Joel McCrea stars as reporter Johnny Jones / Huntley Haverstock in Alfred Hitchcock's excellent thriller Foreign Correspondent (1940). Jones is sent overseas to send back reports of impending war, getting more than he bargained for by stumbling on a German spy ring intent on uncovering secrets and bending a treaty in their favor. Laraine Day stars as Jones' love interest and George Sanders provides his usual suave humor as fellow journalist Scott Ffolliott.
The segue into the final action scene in Foreign Correspondent occurs on an aeroplane crossing the Atlantic at the start of the World War II in Europe. Above is a snap from the film, with Joel McCrea and George Sanders on the left looking slightly gloomy (don't know why, they've got plenty of legroom and four star chefs in the kitchen!).
Passenger air travel started seriously in the 1920s, and by 1940 was becoming increasingly popular. At this time, it was still mainly a luxury for the wealthy.
External shots of a Boeing 314 seaplane with four 1600 hp Wright Twin Cyclone engines were used in Foreign Correspondent to set the scene for the final conflict. The Boeing 314s (six in all) were commissioned by Pan American to provide a long-range addition to their fleet of aircraft. These craft were called 'Clippers' and featured seats that could be turned into bunks for the flights that sometimes lasted over half a day. Full galleys staffed by a four-star chef, lounges and dining areas were also features of the Clippers.
Aircraft in 1940 were still unpressurized, so hospitality staff provided gum to help pop ears at altitude. Air conditioning was still yet to be installed as well. Help could be either male, as seen by the steward in the movie, or female. Stewardesses at the time were required to take grooming classes, to 'retain their femininity' and to SMILE! Prior to America's entry into WWII, air hostesses were required to be registered nurses. For their labor, they would earn around $125 per month, minus uniform costs. Girdles were mandatory.
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