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Sunday, June 14, 2015

FOREIGN CORRESPONDENT (1940)

Alfred Hitchcock’s ‘other’ 1940 Best Pic Oscar Nominee, the one not produced by David O. Selznick. And, unlike the award-winning REBECCA, it feels like a Hitchcock pic . . . about 25 minutes in. Up to that point, this politically topical thriller tags along with news-beat reporter Joel McCrea as he gets up to speed on the international peace movement in New York & London. But it’s a move to Amsterdam for the next conference that gets Hitch up to speed, displaying a lux Hollywood version of his personal cinematic style in a masterfully organized assassination sequence, played under umbrellas. After that tour de force, one picaresque set piece follows another to smash effect. (And one dud, Edmund Gwenn’s unlikely retired hitman.) Only the non-starter romance between McCrea & Laraine Day holds things down. Hitch always regretted missing out on Gary Cooper for the lead, but McCrea’s great, with a mid-weight approach to this American naïf in the woods that's both attractive and makes dramatic sense. It’s Day who drops the ball; wholesome & efficient as daughter to Herbert Marshall’s peace ambassador, she doesn’t connect with McCrea or Hitch. (Her cool-to-the-touch facade works better against Cary Grant’s heat in MR. LUCKY/’43.) But with so many spot-on supporting players (George Sanders, Albert Basserman, Eduardo Ciannelli); phenomenal production values & eye-popping visual effects (check out the fine EXTRA on Criterion’s DVD); as well as fun-to-spot Hitchcock motifs (tower plunge/nuns; a Mr Memory style MacGuffin; even probable ideas from Hitch’s never made TITANIC film, refitted for the plane crash at sea); its terrific entertainment.

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