Hitchcock: Foreign Correspondent

Foreign_Correspondent_trailer_29

In 1939, Producer David O. Selznick signed Alfred Hitchcock to a seven-year contract bringing the British director to Hollywood. Selznick either produced or lent Hitchcock over to other studios, but during their time together, their four collaborations enhanced each other’s filmography. It started off with a bang with a Best Film win at the Oscars for Rebecca. Another Hitchcock film competed that year with six nominations but didn’t win, Foreign Correspondent.  

The 13th Academy Awards in 1940 had some amazing competition:

BEST FILM                                   

Rebecca (Won)
All This, and Heaven Too
Foreign Correspondent  
The Grapes of Wrath
The Great Dictator
Kitty Foyle
The Letter
The Long Voyage Home
Our Town
Philadelphia Story

 BEST DIRECTOR 

John Ford, Grapes of Wrath (Won);  Alfred Hitchcock, RebeccaSam Wood, Kitty Foyle; and William Wyler, The Letter

I have not seen Kitty Foyle (Ginger Rogers won Best Actress) or All This, and Heaven Too, and it would be difficult to pick a winner, but I sure enjoyed The Letter starring Bette Davis.

Foreign Correspondent is a thriller-love-international story involving Huntley Haverstock (Joel McCrea) who’s sent on his first assignment from the New York Globe to interview key political leaders and question them whether Europe will go to war. He falls for Carol (Laraine Day) and befriends another reporter Scott Ffolliott (George Sanders), and the three weave around plot twists and awesome set designs before crashing into the ocean at the story’s end. Nominated for an Oscar for their writing, Joan Harrison and Charles Bennett created a screenplay rich with comedic bantering at a fast tempo. Alfred Hitchcock provides the thrills and suspense whether his protagonist hides in a windmill, escapes via hotel ledge, or pursues an adversary through a sea of umbrellas. How did Hitchcock manage the plane crash? As a guest on the Dick Cavett show, Hitchcock revealed, “I had a test pilot go out off Santa Monica. And dive with a camera on the front of the plane toward the ocean. Pull out at the last moment.” In 1940, this was innovative.

It’s the marvelous cinematography by Rudolph Maté, the production designs and the special effects by Alexander Golitzen, Paul Eagler, and Thomas T. Mouilton that make Foreign Correspondence wonderful to watch. Hitchcock’s silent era foundation has a place here–messages, maps, hotel signs, road signs, and telegrams silently convey the narrative. His attention to details is one admirable reason why he’s great after all these years. 4/5.

Which Selznick-Hitchcock film is your favorite? I haven’t seen The Paradine Case.
Is it as good as Spellbound? 

34 thoughts on “Hitchcock: Foreign Correspondent

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  1. I hate to say this, but I intensely dislike all of the work Hitchcock did for Selznick. I cannot even consider them to be Hitchcock’s work at all. They are Selznick pictures in every frame. Spellbound is the worst of the bunch, but my personal choice for that dishonor is Rebecca. In Foreign Correspondent, the director searches so desperately for something to engage him that it tires us tremendously. The Paradine Case is simply worthless, nothing there to even consider in aesthetic terms, good or bad.

    1. I wondered what their relationship was like–stifling, etcetera. I’ve read there were a lot of writers involved suggesting too many cooks in the kitchen. The bureaucracy behind making a film is mind-boggling. It certainly was for Hitchcock. I loved the set designs especially Spellbound. Rebecca? I loved Daphne du Maurier’s book. The only thing about the film that I found annoying was Lawrence. I’ve never really responded to him as an actor. But the film was beautiful and haunting to me. Was it the story or the directing that has you disliking the film?

      1. Neither have I ever been a fan of Olivier. He destroyed two of literature’s greatest characters; Hamlet and Heathcliff. I also liked the book of Rebecca, but found the film unbearable. I loved what Hitchock did with du Maurier’s story, The Birds, and,, unlike you, did not find that film slow at all. quite the opposite, for me the birds is hitchcock’s most engrossing film..not a wasted shot. I found Vertigo boring and dull,so much so that it took me thirty years to come to any appreciation for it whatsoever. I still do not think it one of his better efforts, but can at least give him an A for Effort. the sets in Spellbound did notimpress me at all, possibly because i expected much more from Dalii, and I found Peck and Bergman a poor match, although I like both of them individually. In short, Hitchock needs autonomy. He is the puppetmaster, never the puppet. Subordinating himself to such a strong-willed producer was a mistake he must regret far more than we who have been subjected to the results of this unfortunate alliance.

    1. Ian, yes he sure was! I find it interesting to note that some of his films are face paced and frenetic (F.C.) while others are, at times, excruciatingly slow paced (Vertigo and The Birds and Psycho). The speed of the story telling plays a part in the tension, I know. With the mind-torture of the music and the expressions of the cast members as you wait and wait and wait for the pounce of the plot point….

  2. ‘The Paradine Case’ is an overblown courtroom drama which is hardly worth bothering with, as Bill points out. (Although I can always watch Laughton, in anything.) Like him, I am also no fan of ‘Spellbound’. But I have to disagree about ‘Rebecca’, which for me, captured the feel of the book very well. It is so long since I have seen ‘Foreign Correspondent’, I would have to watch it again, to make a valid comment.
    Best wishes, Pete.

    1. Pete, 0-2 for “The Paradine Case”. Too bad! Well, I’ll probably rent it some time. I enjoyed Spellbound very much probably because Ingrid is my favorite movie actress–I love her in everything, plus the set design, those Dali sets and the dream sequence were cool and original, I appreciated the efforts. I forgot to rate F.C. I’d give it a 4 out 5 stars. 🙂

  3. Pete, I agree that Rebecca captured the feel of the book, as Selznick excelled at this type of picture, but I found very little of Hitchcock in the movie. Had William Wyler directed it, the picture would have been pretty much the same.

    1. Maybe that’s why I like it, Bill. Not a huge fan of Hitch, with a few notable exceptions.
      As for Olivier, I think he belonged on a stage, not a film set. But I did like some of his performances over the years.
      Hope all’s well in LIma.
      Best wishes, Pete.

  4. I hadn’t even heard of Foreign Correspondent Cindy, pardon my ignorance. But Rebecca was indeed a great film, well deserved to win IMHO. Btw, speaking of classic films, I just reviewed two recent films set in the Hollywood golden age, curious to hear what you think!

  5. Foreign Correspondent is one of all time favorites. Watch it every couple of months. The other three, ah, not so much. Hitchcock is one reason I don’t give much credo to the Oscars. Never got an Oscar for Best Director. Not only was he a director of so many great movies, he was also a ground breaker in techniques. You mentioned how much you love Notorious. One of my favorites too. Claude Rains walking up the steps to the door where ‘they’ are waiting for him is one of my all times ending scenes. Another one is the long walk that ends The Third Man.
    It is said that Hitchcock’s best collaborator, his wife, Alma, took second fiddle in Notorious to Ben Hecht; but to be overlooked because of Hecht is certainly nothing to be ashamed of. Hecht was an real artist and Notorious is one of his masterpieces.

    1. Hi Don, I’m glad we think alike! The two scenes you mentioned in Notorious are my favorites, too. I would also add the cellar scene. It’s one of my favorite love stories. Nothing beats the descent down the stairs with the black and white floor and the final shot on the key in her hand. It’s just brilliant. I enjoyed Foreign Correspondent, too. 🙂

  6. Great post! You asked if “The Paradine Case” was as good as “Spellbound.” I would say no, and Hitchcock would have agreed with me. There are some great moments, but it was more of Selznick film than a Hitchcock production.

      1. Yes indeed. As a matter of fact, I have a special place in my heart for the film. My grandmother loves it, and I will often take it over to her house to see it with her. She also adores “Rear Window” (which is one of my 5 equally-favorite Hitchcock films). I wrote a bit about Foreign Correspondent a while back (when Criterion released a Blu-ray):
        https://hitchcockmaster.wordpress.com/2014/02/05/blu-ray-review-foreign-correspondent-the-criterion-collection/

  7. Here are the films I’ve seen or own on DVD (x). The ones in caps are favorites that I’ve watched numerous times and know particularly well. The 39 Steps (1935), Foreign Correspondent (1940), Suspicion (1941), Shadow of a Doubt (1943)(x), Notorious (1946)(x), Rope (1948), Dial M fo Murder (1954), REAR WINDOW (1954)(x), To Catch a Thief (1955)(x), The Trouble With Harry (1955)(x), THE MAN WHO KNEW TOO MUCH (1956)(x), VERTIGO 1958)(x), NORTH BY NORTHWEST (1959)(x), Psycho (1960), The BIRDS (1963)(x), Marnie (1964), Torn Curtain (1966), Frenzy (1972)(x), Family Plot (1976). I borrowed Foreign Correspondent from the library last year, and I enjoyed it very much. I’d like to see it again. Unlike some people, I actually love slow films, as long as they are compelling (a classic example would be Flight of the Phoenix [1965]). I’ve watched Vertigo, Rear Window, and The Birds more times than I can count, and always look forward to watching them again. There isn’t a film among those listed that I disliked (and some of them I have seen more than once), and I would very much like to see every Hitchcock film eventually. I am also a fan of the Brian De Palma films that are influenced by Hitchcock, including, but not limited to, Obsession (1976), Dressed to Kill (1980), Blow Out (1981), Body Double (1984), Raising Cain (1992), and Femme Fatale (2002). I have all but Obsession on DVD (and want that one badly!).

  8. Wow!! The way he filmed the plane crash sounds really interesting, as well as risky (but that’s what made him such a great director!! I haven’t see ‘Foreign Correspondence’, unfortunately!! Would love to.
    Generally see, almost all of his Hollywood films, and some British films!!
    Am yet to see any of Hitchcock’s work from the Silent era!!

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