MOVIE REVIEW | Foreign Correspondent (1940)


“You can hear the bombs falling on the streets and the homes. Don’t tune me out, hang on a while – this is a big story, and you’re part of it.”

Watching movies set around real life events usually means watching movies where the story tellers have the benefit of hindsight. The further away from the event, the more perspective the film makers have and the more prior knowledge you can assume the audience has. But watching movies about real life events that were made during, or close to, those real life events, provides an entirely different, yet no less compelling view of their subject. Made in 1940, World War II was still in its first year, and America was yet to officially get involved involved. But that didn’t stop Alfred Hitchcock from making a movie about World War II and America’s involvement, with Foreign Correspondent.

It’s the late 30s, Hitler’s running a bit of amuck across Europe, but war hasn’t quite been declared yet. Knowing it’s inevitable, the editor of the New York Globe (Harry Davenport) decides he needs a new kind of reporter in Europe. Someone fresh, and hungry, who won’t take no for answer. He decides his local crime reporter, Joel McCrea as John Jones is just the man. With a new pseudonym as Huntley Haverstock, he hops a steamer bound for London, with the plan to meet Stephen Fisher (Herbert Marshall), leader of the Universal Peace Party.

Once across the pond, Jones is quickly on the trail of a Dutch diplomat named Van Meer. Is Van Meer alive, dead, kidnapped, compromised? With some valuable knowledge inside his noggin that could help the Germans secure the war before it’s even declared, finding Van Meer is quickly Jones’ number one priority. With a little help from Fishers’ daughter (Larain Day as Carol), who quickly becomes his love interest, Jones is dragged into a world of intrigue and espionage, where no one is quite as they seem.

One of Hitchcock’s first American movies, his greenness as a film maker is pretty apparent throughout. The story and script are overly clunky in places. The action sequences are almost adorable in their goofiness. And the acting is hammier than Jon Ham eating a ham sandwich in Hamburg. But none of that makes it any less enjoyable. It kind of gets more and more charming as the hokiness increases.

It’s also improved by knowing how legendary a director Hitchcock would become. I found it really intriguing watching him try things that he didn’t quite have the skill to pull off yet. Knowing how good he would become at this kind of thing makes Foreign Correspondent interesting on a whole other level, apart from the story it’s telling.

I really liked Foreign Correspondent, but less as a war movie or spy movie, and more as a chapter in the filmography of Alfred Hitchcock. That’s not to take anything away from the rest. It is a better than average war movie, and a better than average spy movie. And it’s worth watching for those aspects alone. Or, to get an idea of how America felt about WWII during WWII. But to me, it’s most worth watching for the lil’ Hitchcock factor.

Foreign Correspondent
Directed By – Alfred Hitchcock
Written By – Charles Bennett, Joan Harrison

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