***/**** Image B Sound B Extras B-
starring Joel McCrea, Laraine Day, Herbert Marshall, George Sanders
screenplay by Charles Bennett, Joan Harrison; dialogue by James Hilton, Robert Benchley
directed by Alfred Hitchcock
by Walter Chaw Largely dismissed as a jingoistic anomaly in the generally anti-establishment Hitchcock canon (and dwarfed by the meatier fort/da of the same year's Rebecca), Foreign Correspondent is arguably a superior representation of the screwball genre to which the later Mr. and Mrs. Smith aspired. That it has political undertones is undeniable (its spies and hunters plot a throwback to Hitch's Gaumont years), but most conspicuous is the kind of macabre visual wit that would define the bulk of Hitchcock's early American output. Consider a haunting sequence with titular journalist Huntley Haverstock (Joel McCrea) trying to find a missing getaway car in a Dutch field dotted with windmills that begins with a gust of wind blowing off his hat (a castration metaphor--the film is full of them) as his girl-Friday Carol Fisher (Laraine Day) laughs uncontrollably, proceeds to the inside of a false mill where Haverstock is nearly discovered when he gets his coat caught in gears, and ends with an exchange with non-English speaking Dutch police resolved by one of Hitch's precocious little-girl characters. With an intimidating self-possession, an already mature Hitchcock presents in fast fashion a dizzying series of technical gags (the suspicious windmill suspicious because it's turning in the wrong direction--compare to the tennis crowd of Strangers on a Train and this film's own chase beneath a canopy of umbrellas); a preoccupation with birds as representatives of the corruption of social order (introduced in Young and Innocent, it became a central throughline in Hitchcock's career); a serio-comic scene of near-discovery; and a slapstick vignette that makes asses of the police, Hitch's favourite target.