“Foreign Correspondent” is a lovely example of what I’d call a “rainy afternoon film.” It’s not one of Hitchcock’s best–not like “Rear Window,” “North by Northwest,” “Psycho,” etc–but it’s a neat little thriller set in the waning days of pre-WW2 peace.
Johnny Jones (Joel McCrea) is a bored reporter for the New York Globe, when his editor-in-chief decides to send him to Europe as a foreign correspondent. Beforehand, his editor decides Johnny Jones is too boring, so he renames Jones “Huntley Haverstock.” He’s introduced to the leader of a peace movement, Stephen Fisher (Herbert Marshall), who agrees to introduce him one of the most important diplomats in Europe, Van Meer (Albert Bassermann). At a luncheon, Jones meets, and falls in love with, Carol Fisher (Laraine Day). Care to guess who her father is?
As the story unfolds, there’s an assassination that turned out not to be an assassination, a car that seemingly disappears from a Dutch road, kidnappings, subterfuges, skin-of-the-teeth escapes, and danger lurking around every corner–this during peacetime.
Joel McCrea is a solid lead–handsome, dashing, and resourceful–but my favorite character is named Scott ffolliott (sic). He explains that an ancestor was beheaded by Henry VIII, so his mother removed the capital letter in its honor. ffolliott is played by George Sanders as one of those unflappable Brits we see in WW2 films: he talks quickly and in a lovely accent, and never seems to panic, no matter how many people are shooting at him.
“Foreign Correspondent” has plenty of twists and turns, although it feels overlong to me. Ten different writers worked on the screenplay, which may explain some of the odd segues and tone inconsistencies in the story.
There are some fun images though, including some that would ultimately end up in “North by Northwest.” In one, Johnson spies an airplane flying awfully low near a windmill he’s investigating. I imagined, of course, Cary Grant running from the crop-duster in “NxNW.” Another shot that ends up in “North by Northwest” is when Johnson escapes through the window of his hotel room, climbing along the ledge. Cary Grant ended up in a strange lady’s room. Johnson ends up in his girlfriend’s powder-room, where a little old lady is powdering her nose. (Nice touch: Johnson climbs along the neon “Hotel Europe” sign. He bumps into it, and the EL cuts out, leaving “HOT EUROPE.”)
If you have a rainy day, and access to it, I highly recommend “Foreign Correspondent.” It’s not what I would call “high-Hitchcock.” It is, however, perfectly entertaining. And who needs to think all the time, right?