Foreign Correspondent (1940) - Rotten Tomatoes

Foreign Correspondent (1940)




Critic Consensus: Alfred Hitchcock's Foreign Correspondent features a winning combination of international intrigue, comic relief, and some of the legendary director's most memorable set pieces.

Foreign Correspondent Trailers & Photos

Movie Info

Fourteen scriptwriters spent five years toiling over a movie adaptation of war correspondent Vincent Sheehan's Personal History before producer Walter Wanger brought the property to the screen as Foreign Correspondent. What emerged was approximately 2 parts Sheehan and 8 parts director Alfred Hitchcock--and what's wrong with that? Joel McCrea stars as an American journalist sent by his newspaper to cover the volatile war scene in Europe in the years 1938 to 1940. He has barely arrived in Holland before he witnesses the assassination of Dutch diplomat Albert Basserman: at least, that's what he thinks he sees. McCrea makes the acquaintance of peace-activist Herbert Marshall, his like-minded daughter Laraine Day, and cheeky British secret agent George Sanders. A wild chase through the streets of Amsterdam, with McCrea dodging bullets, leads to the classic "alternating windmills" scene, which tips Our Hero to the existence of a formidable subversive organization. McCrea returns to England, where he nearly falls victim to the machinations of jovial hired-killer Edmund Gwenn. The leader of the spy ring is revealed during the climactic plane-crash sequence--which, like the aforementioned windmill scene, is a cinematic tour de force for director Hitchcock and cinematographer Rudolph Mate. Producer Wanger kept abreast of breaking news events all through the filming of Foreign Correspondent, enabling him to keep the picture as "hot" as possible: the final scene, with McCrea broadcasting to a "sleeping" America from London while Nazi bombs drop all around him, was filmed only a short time after the actual London blitz. The script was co-written by Robert Benchley, who has a wonderful supporting role as an eternally tippling newsman. Foreign Correspondent was Alfred Hitchcock's second American film, and remained one of his (and his fans') personal favorites.more
Rating: PG (not rated)
Genre: Drama, Action & Adventure, Romance, Mystery & Suspense, Classics
Directed By:
Written By: Charles Bennett, James Hilton, Joan Harrison, Richard Maibaum, Robert Benchley
In Theaters:
On DVD: Sep 7, 2004
Warner Home Video


Joel McCrea
as Johnny Jones
Laraine Day
as Carol Fisher
George Sanders
as Scott ffolliott
Herbert Marshall
as Stephen Fisher
Eddie Conrad
as Latvian Diplomat
Crauford Kent
as Toastmaster
Frances Carson
as Mrs. Sprague
Sam Adams
as Impersonator
Dorothy Vaughan
as Jones' Mother
Betty Bradley
as Cousin Mary
Mary Young
as Auntie Maude
Jack Rice
as Donald
Marten Lamont
as Clipper Captain
Hilda Plowright
as Miss Pimm
June Novak
as Miss Benson
Roy Gordon
as Mr. Brood
Bert White
as Passenger
Thomas Pogue
as Passenger
Jack Voglin
as Passenger
William Stelling
as Flight Officer
John Meredith
as Flight Officer
George Cathrey
as Flight Officer
Leonard Mudie
as Inspector McKenna
Holmes Herbert
as Commissioner Ffollio...
Emory Parnell
as John Martin, Captain...
James Finlayson
as Dutch Peasant
Hermina Milar
as Little Dutch Girl
Douglas Gordon
as Taxi Driver
Colin Kenny
as Walter/Doctor
Paul Sutton
as Male Nurse
Jack Dawson
as Schoolmaster
Ken Christy
as Plainclothesman
Thomas Mizer
as Plainclothesman
June Heiden
as Two-year-old
Hans Von Morhart
as Dutch Policemen
Otto Hoffman
as Telegrapher
John George
as Bit part
Joan Leslie
as Jones' Sister
Paul Irving
as Dr. Williamson
Ferris Taylor
as Jones' Father
Harry Depp
as Uncle Biren
Ted Mapes
as Double for Joel McCr...
Meeka Aldrich
as Donald's Wife
Willy Castello
as Dutch Pilot
Bill Gavier
as Dutch Pilot
Jane Novak
as Miss Benson
Ian Wolfe
as Stiles the Butler
Herbert Evans
as English Doorman
Harry Semels
as Bit part
Frank Benson
as English Porter
Louis Borell
as Capt. Lansom
Gino Corrado
as Italian Waiter
Eily Malyon
as English Cashier
John Burton
as English Radio Announ...
Raymond Severn
as English Boy
Joe O'Brien
as Eton Boy
Billy Bester
as Eton Boy
Billy Horn
as Eton Boy
Ronald Brown
as Eton Boy
Louise Brien
as Secretary
Jack Alfred
as Copy Boy
E.E. Clive
as Mr. Naismith
Alfred Hitchcock
as Man with Newspaper
Wheaton Chambers
as Committeeman
Show More Cast

News & Interviews for Foreign Correspondent

Critic Reviews for Foreign Correspondent

All Critics (34) | Top Critics (4)

This film contains one of Hitchcock's most famous set pieces -- an assassination in the rain -- but otherwise remains a second-rate effort, as immensely enjoyable as it is.

Full Review… | March 27, 2009
Chicago Reader
Top Critic

Story is essentially the old cops-and-robbers. But it has been set in a background of international political intrigue of the largest order.

Full Review… | March 26, 2009
Top Critic

Into it Director Alfred Hitchcock, whose unmistakable stamp the picture bears, has packed about as much romantic action, melodramatic hullabaloo, comical diversion and illusion of momentous consequence as the liveliest imagination could conceive.

Full Review… | January 28, 2006
New York Times
Top Critic

Hitchcock's espionage thriller is a thoroughly enjoyable affair, complete with some of his most memorable set pieces.

Full Review… | January 26, 2006
Time Out
Top Critic

Creative Hitchcock thriller mixes fun, spectacular set pieces and political depth.

Full Review… | August 22, 2014
Classic Film and Television

While Albert Bassermann earned a Best Supporting Actor Oscar nomination for a somewhat hammy turn, the best performance comes from George Sanders, atypically cast as a fearless and resourceful hero rather than the cads and scoundrels he generally played.

Full Review… | April 18, 2014
Creative Loafing

Audience Reviews for Foreign Correspondent

It's fascinating watching war time dramas made during that particular war time, especially when it's from the 40s.

Hitchcock once again delivers with this thrilling war story about an American journalist on assignment in Europe who stumbles upon a scoop that could really be THE story that cements his career. That particular scoop happens to be a group of spies humorously fronting as a pacifist organization.

I think the structure and pacing could have been reworked, as a pivotal assassination scene happens fairly early, when I felt it should have happened at the midpoint. And, for a two hour film, it does feel a little long and disjointed. However, the film is still engaging enough that this is not a major flaw, and more of a personal nitpick.

The two leads aren't the most compelling, for a Hitch film or otherwise, but they could probably be worse, and seem to be at least trying their best. Where the film really shines is in the other stuff, like the typically strong direction, the wonderful cinematography, and some impressive setpieces like the aforementioned assassination scene set amongst a sea of umbrellas, the super taut creeping around the windmill scene, and the awesome plane sequence.

It's all some great stuff, you know, typical Hitch, but it's worth seeing. Really solid, pretty fun, and something you should check out, despite the flaws.

Chris Weber

Super Reviewer


If it wasn't for the corny propaganda... But anyway a great little thiller with some impressive set pieces. Hitchcock didn't need an overly constructed plot to make it work, injecting his finesse and humour at every step. Current action/adventure filmmakers should take note of this fine example of escapist cinema.

Pierluigi Puccini

Super Reviewer


Alfred Hitchcock's tale of foreign intrigue and reversible windmills centers around John Jones (Joel McCrea), a maverick crime reporter whose editor feels he would be perfect to cover the burgeoning rumours of war echoing around Europe (for, he reasons, what is happening in Europe if not a crime?). Jones fits the image of the loud-mouthed American to a tee, sticking his foot into it at every wrong opportunity, but, having been a crime reporter, he knows a frame up when he sees one. Arriving in Europe, he first attends a luncheon for the Dutch diplomat Van Meer (Albert Bassermann), who is to give a speech for the Universal Peace Party (which is headed by a man named Fisher and his daughter, Carol). Later, when Van Meer is very publicly shot, Jones and the daughter team up with fellow reporter ffoliott (George Sanders) to chase down the assassin.

There are some very suspenseful set pieces in the film, one of which takes place in a windmill, and another onboard a transcontinental flight. Both could be considered Hitchcock's 'signature' on the film, they are unmistakeably 'Hitchcockian'. However, it's the performances in the film, with McCrea's brashness and Sanders' suaveness, and even the scene-stealing performance of Edmund Gwenn (Kris Kringle from "Miracle on 34th Street") as a dangerous hitman, that make this film really great. All the espionage is wrapped up with a rousing call to defend the last bastion of liberty as the world pulls inexorably towards self-destruction. Every element of this film is masterfully done, and it is so much more than just a suspense film, the only way it could've lost the academy award in 1941 was to another Hitchcock film released the same year (that being "Rebecca"). If I had one complaint, it's that Alfred Newman's film score doesn't always jibe with what's taking place onscreen. It's a small complaint for a great film.

Mr Awesome
Devon Bott

Super Reviewer

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