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on January 9, 2004
Despite being nominated for six Academy Awards, including best picture, Alfred Hitchcock's second American film, "Foreign Correspondent," has received little notice through the years. Critics gush, and rightly so, over "Rear Window" and "Vertigo" but scarcely breathe a word about this masterpiece. Released in 1940, the same year as "Rebecca," it has been left to languish in the graveyard of late night television where its very lack of promotion no doubt leads many a Hitchcock fan to believe it must be one of the master's lesser films, something on the order of "The Paradine Case" or "Under Capricorn."
"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.
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on December 23, 2003
"Foreign Correspondent" was Alfred Hitchcock's second American feature made in 1940, the same year as his first feature "Rebecca", and surprisingly both were up for "best picture". In fact "Foreign Correspodent" was nominated for 6 Oscars. But even so, the movie is rarely regarded as one of Hitchcock's best, and that's a shame. "Foreign Correspondent" ranks up there with the best Hitchcock films such as "Rear Window", "Psycho", and "Vertigo". The "master of suspense" displays all the talents that have made him one of the finest film-makers of all-time (at least in my opinion).
"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.
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on April 14, 2003
Released in 1940 by the Master of Suspense, Alfred Hitchcock, this movie (although somewhat fictitiously) explains the beginning of World War II. This is one of Hitchcock's spy thrillers, complete with his man-in-the-middle and MacGuffin storylines.
Huntley Haverstock (Joel McCrea) is a newspaper reporter from New York who is sent to Europe to meet with the Dutch Professor Van Meer, who holds a secret clause in a peace treaty that may avert the coming war. After witnessing Van Meer's death, Haverstock becomes embroiled in an elaborate scenario in which the Nazis play a pivotal role.
In Haverstock's adventure, he meets up with the lovely Carol Fisher (Laraine Day)and her father, Stephen Fisher (Herbert Marshall). Are the Fishers really who they say they are?
The movie has many plot twists and exciting sequences that have become so memorable in Hitchcock lore.
The scene with the windmill's blades rotating backward has become classic, as well as the bobbing umbrellas in the rain as the murderer of Van Meer escapes through them. And also watch for the spectacular plane crash at the end of the film.
And who can forget seeing Edmund Gwenn, the man known forever to film buffs as Santa Claus from Miracle on 34th Street, playing here the sinister hit man, Rowley.
Clearly a great storyline, Foreign Correspondent is a must-see for any Hitchcock fan. This was his second film he made in America after David Selznick brought him over from England, and probably the best piece of propaganda to get the American public more interested in war looming on the horizon.
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on September 21, 2015
Hitchcock pulls some cinematic punches with his second film directed in the States. The scene inside the windmill as McRea shifts up the stairs to stay out of the enemy's sight, brilliant. There's wit and suspense that will be echoed in Saboteur and other films. McRae isn't as suave as Grant or neurotic as Stewart. These leading men are still in the wings. He's just one of those gosh, darn, shucks American boys and so a bit of a fish out of water: not as suave as Robert Donat in 39 Steps (a Brit in a Brit environment, but with the same gun-ho spirit: see the speech he gives when facing the political party assembly) or the natural assurance of Robert Cummings in Saboteur (a Yank in a Yank environment, so his sparing with the female lead does not look so disparate). Thank God for George Sanders and his unctuous deliveries to keep the film from getting to cloying. Clever twists abound but it still feels a bit "clunky," like a Broadway show in pre-opening trials out of town: Hitchcock will use many of the devices further on now that he's worked out the kinks. And, yes, I know the ending was tacked on to ramp up American support of the European cause but it just makes me gag with the anthem and eagle at the end. Even at the time, I wonder if it didn't make some in the theatre roll their eyes.
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on August 29, 2000
This fast-paced espionage thriller is filled with many memorable Hitchcock images and performances. Joel McCrea (Huntley Haverstock) is a newspaperman sent to Europe to find out what is brewing on that great continent on the brink of war. McCrea makes contact with a Professor Van Meer, a Dutch diplomat who knows the secret clause to a peace treaty that many people would like to get their hands on. In his pursuit of Van Meer, McCrea meets Carol Fisher (Laraine Day) whose father (Herbert Marshall) is in charge of a world peace organization. It is hard to describe the movie without giving away too much of the plot, but the closer McCrea gets to the truth, the more the enemy tries to eliminate him. There are the usual Hitchcock characters who are not what they appear, plus a great crowd scene involving McCrea and Van Meer and about a million umbrellas, which is a masterpiece in and of itself. As you might suspect, McCrea grows close to Day and at first she tries to help him unravel the mystery. Through a misunderstanding, Day believes that McCrea has less than pure intentions where she is concerned and she consents to fly to America with her father. And what a plane ride they have! This movie has it all: great story, excellent script and dialogue, great acting by all the principles, and for the time, magnificent special effects, some of which still hold up quite well today. Hitchcock originally wanted Gary Cooper for the lead, but he turned the script down, thinking the film not right for his screen image. After seeing the finished product, Cooper regretted that he declined to make the picture (Cooper never worked with Hitchcock). Not to worry, McCrea is perfect in the role and makes it his own. Day, never the big star she could have been, gives a wonderfully sensitive performance as a young woman whose loyalties and illusions are dramatically torn apart. The black and white cinematography is first rate, as is the set design (everything was constructed on Hollywood sound stages!). Like Saboteur and North By Northwest that followed, Foreign Correspondent moves at a brisk pace from start to finish. This film was nominated for six Academy Awards in 1940 (losing the Best Picture Oscar to Hitchcock's Rebecca that same year),
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on May 16, 2000
Fourteen script writers held a race with the swift courseof contemporary history to produce the Walter Wanger thriller. Producer Wanger hired Alfred Hitchcock, that English past master of suspence, to concoct a thriller of Europe day. With Joan Harrison, Hitchcock's pretty blonde scenarist, they together dreamed up a string of sinister but unrelated scenes: a political assassination on a rainy day; a spy hunt in an abandoned windmill; a torture room in a dowdy hotel room and a transatlantic clipper shot down at sea. Together with his wife Alma Reville, Hitch then patched these incidents into a fast, funny, fascinating - and rather implausible tale of two great cities on the ever of WWII. FOREIGN CORRESPONDENT has achieved a well-deserved reputation as a masterpiece of suspense and intrigue, and was instrumental in upgrading the reputation of the thriller genre (it was nominated for the best picture of 1940). Refreshing in that Hitchcock chose lesser known actors Joel McCrea and Laraine Day for the leads; both actors are likable and capable. Herbert Marshall is somewhat miscast in his role of Stephen Fisher but Robert Benchley is great as Stebbins, the broken-down American journalist working in London. George Sanders and Eduardo Cianelli do well in their roles. In his second American film, Hitch is scene briefly at a railway station!
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on November 7, 2000
What a terrific film! A near-perfect mixture of suspense, action and romance, with a great cast and dialogue. I can well imagine that this must have been a real crowd pleaser in its day. The black and white photography is excellent and the special effects are outstanding for the time. Some have criticized the ending as jingoistic, but one must remember its context. The European war was just getting started and many informed people were concerned that an isolationist America would allow the Nazis to attack across borders unimpeded. Hitchcock himself being British, this film may well have been partially intended as a wake-up call for Americans and an attempt to stir up some concern among them about events overseas. For me, bearing this in mind added an immediacy to the film that I found thrilling.
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on April 21, 2000
This is hardly Hitch's best but it does feature some redemptive set pieces. The best is a plane crash towards the end which is simply amazing for it's time. He also must have had a large budget because there are a lot of crowd scenes. The acting is pretty ordinary - Herbert Marshall is particularly dull - but Joel McCrea is rather likeable as the FC. And there is always Hitch's mischievous sense of humour, tho the patriotism at the end is pretty hard to stomach. It screams propaganda.
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on January 26, 2001
When the average person thinks of Hitchcock, they usually think of The Birds, Psycho....that sort of thing. That's perfectly understandable. Those are terrific films. But most people don't think of Foreign Correspondent, which is a shame. I loved this movie. I did find the ending a little dull, but I find the ending of many Hitchcock movies dull. I highly recommend it for any film student or buff. If you're not familiar with this one, you're missing out!
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on March 31, 2002
This is a great film from Hitchcock's Great Patriotic War period.
And it has one of the finest aviation sequences on film. If you check out any photos of the interior of the Boeing 314, you can appreciate the time Hitchcock spent on his set.
Since this film is older than nearly all of us, I have to assume that the plot is no longer a big secret. It's a very exciting sequence, even if it's a convenient way to bind the plot together.
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