Foreign Correspondent (1940)
After the success of Hitchcock’s first film in the U.S. Rebecca (1940) there is a loosening up in tone when it comes to his second film in the states Foreign Correspondent (1940). Casting the successful Joel McCrea before he becomes a man of the Westerns in the 1940s and 50s in this pre-war film that fictionalised the events that lead up to WWII.
The tone of the film begins far lighter than most of Hitchcock’s work set in a New York Paper who want to know what is going on in unstable Europe, knowing that war is imminent. Not wanting to send a war correspondent, instead believing a massive crime is being committed, they send a crime reporter who is unaware if the world outside of America. This could be seen as Hitchcock‘s perception of his American friends in their isolationist position over Europe.
With a new identity John Jones/Huntley Haverstock (McCrea) he heads to London to interview the Dutch Diplomat Van Meer (Albert Basserman) an elderly man who is growing wreary of the changing world around him, still is striving for peace. Before Jones can interview Van Meer he begins to fall for Carol Fisher (Laraine Day) who her and her father Stephen Fisher (Herbert Marshall) are apart of a peace organisation that are doing their best to represent the people in averting the upcoming war. Jones is soaking this all up and falling for the Carol Fisher with every word she utters.
Things start to heat up for our fish out of water reporter in a foreign land when he witnesses first hand the assassination of Van Meer a story that is too good to pass up, joining up with another reporter Ffolliott (George Sanders) and Carol Fisher are hot on the trail of the dirty rat who shot the diplomat. Heading out into the country in a field of windmills the trail runs cold until our reporter picks up on a few things that only Hitchcock would point out to our average man and audience. Something is going on in the windmill that the stop at, leading to a more dangerous investigation. When the police are informed of Jones’s findings he is proved wrong when nothing is to be found.
For the rest of the film he has to prove to those around him there is more going surrounding the diplomats assassination, when in fact he is alive in London, being coerced to reveal important treaty details. Something that he wont do easily. Whilst Jones’s life is at stake as he travels around in London. Only his fellow reporter Ffolliott really believes him, setting up a trap to land Stephen Fisher who is behind this morally corrupt plot that he believe will save his country from going to war.
All is revealed in a dramatic climax as war is declared whilst everyone is mid-air aboard a plane to America, landing everyone into dangerous waters (literally) before the truth can finally out to the world. Foreign Correspondent can be seen as Hitchcock’s way of shouting at America to pay attention to the conflict back home that he was lucky to escape. America was more than happy to accept the likes of German directors such as Billy Wilder and Fritz Lang before the war began. Yet took no interest beyond secret surveillance as we later found out. McCrea is average America opening it’s eyes to the bigger problems, and how countries will do anything to avoid war. Not the strongest of his body of work, but has some of the elements that make his films stand out.
- Hitchmania: Foreign Correspondent (1940) (canadiancinephile.com)
- Foreign Correspondent – Alfred Hitchcock (mrmovietimes.com)
- Alfred Hitchcock Directs a … Photo Gallery? (life.time.com)
- Alfred Hitchcock Talks Sabotage, Foreign Correspondent, and Laxatives with Dick Cavett (1972) (openculture.com)
- Lifeboat – Alfred Hitchcock (mrmovietimes.com)
- Hitchmania: Saboteur (1942) (canadiancinephile.com)
- Hitchmania: Lifeboat (1944) (canadiancinephile.com)