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Overall Rating

Awesome: 36.11%
Worth A Look63.89%
Average: 0%
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4 reviews, 12 user ratings

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Foreign Correspondent
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by Jay Seaver

"The bromance tops the romance, but the thrills are fine."
4 stars

"I don't want correspondence, I want news!" bellows an editor toward the start of "Foreign Correspondent", and to a certain extent, the movie takes that to heart. It's not necessarily well-thought-out or prettily told, but it is exciting and full of action, and as up-to-date as a fictional movie made while history is happening can be.

The reporter dispatched from New York to London as a result of that outburst in 1940 is Johnny Jones (Joel McCrea), a crime reporter of the wisecracking and muckraking variety. He's pointed in the direction of Dutch diplomat Van Meer (Albert Bassermann) and Peace Party leader Stephen Fisher (Herbert Marshall), although he must admit to finding Fisher's daughter Carol (Laraine Day) more interesting than the attempt to prevent war in Europe. But when Van Meer is assassinated while attending a summit right before Johnny's eyes and something seems out of place as they chase down the killers, he knows he's got a story, at the very least.

Foreign Correspondent doesn't quite hit the ground running - Johnny's attempts to get into Carol's good graces have a bit of the feeling of stall tactics while director Alfred Hitchcock and four credited writers (along with another dozen feverishly working to update the script to match the news coming out of Europe) lay out the situation and some of the players, getting the audience familiar enough to have a personal stake in what's going on. Large chunks of the actual plot are actually sort of nonsensical - I'm not sure what good a secret treaty is if only two people know its contents, for instance. The romance between Johnny and Carol is maybe an even bigger mess, even if it does give the movie one of its best exchanges.

That bit - supposedly taken from Hitchcock and wife Alma Reville's own romance - is a demonstration of why plot is far from the most important thing in a movie such as this. It's a thing to hang moments on, and this is a movie filled with snappy banter, whether it be Jones playing clever with his editor or Robert Benchley typifying the sort of layabout that the editor wants to get away from (Benchley wrote his own lines, though foreign correspondent was not a post he held during his journalism career, preventing an irony overload). Some of the best bits come courtesy of George Sanders as Scott ffolliott, an English journalist and friend of Carol's who livens up every scene he's in.

One almost wishes there had been a series of Jones & ffolliott movies - the pairing of the wisecracking American with a dryly sardonic Englishman to seek the truth is that much fun. McCrea and Sanders aren't playing complex characters, but they nail what they need to: McCrea a guy who doesn't so much affect immaturity as use the impression of it to his advantage and Sanders as someone a lot more driven than the public-school facade indicates. Laraine Day is quite a likable love interest, although she's never really given the chance to really dig into what could be a meaty role. Herbert Marshall handles the role of her father quite well, though, especially as it grows in size and importance over the course of the film with some tricky bits to navigate.

This is Hitchcock's second American picture and while it's not one of his classics, he acquits himself quite well. He doesn't so much de-emphasize the silly parts in favor of the smarter ones as much as he allows the latter to work quietly while making sure to find a laugh or two in the former. While not wall-to-wall action, it's got its share of chases and standoffs and an impressive plane crash at the climax. He does all this better enough than most that one notices, such as a sequence where Johnny sneaks through a windmill filled with spies, where Hitchcock uses the openness of the structure both to increase the tension and let the audience see that he's not cheating anywhere.

It's not perfect - the ending is obviously tacked on to try to keep up with actual events - but it's a fun story that likely gave the audience facing the imminent outbreak of war a good time without dismissing what was going on around them.

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originally posted: 07/19/13 23:59:08
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User Comments

8/21/18 Mike Honcho decent 5 stars
8/18/16 Suzanne The windmill scene is pure Hitchcock; George Sanders sparkles 4 stars
9/02/05 Zack boring at first but it gets a lot better 4 stars
4/16/05 Gail Crawford good movie 5 stars
4/15/05 Marilyn excellent 5 stars
9/14/04 John A. Nesbit Way under rated. Very enjoyable one by the Master 4 stars
6/25/04 william masters removing the first reel grealty improves this fun Hitchcock film 4 stars
6/11/04 Sean Scanlan Alfred Htchcock is the best director 5 stars
5/21/04 Sean Scanlan Alfred Hitchcock at his best 5 stars
1/25/01 R.W. Welch Somewhat overplotted, but generally well done cloak and dagger flick. 4 stars
1/04/01 PATRICK JOSEPH JAMES CORR Well done mystery.Quite relevant and topical as current events at the time of its filming! 5 stars
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  16-Aug-1940 (NR)
  DVD: 07-Sep-2004

  11-Oct-1940 (PG)

  05-Dec-1940 (PG)

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