Yes, “schmaltzy” and “corny” fit in any description of this 1940 film. The soundstages don’t do justice to Holland or London or the North Atlantic. But what plays over 80 years later is the wit, the Ben Hecht (“The Front Page”) and Benchley-written exchanges between the posh Brit and the American trying to work his way into the political inner circles where Europe was about to take a stand against fascism.
Where the film separates itself from the director’s other early studio work and, indeed, many films of the period, is in its ambition and scope of its production. The aforementioned set pieces are not only memorable, they’re among the most impressively mounted action sequences to that point.