Tuesday, January 29, 2019

CONSENSUS #86 - Foreign Correspondent (1940)

SYNOPSIS: An American reporter (Joel McCrea) is sent to pre-WWII Europe to report on treaty negotiations to avoid war. He gets involved in the kidnapping of a diplomat.  He is ensnared in espionage and romance. This is a Hitchcock movie.

BACK-STORY: Foreign Correspondent was directed by Alfred Hitchcock and was only his second American production (after Rebecca). It was released in 1940. It was Hitchcock’s attempt to help the British war effort.  The film has an incredible 14 writers which can be explained by the desire to keep up with current events during the filming. It was a critical and box office success. It was nominated for 6 Academy Awards including Best Picture (ironically, it lost to Rebecca), but won none. The events and characters are fictitious, but obviously Hitchcock meant it as a commentary on the storm clouds rising in Europe. It was dedicated to those forthright ones [foreign correspondents] who early saw the clouds of war while many of us at home were seeing rainbows…”.

TRIVIA:  Wikipedia, imdb, TCM

1.  It was based on an autobiographical book called Personal History by Vincent Sheean. Producer William Wanger purchased the rights for $10,000.  Little of the book made it into the screenplay.
2.  Alternate titles were “Imposter” and “Personal History”.
3.  This was Alfred Hitchcock’s second Hollywood movie after coming to America from England.  The first was “Rebecca” which was also released in 1940.
4.  Originally the movie was going to be set in the Spanish Civil War, but it ended too soon for the movie to be topical.
5.  It received five Academy Award nominations, but won none. It lost Best Picture to “Rebecca”.  Albert Besserman was nominated for Best Supporting Actor.  It was also nominated for Original Screenplay, Art Direction, Cinematography, and Special Effects.
6.  Besserman was German and did not speak English.  He memorized his lines phonetically.
7.  Hitchcock wanted Gary Cooper to play Jones / Haverstock, but Cooper did not want to make a thriller.  He later admitted he made a mistake.  Clark Gable turned down the role and Cary Grant was not available because he was filming “Only Angels Have Wings”.  He wanted Joan Fontaine to play Carol, but her studio would not loan her. 
8.  Hitchcock makes his cameo around the thirteen-minute mark.  He is reading a newspaper when Haverstock sees Meer getting in a car.
9.  Ben Hecht was brought in after the movie was completed to write a new ending which involved Haverstock giving an inspirational speech at a radio station.  The scene was filmed on July 5 and bombs fell on London on July 10.  The original ending had Haverstock discussing the events of the film on a transatlantic flight.
10.  Josef Goebbels admired the film and felt it was a “masterpiece of propaganda”.  The film was not shown in Germany until several years after WWII and not shown uncut until 1995.
11.  Hitchcock may have gotten his persona for his TV show from working with humorist Peter Benchley on this film.  Benchley wrote his own lines.

Belle and Blade  =  N/A
Brassey’s              =  5.0
Video Hound       =  N/A
War Movies         =  5.0
Military History  =  #86
Channel 4             =  not on list
Film Site                =  yes
101 War Movies  =  no

OPINION:  Once again, we have movie that is not really a war movie.  “Foreign Correspondent” is clearly a Hitchcockian mystery/thriller.  It is not even a good Hitchcock movie.  I would not put it in his top five.  The plot and characters are not realistic or believable.  It should not be on this list.


  1. IMHO, it is a not-bad spy thriller, but it is not a war movie.

    From Russia With Love, The Spy Who Came In From the Cold, and Funeral In Berlin all involve espionage and international intrigue, but no one considers them to be war movies.

    1. Agree. To be a war movie, an espionage movie must be set during a war. Foreign Correspondent is not. I do not consider Cold War espionage movies to be war movies. Manchurian Candidate would be an exception because it has a Korean War connection.


Please fell free to comment. I would love to hear what you think and will respond.