Movie Details
Recommendation

Foreign Correspondent (1940)

 
 

The Cogs Turn for McCrea

Joel McCrea in Foreign Correspondent (1940)

With Europe on the verge of war Mr. Powers (Harry Davenport), the editor of the New York Globe, is frustrated by the dull reports he receives from his foreign correspondents. Aware that crime reporter Johnny Jones (Joel McCrea - The Lost Squadron) is disillusioned with the nonsense reports he has to file assigns him as a new foreign correspondent to cover a last ditch attempt to broker a peace treaty headed up by businessman Stephen Fisher (Herbert Marshall) and politician (Van Meer (Albert Basserman). But things turn dangerous when right in front of Johnny's eyes he witnesses an assassination and decides to give chase in doing so involving Stephen Fisher's daughter, Carol (Laraine Day - The High and the Mighty) and British reporter Scott Ffolliott (George Sanders) when he commandeers their car to give chase.

"Foreign Correspondent" is one of the few movies which have lead me to have an argument with another reviewer as he praised the storyline yet when it came to another movie with a similar storyline called it preposterous. You see "Foreign Correspondent" is about an American reporter who when he witnesses an assassination goes all heroic which in my books is a bit far fetched, yet this other reviewer praised it in his review of this movie but criticized the same thing in another movie. I mention this because "Foreign Correspondent" happens to be an Alfred Hitchcock movie and as such is another movie which is rated highly, higher than similar movies from lesser known directors.

Laraine Day in Foreign Correspondent (1940)

Now in fairness Hitchcock's "Foreign Correspondent" is worthy of a lot of praise even if the basic premise of a journalist giving chase to an assassin is far fetched. The praise starts with Hitchcock's playfulness as the opening series of scenes features the quick fire banter you would expect from a screwball comedy along with characters who have that slight comedic over the top nature. It is a surprisingly fun opening and not what you are expecting with it only faltering when it comes to the comedy of Johnny going all googly eyed over Carol.

But then when the assassination attempt takes place and Johnny gives chase Hitchcock flips the switch and we go into tense thriller territory as Johnny ends up following the assassin first through a sea of umbrellas and then on to a windmill. It is surprising how effective the switch in tone works and the attention to detail comes in starting with a scene where all of a sudden Johnny notices the sails on a windmill going against the wind. What follows is surprisingly gripping and certainly not what you expect after such a playful opening.

As for the acting well in truth Joel McCrea is well chosen as a heroic journalist as he has that look and attitude which is fitting someone who isn't afraid to throw himself in to a dangerous situation even though I struggle with the believability of the character who in one scene whistles in the face of danger. And then there is the sweet Laraine Day as Carol who to be honest delivers a very nice performance but one which at least to start with appears to be just a stereotypical romantic interest who looks cute.

What this all boils down to is that "Foreign Correspondent" despite having a premise which is a bit of a push to believe is still a fantastic thriller although you wouldn't believe so if you only watched the first few scenes which are almost text book screwball.

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