6.04.2007

Movie Monday Vol. 4:
Foreign Correspondent


The Blog's Movie Monday has this every-other-week thing goin' on. In Week 1, we reviewed a current movie; Week 2 we read about a classic; Week 3 was another modern flick. It's Week 4, so that must mean we're back in black ... and white.

The Blog's good buddy Bill Thornbro of The Times of Northwest Indiana is one of the more astute amateur film critics we know -- and when it comes to Alfred Hitchcock movies, we'd trust B.T.'s review any day of the week. But especially on Mondays. That's why we're proud to bring his review of a seldom talked about Hitchcock classic to the forefront this week.

And 'fess up. We know you want to be our next guest reviewer! All it takes is a quick e-mail and you're in like Flint, even though that wasn't a newspaper movie.

"Foreign Correspondent"
As reviewed by Bill Thornbro, Graphics Editor, The Times of Northwest Indiana

Released: 1940. Length: 2:00 in "glorious black and white."

Director: Alfred Hitchcock. Stars: Joel McCrea, Laraine Day, Herbert Marshall, George Sanders, Albert Basserman.

Find it here: Warner Home Video, separately or as part of Warner's outstanding nine-movie "Alfred Hitchcock Signature Collection."

Awards Circuit: Nominated for six Academy Awards -- Best Picture (it lost out to another Hitchcock film, "Rebecca"), Best Supporting Actor (Basserman), Best Art Direction (Black and White), Best Cinematography (Black and White), Best Effects (Special Effects) and Best Writing (Original Screenplay).

What Leonard Maltin says: **** "Tremendously entertaining film with several vintage Hitchcock showpieces." (From Leonard Maltin's 2007 Movie Guide)

Plot synopsis: In pre-WWII Europe, a reporter witnesses a political assassination, is nearly crushed to death in a Dutch windmill and survives a mid-ocean plane crash that, believe it or not, is ounce-for-ounce as thrilling as the CGI spectacle in "Cast Away." Oh -- and he falls in love.
Read the full review on the jump ...

Reality Check: The executive editor of The New York Morning Globe thinks Johnny Jones is a lousy byline for a foreign correspondent. So he changes the guy's name to "Huntley Haverstock." Makes perfect sense. There is even talk that Jones may have beaten up a policeman -- "in the line of duty," says his editor. Not only is Jones not fired on the spot, he gets a promotion. Somebody call HR.

B.T.'s Review: Editor Mr. Powers (the great Harry Davenport) is fed up with milquetoast foreign correspondents, "sages and oracles" long on analysis and short on information. He knows war is percolating in Europe and he needs a "good honest crime reporter." Enter easygoing Joel McCrea as clueless Johnny Jones, a reporter who'll cover anything -- provided he has an expense account.

This is not your typical Hitchcock thriller. While "North by Northwest" and "Notorious" involved spies and political intrigue, the politics were mere devices. The politics are serious business in "Foreign Correspondent."

Hitchcock is unapologetically appealing to U.S. president Franklin Roosevelt and the American people to enter the war. He knew his beloved England would not long survive without Uncle Sam, and he uses Jones to sell his propaganda.

To his credit, the movie is more than message. Hitchcock's background as a designer is reflected in the set designs and attention to detail. The screenplay is smart and the dialogue clever (one of the many writers was legendary Chicago newspaperman Ben Hecht).

In the final minutes of the movie, Adolf Hitler is bombing London and convergent correspondent Jones is broadcasting his story on the radio. Patriotic music swells. "All that noise you hear isn't static, it's death coming to London," he says. He begs America to enter the war because our lights are "the only ones left in the world." Fade to black.

It all sounds over the top -- unitl you remember the movie was released months before the actual Blitz, before Ed Murrow's historic broadcasts from London rooftops. Pearl Harbor was a year away.

Movie Monday Archives!
5.14.07: "Spider-Man 3" (MattE)
5.21.07: "Deadline -- U.S.A." (Chris Ross)

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