Johnny Jones is an action reporter on a New York newspaper. The editor appoints him European correspondent because he is fed up with the dry, reports he currently gets. Jones' first assignment is to get the inside story on a secret treaty agreed between two European countries by the famous diplomat, Mr. Van Meer. However things don't go to plan and Jones enlists the help of a young woman to help track down a group of spies. Written by
Col Needham <firstname.lastname@example.org>
Opening credits prologue: 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... To those clear-headed ones who now stand like recording angels among the dead and dying... To the Foreign Correspondents - this motion picture is dedicated. See more »
Admittedly, partly due to the presence of Joel McCrea, this is one of my favorite Hitchcock films. As with "Saboteur," Hitchcock wanted Gary Cooper (and in this case, Joan Fontaine - he wanted Barbara Stanwyck for "Saboteur) but couldn't get them. Cooper turned down the role of Johnny Jones and lived to regret it.
Today, "Foreign Correspondent" can be seen as a fierce call to bring America into the war. It's amazing today how long America stayed out. In the film, Johnny Jones, writing under the pen name of Huntley Haverstock, is given the assignment of going to Europe and digging around for information about the impending war - and particularly to have a conversation with Professor Van Meer, who may be one of the men who can help keep the peace. Johnny witnesses Van Meer being killed right in front of him, and chasing the perpetrators, he winds up searching a windmill, in one of the many remarkable scenes in the film. While on assignment, he falls in love with Carol Fisher, whose father is the head of a peace-making movement.
The film is striking for its underlying humor and lightness despite the seriousness and shock value of the events. It's also remarkable for some against type casting, i.e., George Sanders is a newsman and a good guy for a change, and Edmund Gwenn - Santa Claus! - is a killer. That's another remarkable scene.
There are several spectacular moments. The rainy scene on the steps when Van Meer is killed is one; when Jones looks for the perpetrator, all he can see is a sea of same-colored umbrellas. The windmills are another - claustrophobic inside, a peaceful picture outside. There is a marvelous shot of Johnny escaping from killers by slipping out of his hotel bathroom window and walking along the ledge. The lit-up sign HOTEL EUROPE can plainly be seen, and Jones breaks one of the lights as he goes by. Best of all is the airplane crash into the ocean which is fantastic and looks both agonizing and real. The final scene of the film, a radio broadcast, was added some time later - five days before the Germans started bombing, in fact.
Shot in black and white, "Foreign Correspondent" is loaded with atmosphere and the tension of the coming war. Joel McCrea, a very likable, easygoing actor in the same vein as Cooper, though maybe a bit livelier, is excellent in his role here as a gentle but adventurous man caught up in bizarre circumstances. Laraine Day, never used much by her own studio (MGM) and often loaned out, is great as the pretty, intelligent, and principled Carol. As Scott ffolliott, Sanders is charming and plays beautifully with Day and McCrea. Herbert Marshall has a slightly different role for him and is very effective.
Though many may not agree, I consider this one of Hitchock's best films and totally underrated. Why did Gary Cooper turn it down? It was a thriller, which in those days was considered a B-class genre. After "Foreign Correspondent," this was no longer true.
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