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Hitchcock Blogathon #10: Foreign Correspondent

Ring a Ding Ding

Foreign Correspondent (1940)

      All Hitchcock movies have an element of humor to them, even the straight horror ones such as Psycho, but none of his mysteries is funnier than Foreign Correspondent. I developed a certain fondeness for Joel McCrea after seeing this one. I would not say the man is a great actor but he is funny, if not dry. Paired with George Sanders, the movie is full of laughs.

     My favorite aspect is Sanders’ character’s name. It’s ffolliott, spelled with two Fs both lowercase because one his relatives was beheaded by Henry VIII and his wife lowercased the letters in the man’s memory. Only Hitchcock would design a joke like that.

     Set just before England goes to war with Germany, McCrea’s Johnny is assigned as a foreign correspondent in England and the start of the film pokes fun at the many English-American differences in manner and dress. Johnny’s first assignment involves him interviewing Dutch diplomat Van Meer, whom he happens to run into on his way the event where the foreigner is the guest of honor. He shares a cab with the man but after they arrive at the event it is announced Van Meer was detained and unable to join the guests. Johnny also meets love interest Carol Fisher (Laraine Day) at the event. Johnny goes to Amsterdam looking for Van Meer, and finds him although the diplomat does not remember the reporter. On the spot Van Meer is shot and Johnny chases after the murderer. He happens to jump into a car occupied by Carol and ffolliott who humor him with the chase that concludes at a windmill.

     The windmill set is quite impressive, full of winding staircases, windows and rotating cogs. Therein Johnny must sneak about past some Germans and into an upstairs room where he finds Van Meer, alive. It turns out the assassinated one was “a substitute” to make it look as though the diplomat is dead when in fact he is being held captive until he reveals the memorized content of a secret clause of a peace treaty. Upon returning to London, Johnny discovers that one of the men at the windmill, a German in a turtleneck, is pals with Carol’s father, the head of a peace organization, he tells the father of the woman he plans to marry about his suspicions. I’ll stop there to save the surprises.

     Foreign Correspondent tends to go unnoticed among Hitchcock’s work but I really consider it among my favorites. It is full of laughs and a story that unravels in typical Hitchcock fashion.

The MacGuffin: Treaty Clause 27.

Where’s Hitch? 12 minutes into the film when McCrea leaves his hotel, Hitchcock is outside in a hat and coat and reading a newspaper.

Source: Alfred Hitchcock: A Life in Darkness and Light by Patrick McGilligan

I will be posting reviews of Hitchcock movies every hour ending at 8 p.m. today, but other members of the Classic Movie Blog Association, which is hosting the blogathon, have plenty to offer also. Links to their articles is up at the CMBA site. Check them out!

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2 Responses

  1. One of my favorites, too!

  2. Very underrated and even relatively obscure today though it was nominated for six Oscars including Best Picture. I disagree about Joel McCrea (“The Palm Beach Story,” “Sullivan’s Travels,” “Ride the High Country”) and think he was superb in the lead. Thought Laraine Day was weak. George Sanders added much as did Robert Benchley, Edmund Gwenn (hilarious sequence w/him), Herbert Marshall and the Great Dane. The plane crash scene is a classic and ingeniously staged. Very happy you reviewed this one!

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