This essay is Thrilling Days of Yesteryear’s contribution to the Fabulous Films of the 1940s Blogathon, hosted this week (February 17-22) by members of The Classic Movie Blog Association. For participating blogs and the films discussed, click here for more information. Oh, and for those of you who’ve not seen the movie I’ll discuss…be forewarned there are spoilers.
Frequent visitors to Thrilling Days of Yesteryear are no doubt aware that my viewing of offerings on The Greatest Cable Channel Known to Mankind™ has been somewhat curtailed since my parents and I decided to rent a house together: the ‘rents, as they are affectionately known, don’t quite share my classic movie mania—preferring to while away their hours in front of the TV watching sporting events or “reality” programming featuring very unpleasant individuals conversing with one another in language that is frequently bleeped for cable. But on occasion, particularly when it’s their bedtime, I am able to steal out into the living room and turn on
I was going to be up for a while, so I stuck around for the movie that came on afterward—Alfred Hitchcock’s Rebecca (1940). (Apparently it was David O. Selznick night.) I’d already seen Rebecca as well…though in its defense, the movie doesn’t fill me with nearly the amount of revulsion as GWTW (it’s shorter, for one thing). But as I watched Rebecca, I couldn’t help but feel that I would much rather be watching (something I rectified for this blogathon) the other Hitchcock film that was nominated for Best Picture that same year (and five additional categories as well): Foreign Correspondent (1940).
|Nothing ever happens in a Hitchcock film by accident. As Johnny Jones (Joel McCrea) makes his escape from the spies at the windmill, a wooden beam and several markings form a crude caricature of Hitler, as you can see in the space to McCrea's right.|
In addition to McCrea and Day, I think the casting in Correspondent is one of the reasons why I have such an affection for the film…beginning with Herbert Marshall, whose suave and debonair manner makes him one of Hitchcock’s great deceptive villains—the revelation that he is part of the spy ring who’s kidnapped Van Meer comes as quite a shock, even though viewers are kind of tipped off to the fact that there’s something not quite kosher about him by the presence of a rather sinister-looking dog. In Correspondent, actors frequently play against type: Edmund Gwenn, whom we remember fondly as “Santa Claus” from the beloved Miracle on 34th Street (1947), effectively plays a ruthless assassin. Both Marshall and Gwenn had worked with Hitch before (
in Murder!; Gwenn in The Skin Game, Waltzes from
Vienna and the future The Trouble with
Harry) and their performances here stand as two of the best of their
|Another great visual moment (in three separate scenes): an establishing shot of Jones' hotel in Holland...|
|...then a close-up of Johnny's typewriter, announcing to his editor he's "hot on [the] trail"...|
|...and punctuates this during his escape from the spies in his hotel room by accidentally putting the "E" and "L" out of commission (which also comments that the situation on the continent is indeed "hot").|