Gooooood evening. In this months episode of Presenting Hitchcock, Cory and Aaron find themselves early in Hitch’s studio career as they discuss “Foreign Correspondent”.
To those intrepid ones who went across the seas to be the eyes and ears of America
To the forthright ones who early saw the clouds of war while many of us at home were seeing rainbows
To those clear headed ones who now stand like recording angels among the dead and dying.
To the Foreign Correspondents, this motion picture discussion is dedicated
Picture Title: Foreign Correspondent
Screenplay- Charles Bennett & Joan Harris
Dialogue- James Hilton & Robert Benchley
Uncredited – Ben Hecht & Richard Maibaum
Starring: Joel McCrea, Laraine Day, Herbert Marshall, George Sanders, Albert Bassermann, Robert Benchley
Directed by: Alfred Hitchcock
Year Released: 1940
Synopsis from IMDb:
Johnny Jones is an action reporter on a New York newspaper. The editor appoints him European correspondent because he is fed up with the dry, reports he currently gets. Jones’ first assignment is to get the inside story on a secret treaty agreed between two European countries by the famous diplomat, Mr. Van Meer. However things don’t go to plan and Jones enlists the help of a young woman to help track down a group of spies.
Our Favourite Trivia:
Producer Walter Wanger bought the rights to Vincent Sheean’s political memoir “Personal History” (New York: Doubleday, 1935) for ten thousand dollars in 1935. After sixteen writers and five years, the script became the basis for this movie.
This was Sir Alfred Hitchcock’s second American movie. He was hired out to Producer Walter Wanger by David O. Selznick, with whom he was contracted.
Sir Alfred Hitchcock wanted either Barbara Stanwyck or Joan Fontaine for the female lead.
Sir Alfred Hitchcock wanted Cary Grant for the lead role, but he was busy with Only Angels Have Wings (1939).
Gary Cooper admitted to Sir Alfred Hitchcock that he’d made a mistake in turning down the lead.
Clark Gable turned down the lead role.
When this movie was made, America was not part of World War II. At this time, several Hollywood studios were pro-American involvement in the war. This movie is one of several movies made during the late 1930s and early 1940s that represented pro-American intervention in the war. These movies include Confessions of a Nazi Spy (1939), The Mortal Storm (1940), A Yank in the R.A.F. (1941), Man Hunt (1941), and Sergeant York (1941).
Sir Alfred Hitchcock took great interest in the scenes of the spy ring operating inside of a Dutch windmill. The creaky, atmospheric set was three-tiered and equipped with working gears, important to the plot as our hero’s coat becomes entangled in them. Also built for the movie was an airplane equipped with four propeller motors, a wingspan of one hundred twenty feet, and an eighty-four-foot fuselage, most of which ended up in a giant studio tank.
According to press release information, more than six hundred laborers, electricians, plumbers, carpenters, and prop men, worked on the sets for this movie. A six hundred foot by one hundred twenty-five foot stage was used to recreate Waterloo Station for a few scenes, and even more extravagantly, an entire square in Amsterdam was constructed on a ten-acre site at a cost of two hundred thousand dollars. The scenes in the square, including the elaborate assassination and getaway shots, took place during a rainstorm, so the set had to be rigged with an elaborate drainage system.
Albert Bassermann (who played the Dutch diplomat Van Meer) couldn’t speak a word of English and learned all his lines phonetically.
The ending with Joel McCrea delivering a propaganda broadcast as bombs fall on London was written (by Ben Hecht) and shot after the rest of the movie was completed. It replaced a more sardonic ending in which Ffolliott (George Sanders) tells Haverstock (McCrea) how the enemies will likely cover up the incidents depicted in the main part of the movie.
The Random Draw for Next Picture:
Next up, we’ll be discussing “Shadow of a Doubt” (1943)
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