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Film / Foreign Correspondent

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One of Alfred Hitchcock's higher-budget productions, the 1940 thriller Foreign Correspondent is the story of American reporter Johnny Jones (Joel McCrea), who is sent to investigate the rumblings of war in Europe. Along the way, he uncovers a conspiracy, falls in love and possibly discovers the story of the century. The final scene resembles — but actually predates — Edward Murrow's broadcasts during the Blitz.

Co-starring Laraine Day, Herbert Marshall, and George Sanders, the film lost the Academy Award for Best Picture to another Hitchcock film from the same year, Rebecca.

This work contains examples of:

  • Affably Evil:
    • Fisher, the urbane, well-mannered Nazi spy
    • Rowley, the cheerful Cockney assassin.
  • Alliterative Name: Huntley Haverstock
  • Awesome McCoolname: Johnny Jones has a "fresh, unused mind", but his publisher wants him to be taken seriously so Jones is given the posher-sounding name, "Huntley Haverstock".
  • Anti-Villain: Fisher again.
  • Battle in the Rain: The assassination of the Van Meer impostor, and Johnny's chase, take place in a driving rainstorm.
  • Casual Danger Dialog: Many examples between Johnny and Scott, such as when they are discussing the ridiculous spelling of Scott's ridiculous last name while in a high-speed chase with an assassin.
  • Cold-Blooded Torture: Done to Van Meer, with a Nothing Is Scarier approach. Whatever it is, ffoliot is sickened and a female conspirator can't bear to watch, and he starts talking within seconds.
  • Creator Cameo: It's an Alfred Hitchcock movie. Here he is passing by on the street as Johnny leaves for the peace conference.
  • Funny Foreigner: The Latvian delegate, who doesn't speak a word of English and has a permanent goofy smile, but gets a knowing look when he catches Johnny in Carol's room.
  • Heroic Sacrifice: Fisher allows himself to drown in order to save his daughter, Johnny, and Scott. But mostly his daughter.
  • It Will Never Catch On: The film opens with Johnny's editor receiving a telegram from one of his correspondents, dated Aug. 19, 1939, reporting "absolutely no chance of war on account of late crops."
  • Killed Mid-Sentence: Johnny's plane has come under fire from a German warship. A lady passenger expresses incredulous outrage, saying "I shall see the British consul as soon as I—", before she is killed by an anti-aircraft round.
  • Leaning on the Fourth Wall: After Johnny and Carol rather matter-of-factly declare their love for one another, Johnny says "That cuts our love scene down quite a bit, doesn't it?".
  • Mobstacle Course: In one of the film's more memorable set pieces, Van Meer's assassin has to push his way through a crowded Amsterdam square to escape. As it is raining, we can see where he is going from the motion of the crowd's umbrellas.
  • Mood Whiplash: For its first half hour, the film seems to be a light romantic comedy. Then the assassination sends it straight into Hitchcock's usual territory.
  • My Nayme Is: Scott "ffolliot". Yes, two lower-case Fs. This is a rare affectation among certain upper-class British families, other examples including ffrench and fforbes. The most plausible explanation is that for a period in early modern written English, there was no proper upper-case F, and so the lower-case f was written twice in situations such as names where it had to be clear that the capital was intended. Some people then kept the ff even after distinct upper and lower-case versions of F existed, either out of tradition or out of legal paranoia that if their name wasn't exactly as written in old legal documents they might somehow lose property or privileges.
  • Revised Ending: The ending with Haverstock delivering a propaganda broadcast as bombs fall on London was written (by Ben Hecht) and shot after the rest of the film was completed. It replaced a more sardonic ending in which Ffolliott tells Haverstock how the enemies will likely cover up the incidents depicted in the main part of the film.
  • Rousing Speech: At the end of the film, in reality Hitchcock's plea for the Americans to help fight Nazi Germany.
  • Sleep Deprivation Punishment: The conspirators torture Ambassador Van Meers for information, using bright lights and loud jazz music to keep him awake for days on end.
  • Stiff Upper Lip: Scott ffoliot, as with most characters played by George Sanders, is a perfect example.
  • Windmill Scenery: Johnny pursues the assassin out of the city, into an area just covered in windmills. He goes to investigate the one windmill turning against the wind, and finds the assassin's accomplices holed up there.