Monday, July 28, 2014

Movie of the Week – Foreign Correspondent

This week’s movie: Foreign Correspondent (1940)

As WWII approaches in Europe, a young American reporter on his first assignment overseas tries to expose enemy spies in London.

Director Alfred Hitchcock made Foreign Correspondent between Rebecca and Suspicion. It was his second American film – he was loaned out by David O. Selznick to Walter Wanger to make the film. He worked with his frequent early-career writing partner Charles Bennett, as well as composer Alfred Newman (a nine time Oscar winner), cinematographer Rudolph Mate (who also shot one of the most brilliant films of all-time: The Passion of Joan of Arc), and art director Alexander Golitzen – an impressive group.

The film stars Joel McCrea and Laraine Day, and features Herbert Marshall, George Sanders, and Albert Bassermann in support.

Foreign Correspondent is an interesting film for multiple reasons. Chiefly, it is a propaganda film (even more so than The Lady Vanishes, which can be read as a propaganda film to some extent as well, especially the end sequence), clearly aimed at winning over American audiences, rallying them to the support of England and their struggle against the Nazis. And yet, Hitchcock was not allowed to reference the villains as Germans or have them speak German by the Production Code, even though it is clear that they are Germans. The film is very effective, with Joel McCrea’s rousing call to arms at the end hitting all the right notes (although, today one might argue that it is a bit heavy handed – but in the context of the time, America really did need to be awoken from its stupor). Even though this is a propaganda film, Hitchcock does not let that stop him from making something that is aesthetically and artistically quite compelling. The plane crash scene is incredibly inventive for example. It is a must for Hitchcock fans (a few other deep cuts worth seeing include: The 39 Steps, The Lady Vanishes, Suspicion, Shadow of a Doubt, The Trouble with Harry, Marnie, Torn Curtain, and especially Frenzy).

Trailer: Here
Available on: Blu-ray and Video On-Demand

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