate, but who knows?
  • Warning: Spoilers
    Johnny Jones is a straight-talking New York newspaperman hired by his rag to cover the impending war in Europe. He witnesses the assassination of a prominent Dutch leader but then discovers this was a doppelganger, falls in love with Carol Fisher, a peace envoy, and traces the conspiracy back to Carol's father ! What's a poor guy to report ?

    This was Hitchcock's second Hollywood picture (after Rebecca) and he clearly relished in his newfound resources, turning in a film filled with action, humour, romance, suspense, intrigue and even some potent social commentary. The movie globetrots from New York to London and Holland, and we get a car chase through windmill country, a flight across a hotel rooftop, a love scene on a storm-tossed ocean liner, a failed assassination atop Westminster Cathedral and an astonishingly realistic plane crash in the ocean. These are all sequences which would be tough enough to shoot with today's technology never mind seventy years ago, but Hitchcock's camera is everywhere, documenting the action and generating whatever emotion the scene requires; there's one left-to-right tracking shot through the fuselage of the crashing plane which I think is one of the most staggering in all of Hitch's work. The cast are sensational, with the prolific McCrea at the top of his game, Day a fine romantic foil, Marshall (the star of Hitch's earlier Murder!) great in the quisling turncoat role and Sanders for once playing a good guy action hero. The film is almost stolen however by two supporting players - Gwenn as the cheerful elderly killer Rowley, and Benchley as Stebbins, the hack columnist with a tendency towards various vices. Benchley (father of children's author Nathanial and grandfather of Jaws novelist Peter) was a great writer/performer and member of the noted Algonquin Round Table, and he contributed much of the amusing dialogue to the movie; when McCrea confesses his undying love to Day on the voyage back from Holland and she instantly reciprocates, he quips, "Hmm … that cuts down our love scene down quite a bit, doesn't it ?". Hitch also had some powerful collaborators on this picture, notably independent producer Walter Wanger (Stagecoach, Invasion Of The Body Snatchers), cameraman/director Rudolph Maté (Vampyr, D.O.A.) and designer/director William Cameron Menzies (Gone With The Wind, Invaders From Mars), and the look of it is just sensational. Extremely well scripted by Charles Bennett and Joan Harrison, with almost every scene packing a punch - a great early Hitchcock thriller.
  • Mr Fischer's performance is the heart of this gem. Actually the chum is well played too, by the guy who showed up in Rebecca as well.

    But the enduring image from this one is the windmills. Hitch knows how to create moments of suspense better than anyone in film, ever. He knows how to take an event commonplace or unusual, and put us on the edge of our seats. In this case, the suspense occurs in the windmill, as we are mezmorized by the gears spinning sinisterly and the spies milling about. Back then in a nationalist era, spies had a darker connotation than now, imo. There is something horrifying about spies in those early Hitch films.
  • Warning: Spoilers
    Johnny Jones, a reporter of the New York Globe becomes a foreign correspondent under the pen name Huntley Haverstock.His life is in danger in European cities, in London and Amsterdam.He gets to know a diplomat called Van Meer who's shot in front of his eyes later.But he soon finds out the old man is still alive held as a prisoner by some men who want some information from him.Stephen Fisher, head of the Universal Peace Party may have something to do with his kidnapping.Johnny happens to be pretty close with his daughter, Carol.Alfred Hitchcock's Foreign Correspondent (1940) is a movie with plenty of showy action scenes.The casting is perfect.Hitchcock himself is seen as Man with newspaper on street.In a bigger role we see Joel McCrea who is brilliant as John Jones.He makes a terrific couple with Laraine Day, who plays Carol Fisher.Stephen Fisher is played by Herbert Marshall.George Sanders is fantastic as a man named Scott ffolliot.There is a funny and rather long conversation about his last name.Albert Bassermann plays Van Meer and he's magnificent.In a bit part we see James Finlayson as Dutch Peasant.Joan Leslie plays Jones' sister.There are many breathtaking scenes in this picture.There's that where we are in a car and then inside a windmill.In the end we are in an airplane and that plane starts going down after the Germans shoot at it and the passengers find themselves in the sea.What a great ride with Hitchcock this is!
  • If one would look at the late British films that Hitchcock made, such as THE THIRTY NINE STEPS, THE LADY VANISHES, and SABOTAGE, one can see that Hitchcock was aware of foreign elements that were anti-British and that his nation had to confront and fight. Foreign spies attack England from within in THE THIRTY NINE STEPS and SABOTAGE, and Miss Froy (Dame May Witty) is spying on a country that is very much like Germany in THE LADY VANISHES. To these films one can add Hitch's second American film, FOREIGN CORRESPONDENT. Although the Second World War was one year old when FOREIGN CORRESPONDENT came out, it is set in the year 1938-39, and ends after September 1939.

    Joel McCrae is "Huntly Haverstock" (actually Johnny Jones), the new foreign correspondent sent by an American news service to Europe to cover the collapsing international situation. He meets Van Meer (Albert Basserman), who is the strong man of Holland, and who is the key to maintaining European peace. Van Meer promises him an interview, but when they next meet the statesman acts like he does not remember him. This does not appear to matter, until a few minutes later an assassin shoots Van Meer with a gun concealed in a camera. The scene where the assassin escapes in a sea of umbrellas is justifiably famous among Hitch's fans, but many people don't recall that the assassin shoots at McCrae who is chasing him, killing at least one other person on a bicycle. Actually this whole sequence suggests Hitch's interest in real crime: in 1934 the King of Yugoslavia and the Foreign Minister of France were killed by an assassin in Marseilles when headed for a conference. The assassination was filmed very graphically, including the killing of the assassin (after he shot several other people). Hitch probably saw it, and filed away the incident for future reference.

    McCrae tries to get the authorities to hear his views about the actuality of the assassinated man being the real Van Meer. A few people believe him. One is Stephen Fisher (Herbert Marshall) a leading peace advocate, and his daughter (Laraine Day). Also is Mr. ffoliot (George Sanders - this time a nice guy), who has attached himself to Day as a friend. Gradually McCrae finds that if the authorities do not fully believe him, others do - the foreign agents who were responsible for the assassination.

    Hitch did nicely in this, his first spy film in American. He has the famous "backward windmill" sequence. He also concluded the film with a memorable plane crash. But most interesting was his use of (SPOILER COMING UP) Marshall as the head of the foreign agents.

    Hitch had come from England in the heyday of Lady Astor's suspect Cliveden Set which strongly urged neutrality or even alliance with Nazi Germany. Many of the members were socially prominent types. Marshall's Fisher is very plausible as a lover of peace, and gradually is revealed as an enemy of the British. But the screenplay gives Marshall real dignity. He sees himself as a patriot for his native land (presumably Germany). To her credit, Day understands his behavior and does not desert him when he is revealed at the end. And then comes the air disaster, and Marshall finds a way to make a dignified and brave exit from his disgrace.

    There is more to the film than I have suggested here. There are touches of humor by McCrae's bureau chief in Europe, Robert Benchley. There is also the black comic business involving Edmund Gwenn on Westminster Abbey's roof, trying to get rid of McCrae.

    All told, it was a good follow-up to REBECCA, and it showed that Hitchcock was not just a one-shot director.
  • hhfarm-123 November 2006
    Warning: Spoilers
    What a letdown. As a Htchcock fan, I thought I was watching the wrong movie. It's awful.

    McCrea and Day don't work particularly well together. There's no real chemistry or spark. McCrea was best when the horse did most of the talking. Day did TV ~1950-on and that suited her. Other than a small gem of a performance by George Sanders, the rest is just nothing.

    But the plot, whew. What is going on? Van Meer is kidnapped but his double is assassinated. He's hidden away and being tortured by a spotlight. When he talks you only hear mumbling (Yes, I know the didn't speak English at the time - so what?).

    It's got all of the Hitchcock trademarks: Characters killed or almost killed by rotating gears; falling and fear of falling; mistaken identities; brusque newspapermen. But it's painfully, dreadfully, mind-numbingly dull.

    I wondered if the government got involved and Hitchcock somehow tried to do a propaganda job with it. His movies before and after are tight and clean. This one is a mystery.
  • Though I roundly consider Alfred Hitchcock to be one of the greatest film directors of all-time, there is one aspect of his filmmaking that rubs me the wrong way sometimes: a lack of a really engaging plot. Some of his films have it, while some do not. This one, unfortunately, does not.

    For a basic plot summary, "Foreign Correspondent" sees American reporter John Jones (Joel McCrea) sent into Europe to get the "scoop" on the upcoming war (WWII). While there, Jones and fellow lady friend Carol Fisher (Laraine Day) get caught up in an espionage plot involving the start of the war.

    I'll admit that the visuals are very well done for 1940, and a few sequences even provoke genuine suspense, but I just could not get into the plot whatsoever, as it seemed to drag on and on with little action or character development to move things forward.

    Thus, if you are a hard-core Hitch fan, watch this one. Otherwise, you might want to shy away.
  • Warning: Spoilers
    Excitement, suspense and humour are just a few of the hallmarks of this high-speed espionage thriller that does such a great job of entertaining from start to finish. With numerous plot twists and dialogue that's sharp and witty, the interest level never drops and no doubt, this contributed to making "Foreign Correspondent" the great commercial and critical success that it eventually became. Over the years, it's become one of Alfred Hitchcock's most under-appreciated films, probably for the simple reason that it's been overshadowed by his numerous great achievements in the years that followed. The fact remains however that, especially for a movie released in 1940, it's technically impressive, full of interesting characters and contains a number of very memorable set pieces.

    In 1939, Mr Powers (Harry Davenport), the aptly-named editor of the "New York Globe" is utterly exasperated by the lack of hard news that he's getting from his European correspondents about the growing threat of war and so decides to send a crime reporter to find out exactly what's happening. The reporter he chooses for the job is Johnny Jones (Joel McCrea), a young brash and politically naïve character who says "give me an expense account and I'll cover anything". Powers renames his new foreign correspondent, Huntley Haverstock and immediately instructs him to leave for London to attend a conference being held by the Universal Peace Party at which the eminent Dutch diplomat, Van Meer (Albert Bassermann) is due to speak.

    On his way to the event, Haverstock has the good fortune to meet Van Meer and shares a taxi with him but the old man is totally uninterested in talking about political matters and so doesn't provide Haverstock with any useful information. At the conference, the young American meets Carol Fisher (Laraine Day), the daughter of Stephen Fisher (Herbert Marshall) who's the peace organisation's leader and is shocked when Van Meer doesn't turn up to speak to the audience, apparently because he'd been called to attend another conference in Amsterdam. The determined reporter decides to go to Amsterdam to follow Van Meer's activities and is then drawn into a frantic sequence of events when he witnesses a shocking assassination, gets involved is a car chase and in a windmill in the Dutch countryside, discovers that Van Meer has been kidnapped and drugged by a suspicious-looking group of men.

    After Van Meer and his captors suddenly disappear, Haverstock returns to London with Carol who he'd met with her friend Scott ffolliott (George Sanders) during the car chase. Haverstock and Carol fall in love and plan to marry but when they return to Carol's home and Haverstock sees one of the men from the windmill with her father, he strongly suspects that Stephen Fisher is a Nazi agent and with the help of ffolliott attempts to rescue Van Meer and expose Fisher as a traitor. The events that follow then put Haverstock in some life-threatening situations before he's eventually in a position to try to get his story back to his newspaper in New York.

    The way in which the assassination is carried out in this movie is truly shocking and the suspense generated during Haverstock's time in the windmill where he's trying to avoid being seen by Van Meer's captors is tremendous. There's also a brilliantly filmed plane crash which is remarkably realistic as is another tense scene involving a high-level escape from a hotel room.

    Joel McCrea does well as an ordinary guy who's totally out of his depth in his new job and George Sanders, Laraine Day and Albert Bassermann are all excellent in their supporting roles.

    "Foreign Correspondent" which is overtly anti-Nazi and made a strong appeal for the United States to end its policy of neutrality, made its point so effectively that it even drew great praise from Joseph Goebbels who was the German Minister of Propaganda at the time! Whilst the propaganda content of the film is clearly a reflection of the time in which it was made, its terrific combination of adventure, comedy and romance is so enjoyable that its enduring appeal is guaranteed.
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