Favorite things about… Foreign Correspondent (1940)

Foreign Correspondent Criterion Cover
(Image via The Criterion Collection)

The favorite film:
Foreign Correspondent, a 1940 thriller directed by none other than the master of suspense, Alfred Hitchcock

The synopsis:
When John Jones is chosen by his editor Mr. Powers to become a foreign correspondent, his first assignment is to cover an event held by Stephen Fisher to honor a Dutch diplomat, Van Meer. When Van Meer evades the event and is soon shot at a political conference, Jones finds himself searching for the truth, along with Powers’ daughter Carol and another reporter, Scott ffolliott.

The cast:
Joel McCrea as Johnny Jones (aka Huntley Haverstock)
Laraine Day as Carol Fisher
Herbert Marshall as Stephen Fisher
George Sanders as ffolliott
Albert Basserman as Van Meer
Robert Benchley as Stebbins
Edmund Gwenn as Rowley
Harry Davenport as Mr. Powers

Fun facts:

  • Hitchcock’s cameo has him walking past Joel McCrea on the street while reading a newspaper.
  • The screenplay was written by Charles Bennett and Joan Harrison, with additional dialogue by James Hilton and Robert Benchley.
  • Nominated for Oscars for art direction, cinematography, original screenplay, special effects, and supporting actor (Albert Basserman). Additionally, the film was nominated for Best Picture but was beat by another Hitchcock flick, Rebecca.
  • TCM reports that Hitch originally wanted Gary Cooper and Joan Fontaine for the roles eventually filled by Joel McCrea and Laraine Day.
FOREIGN CORRESPONDENT (1940)
(Image via TCM)

Favorite things:

  • The opening dedication: “To those intrepid ones who went across the seas to be the eyes and ears of America… to those forthright ones who early saw the clouds of war while many of us at home were seeing rainbows…”
  • “Give me an expense account, and I’ll cover anything.”
  • Jones’ pen name (“Huntley Haverstock”) and the quick montage of “Jones” names
  • “I could say it yesterday, but I had a rather tough session with the boys last night.”
  • Jones’ lovestruck face when Carol is giving her speech (and those love notes mixed in with her speech cards!)
  • That camera-gun contraption used to shoot Van Meer
  • George Sanderrrrrrrs! (Fearlessly chasing an assassin!)
  • The brilliant use of sound at the creaky windmill hideout
  • Hitchcock’s ability to snap from humor and romance to genuine suspense within a matter of scenes
  • “You’d mean much more to me with your clothes on.”
    “Oh, you like the intellectual type.”
  • “Not unscrupulous – just in love. It’s the same thing, I suppose.”
  • The adorable, blanket-wrapped, non-proposal marriage agreement
  • “They combine a mad love of country with an equally mad indifference to life.”
  • That cathedral tower scene!
  • “Happy at your side while we batter away at old papa!”
  • “You’ve turned European on me overnight, Johnny.”
    “That’s unfair. I’m just as big a jackass as I ever was.”
MBDFOCO EC017
(Image via FilmStruck)
  • Van Meer’s monologue about how Fisher is an evil liar
  • George Sanders jumping out the window! (His character in Rebecca would appreciate this exit, haha)
  • “War declared! Read all about it!”
  • Fisher intercepting ffolliott’s telegram
  • “I believed in you.”
    “You shouldn’t.”
    “It’s true, then — what I wouldn’t believe?”
  • All of the drama onboard the plane isn’t enough, it has to be attacked by anti-aircraft fire, too! This sequence is so frightening and emphasizes the dangers of war, even for everyday citizens (not that all planes were being shot down, but look at the real tragedy of the Lusitania — threats were everywhere)
  • That close-up, “We’ll be alright. She’s American.”
  • “Listen, I’m in love with you. I can’t hit you over the head with a scandal for a wedding present.”
  • Sanders’ “I can’t believe it!” routine
  • “One of the little army of historians who are writing history from beside the canon’s mouth.”
  • Johnny continuing his broadcast through the air raid
  • “Hello, America! Hang on to your lights. They’re the only lights left in the world.”
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7 thoughts on “Favorite things about… Foreign Correspondent (1940)

  1. I’m guessing you picked up the Criterion edition during a flash sale! I have the DVD, but haven’t watched it in ages…but I remember liking it when I did, and it surprised me that the movie’s not more highly regarded than it is. And what a fun exchange: “Oh, you like the intellectual type.”

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    1. Not the most recent flash sale, but the Barnes & Noble Criterion sale last fall! I’ve seen it mentioned by several of my blogger buddies as a favorite, but I agree, it deserves a lot more recognition than it gets! Just as at the Oscars, I think it gets eclipsed by Rebecca when people look at Hitchcock’s early American films, haha. (I adore both films equally!)

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      1. When you take advantage of these B&N sales, do you actually go to the store, or visit their website? I hit a sale once at a store, and picked up a few Criterions, but I don’t know if it was ‘flash’ or not. Either way, I picked up ‘Bicycle Thieves’ at a really good price!

        And I definitely like ‘Foreign Correspondent’ more than ‘Rebecca’…to me it’s much more fun and ‘Hitch-like’!

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        1. I usually go to the store. Barnes’ sales happen twice a year — July (my birthday month!) and November. 50% off all month! I don’t do all of the flash sales but do save up my coins and hit the Barnes sales religiously, haha.

          Interesting thought re: Rebecca! It’s impossible for me to choose between the two. They’re both among my Hitch favorites. I do adore Judith Anderson as evil Mrs. Danvers (and am a sucker for just about anything written by/based on Daphne du Maurier).

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