Foreign Correspondent (1940)

8.0 Overall Score
Story: 7/10
Acting: 8/10
Visuals: 9/10

Some great and different visuals

Not my favorite Hitchcock

Movie Info

Movie Name:  Foreign Correspondent

Studio:  Walter Wanger Productions

Genre(s):  Mystery/Suspense

Release Date(s):  August 16, 1940

MPAA Rating:  Not Rated


Brian Williams actually did this during World War II when he reported…or not.

Johnny Jones (Joel McCrea) has been handed the assignment of a lifetime.  As the New York Globe’s foreign correspondent, Jones (under the pen name Huntley Haverstock) has been sent to Europe to cover the evolving war situation.  When Jones witnesses the assassination of a diplomat named Van Meer (Albert Bassermann), he finds himself pulled into an international mystery of body doubles and espionage.  Teamed with Carol Fisher (Laraine Day) and Scott ffolliott (George Sanders), Jones must try to uncover the plot as Europe plunges into war!


Nothing like being shot in the face to ruin a nice day…

Directed by Alfred Hitchcock, Foreign Correspondent is a suspense thriller based on 1935’s Personal History by Vincent Sheean.  Hitchcock’s follow-up to Rebecca (also released in 1940), Foreign Correspondent didn’t fare well at the box office though it was well received by critics and nominated for Academy Awards for Best Picture, Best Original Screenplay, Best Supporting Actor (Albert Bassermann), Best Cinematography—Black & White, Best Art Direction—Black & White, and Best Special Effects.  The movie won no Academy Awards and lost Best Picture to Hitchock’s Rebecca.  A remastered version of the film has been released by Criterion (Criterion #696).


It’s Hitch!

I generally will watch any Hitchcock put in front of me.  I hadn’t had the opportunity to watch Foreign Correspondent but went ahead and bought it when I saw that it was released by Criterion who always does a great job on transfers.  With a nice sleek Blu-Ray transfer, Foreign Correspondent wasn’t the best movie but it still is miles above many of the films being made at the time.

Foreign Correspondent is often seen as a propaganda film and was noted by the Germans.  The pressure of the oncoming war is pervasive through the film.  The actual core of the plot (the retrieval of secret material from Van Meer) is rather almost incidental to the search for Van Meer and some rather tense scenes.  It could easily fall under Hitchcock’s MacGuffin concept which just has an idea spawning scenes.


This is how Hitchcock actually proposed

The cast is rather strong though also very generic.  The figures feel like stock characters from any Hitchcock film and with the rather so-so plot, any of Hitchcock’s regulars could have filled the positions.  It is notable that Gary Cooper and Joan Fontaine were the original choices as the leads.  Albert Bassermann was German and couldn’t speak English…as a result he learned all his lines phonetically.

What really sells this movie is the visuals.  Mostly combining stock footage and scale models, the movie looks great.  It has a lot of great and memorable scenes including the windmill scene, the trip up the tower of Westminster Cathedral, and the famous plane crash scene at the end of the film.  The final scene involving the bombing of London was tacked on at the last minute and was shot just days before the bombings of London began.


First they cut out free peanuts and now they make you swim!

Hitchcock can do no wrong in my book.  Even a movie like Foreign Correspondent which has its faults still is interesting in seeing how he developed as a director and the different techniques he used in getting there.  With some great looking scenes, Foreign Correspondent should be sought out though it probably won’t be your favorite Hitchcock film.  Hitchcock followed Foreign Correspondent with Mr. and Mrs. Smith in 1941.

Author: JPRoscoe View all posts by
Follow me on Twitter/Instagram/Letterboxd @JPRoscoe76! Loves all things pop-culture especially if it has a bit of a counter-culture twist. Plays video games (basically from the start when a neighbor brought home an Atari 2600), comic loving (for almost 30 years), and a true critic of movies. Enjoys the art house but also isn't afraid to let in one or two popular movies at the same time.

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