While lesser known than Hitchcock’s other comic thrillers, Foreign Correspondent (1940) is an enjoyable and perhaps underrated wartime adventure bearing many earmarks of the Master of Suspense’s best. When the publisher of a New York newspaper gets fed up with the insubstantial European reporting of his staff, he goes off the board in search of a new voice: Johnny Jones (Joel McCrea), a snarky crime reporter rechristened with the unlikely pseudonym “Huntley Haverstock.” Sent to Europe, Jones gets the scoop he’s looking for when the leader of a peace organization, Van Meer (Albert Bassermann), is murdered right in front him. Jones’ pursuit of the assassin, which thrusts him into the path of cute-meet love interest Carol Fisher (Laraine Day), leads to a nest of German spies, whose sabotage of the European peace talks is prelude to war.
Foreign Correspondent’s obscurity is understandable: the humor is subtle, the pacing is occasionally slow, and the plot is on the rambly side. But it’s an entertaining wartime morale booster, and may be an underrated entry in Hitchcock’s canon. McCrea makes for a genial hero, Day is charming, and they’re surrounded by effective villainy and support: particularly notable is George Sanders as the droll “ffolliott.” The pre-war backdrop creates a menacing atmosphere that contrasts nicely against the light-hearted banter, which turns serious at just the correct moments. And finally, it boasts the famous setpieces for which Hitchcock is known: the assassination scene, the quiet windmill sequence, and especially the dramatic plane crash. Fans of Hitchcock’s body of work, and of this filmmaking period in general, will find plenty to enjoy.