Without Emma Lazarus' timeless poem, Lady Liberty would be just another statue.
Near the end of the 1942 movie Saboteur, one of director Alfred Hitchcock's early American efforts, the heroine, played by Priscilla Lane, catches up with an enemy agent at the top of the Statue of Liberty. Pretending to flirt, she says it's her first time visiting the statue. This must be a big moment for her, the villainous saboteur replies with thin sarcasm. It is, she acknowledges with obvious feeling, and abruptly quotes the best-known lines from Emma Lazarus' poem "The New Colossus," engraved on the statue's pedestal:
Give me your tired, your poor,
Your huddled masses yearning to breathe free,
The wretched refuse of your teeming shore;
Send these, the homeless, tempest-tost to me....
Without ever ceasing to be a "wrong man" thriller, in which a falsely accused hero must elude capture while tracking down the real culprit on his own, Saboteur is also an ode to American freedom, and it reaches its moral zenith here, with a statement of a special national purpose. For many in 1942, shortly after the attack on Pearl Harbor catapulted the United States into World War II, Lazarus' welcome to the world's displaced marked the difference between the Allied and Axis powers.