Saturday, January 19, 2008

Huntley Haverstock: Foreign Correspondent

Foreign Correspondent was Alfred Hitchcock's second American film, which was made in the same year as (and would lose the Oscar to) Rebecca, his first American film. (Note that 40 years ago, the snobs were saying that Hitch's best work was his English stuff, which serves as a good example that it doesn't matter much what art critics say, as long as they're talking.)

Astute as he is, The Boy has come to rely on Sir Alfred as a brand of quality, and so we settled down to watch this early masterpiece. I guess, like most folk these days, I regard his '50s work most highly, and so was surprised at how good this was. I expected it to be good, but at the point where the movie might have been expected to end, there's a whole segment with an airplane and an almost Lifeboat setup. This segment occurs close to the two hour mark, and yet you don't get the butt-fidget-itis you do in a lot of today's 2+ hour films.

The story concerns American reporter Johnny Jones (Joel McCrea) sent to Europe with a fake name ("Huntley Havertstock") to (in part) interview the head of a peace advocacy organization. From there he gets involved in a complicated plot involving assassination and war, and a romance with a lovely girl (the late Laraine Day) whose father may or may not be involved in anti-English shenanigans.

(This was pretty bold, when you think about it. It wasn't certain what side of the war we were going to join. And while the bad guys are never identified, they do have thick german accents.)

Anyway, this film moves, and I'd probably put it ahead of the '35 39 Steps. Although I tend to think of it as an "early" Hitch, he'd been making films for 20 years, from the silent era and throughout the '30s. By the time America got him, he was a well-polished craftsman.

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