1940                        Spy thriller

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    • Joel McCrea Johnny Jones / Huntley Haverstock
    • Laraine Day Carol Fisher
    • Herbert Marshall Stephen Fisher
    • George Sanders Scott Ffolliott
    • Albert Basserman Van Meer
    • Robert Benchley Stebbins
    • Edmund Gwenn Rowley
    • Eduardo Ciannelli Krug
    • Martin Kosleck Tramp
    • Harry Davenport Mr Powers
    • Eddie Conrad Latvian diplomat


  • Dir:
  • Prod:
      Walter Wanger
  • Scr:
      Charles Bennett, Joan Harrison, James Hilton, Robert Benchley
  • Ph:
      Rudolph Maté
  • Ed:
      Dorothy Spencer, Otho Lovering
  • Mus:
      Arnold Newman
  • Art Dir:
      Alexander Golitzen
  • Prod Des:
      William Cameron Menzies
  • Sp Eff:
      Lee Zavitz

    (Wangler / United Artists)



    [ f o r e i g n   c o r r e s p o n d e n t : m o v i e  r e v i e w ]

    vhs dvd

    Rated: NR

    Story is essentially the old cops-and-robbers. But it has been set in a background of international political intrigue of the largest order. It has a war flavour, the events taking place immediately before and at the start of World War II; yet it can in no sense be called a war picture. Mystery and intrigue march in place.

    Add to this a cast carefully selected by director Alfred Hitchcock to the last, unimportant role. Joel McCrea may not have been Hitch's first choice for the lead role (Gary Cooper was) but he neatly blends the self-confidence and naivete of the reporter-hero, while Laraine Day, virtually a newcomer to pictures, only in the most difficult sequences misses out as a top-grade actress. Vet Herbert Marshall as the heavy, the brilliant George Sanders as McRea's fellow-reporter, 72-year-old refugee Albert Basserman as a Dutch diplomat, Edmund Gwenn as a not-to-be-trusted bodyguard, Eduardo Ciannelli as the usual hissable villian, are all tops. Comic touch is provided by Robert Benchley and Eddie Conrad.

    Story starts with the editor of a New York paper going nuts because his foreign correspondents cable nothing but rumour and speculation. He hits on the idea of sending one of his police reporters to dig factual material out of the Europe of August 1939. McCrea, who knows nothing of foreign affairs, immediately runs into the tallest story a reporter can imagine - a big-league peace organization, headed by Marshall, which is operating as nothing but a spy ring.

    McCrea runs into the double-cross organization when it kidnaps an honest Dutch diplomat (Basserman) and assassinates his imposter to give the impression that he is dead. Assassination sequence in the rain on the broad steps of an Amsterdam building (set is a tremendous and excellent re-creation of a whole block in Amsterdam) is virtualy a newsreel in its starkness.


    With a final budget of $1,500,000, Foreign Correspondent was Hitchcock's most expensive picture so far, though thanks to the war in Europe most of the money went on building full-sized recreations of Amsterdam locales, the largest of which being a ten-acre reconstruction of the Amsterdam public square complete with a sewer system to handle the artificial rain.

    The scene where the plane crashes into the sea and water streams in without a cut was achieved by releasing a tank of water that tore the rear projection screen open, flooding the cabin. Hitch boasted to Francois Truffaut that this was achieved in one shot.


    • 1940: Nominations: Best Picture, Supp. Actor (Albert Basserman), Original Screenplay, B&W Cinematography, B&W Art Direction, Special Effects

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