Friday, December 10, 2010

Victor McLaglen, 1886-1959

Today marks the birth anniversary of Oscar-winning actor Victor McLaglen. The movie for which he won his Oscar? The Informer.

The story is one that on the face of it is fairly simple. It's Dublin in the early 1920s, a time when Ireland was struggling for its independence from the United Kingdom. Sinn Fein are leading the struggle, but the British are offering substantial rewards -- £20 -- for anybody who offers information leading to the arrest of agents of the IRA. McLaglen plays one such person who gives the British the information he's looking for. He had been a member of the IRA, but his drinking got him kicked out, and now he really needs the money.

McLaglen's informing leads to an IRA agent getting arrested, and him getting the money, but of course the IRA itself is bound to investigate what happened, and find the traitor in their midst, and the suspicion quickly leads to McLaglen, since he had the motive to do it, and now has the money that would be consisten with somebody having done it. Not that they want to believe their good friend could have done such a thing, but if he did, they have to treat him severely, as the alternative is continued informing on their activities, and more IRA agents getting tortured. Poor McLaglen is a doomed man....

Normally, I'm not a fan of movies about Ireland, as Hollywood tends to have an obnxiously doe-eyed view of the country, thanks to the large number of Irish-American immigrants who would insist that the Irish are completely blameless victims and the English are unmitigated evil. (OK, I exaggerate a bit, but not too much.) The Informer, however, is different, in part because it's really a story that could happen in almost any war situation and just happens to be set in Ireland: the Benedict Arnold story has been done by Hollywood, as have spy movies set against the US Civil War, the Spanish Civil War, and even the French Resistance. Here, McLaglen gives an excellent performance.

The Informer would be a good movie to watch in a double bill with Odd Man Out. The Informer is available on DVD as part of a John Ford box set, but you'll have to get Odd Man Out from Netflix unless you want to pay a ridiculous price.

No comments: