Starring Joel McCrea, Laraine Day, Herbert Marshall, George Sanders, Robert Benchley; dir: Alfred Hitchcock
We always enjoy placing ourselves in the hands of a master manipulator like Alfred Hitchcock. But in Foreign Correspondent there’s an extra level of manipulation, besides the usual suspense machinations. It’s seeing War as inevitable, after which some pretty big decisions (like taking up arms) follow. There’s not a moment in Foreign Correspondent where Hitchcock allows us to breathe the oxygen of peacetime normalcy. The opening scene between two crusty newspapermen establishes the atmosphere instantly: "Well, they haven’t declared war yet", one says to conclude this brief scene, the ‘yet’ carrying the weight of expectations for an audience seeking suspense.
Yes, it’s a propaganda film and its times largely shaped its character. Based on the Spanish Civil War memoirs of then-famous war correspondent Vincent Sheehan, its producer, the highly urbane Walter Wanger, wanted it updated not just to World War II but on an almost weekly basis to incorporate each new domino falling in Hitler’s blitzkrieg. Hitchcock carries this off with typical elegance in a quick scene of tumbling newspaper headlines - "Norway Falls", etc. Wanger’s prescience paid off however, as the bombs falling on London, which its final scene predicts, actually started a mere five days after ...