Greatest Film Scenes
and Moments

Foreign Correspondent (1940)


Written by Tim Dirks

Title Screen
Movie Title/Year and Scene Descriptions

Foreign Correspondent (1940)

In Alfred Hitchcock's political thriller set just before the outbreak of war on the Continent:

  • the assassination scene in Amsterdam when Dutch statesman Van Meer (Albert Bassermann) (actually a doppelganger) was shot in the face as he mounted the steep stairs in the rain by a photographer with a gun (hired by a secret spy organization); and the image of a sea of bobbing black umbrellas revealing the escape route of the assassin
  • the windmill set (including the sounds of the wind in the sails and the wooden gears), actually a hideout for Nazi spies, where the getaway car after the assassination suddenly disappeared; and the mystery of the mill blades turning the wrong direction, signaling a Nazi airplane to land, to pick up the kidnapped Dutch statesman; the film's MacGuffin was the secret Clause 27 in a peace treaty, memorized by Dutch diplomat Van Meer who was one of the signatories of the treaty; the film revolved around trying to locate and save the diplomat (and prevent his torture) - because he was the key to maintaining peace in Europe in 1939
  • NY crime reporter Johnny Jones/Huntley Haverstock (Joel McCrea) had been sent to Europe to report on the crisis, and unwittingly found himself embroiled in the troubling situation when he uncovered a nefarious spy organization run by Stephen Fisher (Herbert Marshall), the father of his love interest Carol (Laraine Day)
  • the tense scene atop Westminster Cathedral's bell tower as contract killer Rowley (Edmund Gwenn) cajoled reporter Johnny Jones/Huntley Haverstock and readied to push him off, but ended up tumbling to his own death
  • the spectacularly convincing trans-atlantic plane crash disaster from the cockpit's point of view (over the shoulder of the pilots); and the subsequent sequence of the few survivors clinging to the plane's fuselage and crowded wing, and villain Stephen Fisher's heroic sacrifice and drowning in order to save the others in the turbulent waters
Realistic Trans-Atlantic Plane Crash
  • the final, provocative radio appeal (a tacked-on propagandistic ending) from London by reporter Jones, who was begging the American public to end its neutral stance and enter the war, as bombs fell on the darkened radio studio: ("It's death coming to London...It's too late to do anything here now except stand in the dark and let them come. It's as if the lights were all out everywhere, except in America. Keep those lights burning there! Cover them with steel! Ring them with guns! Build a canopy of battleships and bombing planes around them! Hello, America! Hang on to your lights. They're the only lights left in the world")

Johnny Jones (Joel McCrea) with Stephen Fisher (Herbert Marshall)

Assassination in the Rain

Windmill Set

Rowley About to Push Jones Off Cathedral Bell Tower

Concluding Radio Appeal


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