Film One of the best elements of Alfred Hitchcock's Rebecca was the serpent-like performance of supporting actor George Sanders as an old friend of the old Mrs De Winter and he was back again for Hitch’s other film of 1940, Foreign Correspondent, this time as an altogether more charming British newspaperman who helps the lead character, Joel McCrea the foreign correspondent, to his story about the assassination of a foreign diplomat at the edge of the second world war. Their banter is definitely one of the highlights, and it’s a shame that Hitch wasn’t interested in franchises since a whole series could have spun off about these two men travelling the world chasing down exclusives as war crashes about around them with Laraine Day constantly on their tale ready to pull them back from the edge.
In his book on film genre, Film/Genre, theorist Rick Altman talks about how films, in an effort to appeal to as wide a market as possible can no longer be pigeon-holed in the old Hollywood tradition -- western, gangster, screwball, woman's film and in an attempt to appeal to as wide an audience as possible blend them together. Hitch was ahead of the game here as well, since Foreign Correspondent was already doing much the same thing forty years early. Within its two hours, Hitch manages to drop in elements of newspaper films, spy dramas, romantic comedy, war films, noir, travelogue, political thriller and even a disaster movie and so cunningly that it doesn’t draw attention to itself in the same way as, for example, From Dusk Till Dawn which very specifically wanted its audience to know it was incoherently slipping into a different genre mid-stream (and arguably becoming a better film in the process).
He even managed to attract the very enemy he was working against. Joseph Goebbels was, well not a fan exactly but enamoured enough to call it a masterpiece of the form, “a first-class production which no doubt will make a certain impression upon the broad masses of the people in enemy countries.” What Goebbels might have been picking up on is that Hitch is careful not to portray the enemy within the film in completely black and white terms -- in at least one case we're clearly supposed to have a sympathetic reaction because the man is defending his country just as McCrea and Sanders are defending theres. They commit despicable crimes yet we find ourselves readily identifying ourselves with them and Hitch is demonstrating that there's nothing scarier than an enemy hiding in plain sight who we probably quite like.