In attempting to learn more about a seemingly noble peace effort, Jones (who's been saddled with the dubious nom du plume Hadley Haverstock) walks into the middle of an assassination, uncovers a spy ring, and, not entirely coincidentally, falls in love--a pattern familiar to admirers of Hitchcock's espionage thrillers, of which this is a thoroughly entertaining example. McCrea's hardy Yankee charms are neatly contrasted with the droll, veddy English charm of colleague George Sanders; Herbert Marshall provides a plummy variation on the requisite, ambiguous "good-or-is-he-really-bad" guy; Laraine Day affords a lovely heroine; and Robert Benchley (who contributed to the script) pops up, albeit too briefly, for comic relief.
As good as the cast is, however, it's Hitchcock's staging of key action sequences that makes Foreign Correspondent a textbook example of the director's visual energy: an assassin's escape through a rain-soaked crowd is registered by rippling umbrellas, a nest of spies is detected by the improbable direction of a windmill's spinning sails, and Jones's nocturnal flight across a pitched city rooftop produces its own contextual comment when broken neon tubes convert the Hotel Europe into "Hot Europe." --Sam Sutherland
"Foreign Correspondent" is, in fact, one of the director's greatest films, every bit as good as "The 39 Steps," "North by Northwest" and other famous Hitchcock classics and far superior to "Rebecca," a film that Hitchcock himself described as belonging more to Selznick than to him. The Master of Suspense's trademark touches are very evident in this exciting suspense adventure in which Joel McCrea (chosen after Gary Cooper passed on the project), a lightweight reporter for a New York newspaper, is given a plum assignment that leads him into international intrigue involving a kidnapped scientist.
Hitchcock may have been disappointed in McCrea (labelling him "too easygoing") but the often underrated actor is excellent and is aided by one of Hitchcock's most perfect casts. As fellow reporters, George Sanders provides plenty of world-weary wit and the great Robert Benchley, who also wrote some of his own dialogue, adds a light touch in what is otherwise a fairly grim thriller. Herbert Marshall is on hand as the elegant villain, and Edmund Gwenn who would define "warm and cuddly" as Santa Claus in "Miracle on 34th Street" a few years later, exudes evil as an assassin.
There are many standout scenes, all every bit as imaginative as the cropduster attack on Cary Grant in "North by Northwest" or the shower murder in "Psycho." Note the ominous mood in the windmill where the kidnapped scientist is held captive, or the plane's plunge into the ocean just before the finale. The moment when the aged scientist (perfectly embodied by Albert Basserman, an Oscar nominee for his role) is tortured in a hotel room while a helpless Sanders looks on can make you squirm more than anything in "The Birds."
In short, this is Hitchcock at the very top of his game. The only thing "Foreign Correspondent" lacks is the acclaim and notoriety it deserves.
"Foreign Correspondent" has Joel McCrea as John Jones, an American reporter sent over to Europe to cover the beginnings of WW2. And, as you can probably guess, Jones will stumble upon a big story and soon become a man who knows too much.
Van Meer, a man Jones was sent to interview (Albert Basserman, in an Oscar nominated performance) is on a council to prevent WW2, but he is soon murdered, or is he? He was the only person who knew of a secret clause that was to be written in a peace treaty.
A lot of people speak highly of the assination scene with the umbrellas, and Edmund Gwenn's scene on top of the tower. Most of you will know Gwenn as Santa Clause in "Miracle on 34th Street". But I have to admit some of my favorite scenes deal with the more comedic aspects of the film such as Robert Benchley's scenes, as an on-the-wagon reporter just yearning for one more drink, who has no idea what is going on around him. I also enjoy a scene dealing with George Sanders (Scott ffolliott) as he explains why he his name is spelled with two lower case "f's", McCrea responds with "How do you pronouce it? With a stutter?"
I've always felt Hitchcock's early work sometimes allowed the dry wit to get into the way of his movies. They could be seen as comedy\mystery movies in the vain of "The Thin Man" series. But in "Foreign Correspondent" I absolutely didn't mind. I enjoyed it greatly. Benchley was actually allowed to write his own lines and Ben Hechet, who helped co-write (he wrote the play "The Front Page", as well as two other Hitchcock movies, "Notorious" and "Spellbound") are without doubt why this movie actually does make us laugh. Benchley really is a highlight for me. Please pay attention to his dialogue. It's a shame so many people don't remember him nowadays.
And, there's more more thing I feel the need to comment on. What an amazing cast this film has. I've mentioned some of them already, McCrea, Sanders, and Benchley, but Herbert Marshall is also in this movie as Stephen Fisher, Van Meer's partner. Everyone does a wonderful job.
Bottom-line: Sadly not as popular as some of Hitchcock's other films, but, it deserves to be. It really is one of his best works. Great moments of suspense and wit.
And it has one of the finest aviation sequences on film. Read more