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Foreign Correspondent (1940)

Not Rated  |   |  Romance, Thriller, War  |  16 August 1940 (USA)
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Ratings: 7.6/10 from 12,712 users  
Reviews: 124 user | 73 critic

On the eve of WWII, a young American reporter tries to expose enemy agents in London.



(screenplay), (screenplay), 3 more credits »
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Title: Foreign Correspondent (1940)

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Nominated for 6 Oscars. Another 1 win. See more awards »



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Cast overview, first billed only:
Albert Bassermann ...
Van Meer (as Albert Basserman)
Robert Benchley ...
Eduardo Ciannelli ...
Mr. Krug (as Eduardo Cianelli)
Frances Carson ...
Charles Wagenheim ...
Eddie Conrad ...
Latvian (as Edward Conrad)


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 <>

Plot Summary | Plot Synopsis


MYSTERY IN WHISPERS that cracks like THUNDER! (original print ad - many caps) See more »


Romance | Thriller | War


Not Rated | See all certifications »

Parents Guide:





| |

Release Date:

16 August 1940 (USA)  »

Also Known As:

Personal History  »

Company Credits

Production Co:

Show detailed on  »

Technical Specs


| (uncut version: 120') (cut) (uncut)

Sound Mix:

(Western Electric Mirrophonic Recording)

Aspect Ratio:

1.37 : 1
See  »

Did You Know?


The ending with Joel McCrea delivering a propaganda broadcast as bombs fall on London was written (by Ben Hecht) and shot after the rest of the film was completed. It replaced a more sardonic ending in which Ffolliott (George Sanders) tells Haverstock (McCrea) how the enemies will likely cover up the incidents depicted in the main part of the film. See more »


When ffolliott stops his car outside the mill, he keeps moving the steering wheel as he was when the car was moving. The rear projection has stopped, but he is unsure and keeps pretending to steer. [Note: the character's name is spelled with no capital initial.] See more »


Van Meer: I see now. There's no help. No help for the whole poor suffering world. Oh! You cry peace, Fisher. Peace. And there was no peace. Only war and death. You're... You're a liar, Fisher. A cruel, cruel liar. You can do what you want with me. That's not important. But you'll never conquer them, Fisher. Little people everywhere who give crumbs to birds. Lie to them, drive them, whip them, force them into war. When the beasts like you will devour each other, then the world will belong to the little ...
See more »

Crazy Credits

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 »


Referenced in The Day of the Beast (1995) See more »


Harlem Congo
by Chick Webb and his Orchestra, arr. by Charlie Dixon
[The phonograph record played by the kidnappers during Van Meer's interrogation]
See more »

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User Reviews

Thrill Ride On A Mission
12 August 2006 | by (Greenwich, CT United States) – See all my reviews

Alfred Hitchcock directed many great movies, but few testify to his ability at marrying suspense, action, and comedy as does "Foreign Correspondent," a film which coincidentally carries Hitchcock's boldest political statement: That neutrality doesn't work when others are bent on war.

Joel McCrea stars as American newspaperman Johnny Jones, sent to Europe on the eve of World War II by the newspaper's publisher precisely because he's a man of action unschooled in politics and economics, "someone who doesn't know the difference between an 'ism' and a kangaroo," the old publisher declares. Jones goes along with the idea, even with changing his byline to the pompous "Huntley Haverstock," because as he puts it, "give me an expense account, and I'll cover anything." Fate intervenes when a photographer apparently murders Europe's last hope for peace right in front of Jones, spurring the reporter to react in a way that leads to a series of outrageously precarious and double-crossing incidents culminating in a plane crash-landing into the Atlantic Ocean.

Hitchcock arrived in the U.S. with a flourish, his first Hollywood movie being the Oscar-winning "Rebecca," and this his second that same year, 1940. Some back in Great Britain complained Hitchcock's leaving his native country as it faced Hitler all alone was desertion, but Hitchcock was doing all he could for King and Country, as "Foreign Correspondent" pulls all the stops to shake American viewers from their neutrality.

That sort of desperation would ruin most films, but here it only prods Hitchcock to singular and repeated acts of inventiveness as he shakes the tree. We see Jones climb out the window of the Hotel Europe, knock out the letters "EL" to underscore the film's message, and find his way into the hotel room of the girl he has been trying unsuccessfully to woo. There's an assassination in the rain and shot from above so we see little more than wet hats and umbrellas, and a long sequence inside a creaking windmill that has you thinking our hero's about to be discovered by the bad guys every 20 seconds. The film feels more vital for sequences like this: You can't imagine anyone trying to get away with this, yet Hitchcock keeps pulling it off.

Then there's the other revolutionary element of the film, its humor, ever-present throughout the picture in a way that doesn't cut against the grain of the suspense so much as amplify it, by keeping you off-guard and invested in the action. This is best exemplified by Edmund Gwenn's plummy turn as an evil assassin (no spoiler, he's introduced to us that way) bent on killing Jones, but so affable and borderline-snarky in his menace you can't root against him as much as you'd like to. As Gwenn's Rowley leads Jones up a church steeple to set up an accident, you wonder how Jones will get out of it but still chuckle at how Rowley tries to keep Jones from going back down: "You must see the 'orse guards!" Gwenn is one of two fantastic examples of reverse casting, the other being George Sanders as a good guy named ffolliett.

Hitchcock is very careful in presenting the bad guys. He never says they're Germans, though the implication is obvious. The chief baddie is ruthless but not without decent impulses, in a way that mirrors but goes beyond Willy in his later "Lifeboat." Hitchcock knew when the film was released, he would be attacked by those who wanted to keep appeasing Germany. For "Foreign Correspondent" to be successful, it needed to bring the audience along without noticing the ride, laughing with and pulling for Jones right up until the moment he does a radio broadcast in London while bombs burst around him, an eerie foreshadowing of what Edward R. Morrow would be doing for real only days after "Foreign Correspondent" opened in theaters.

You can't help but admire a film that was on the right side of history, but "Foreign Correspondent" may play better now than it ever did because of the way its pure cinema techniques work today, a style Tarantino and Leone admirers will no doubt recognize and appreciate, but that anyone can enjoy.

42 of 46 people found this review helpful.  Was this review helpful to you?

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