23 March 1999 | Don-102
Important work of Irish patriotism from Ford still potent...
Victor McLaglen, the title character of John Ford's THE INFORMER, reminded me of the circus man from Fellini's LA STRADA. Anthony Quinn played the brutish man, who may have even been influenced by the pug-faced, Oscar-winning performance given by McLaglen. Poverty-stricken Dublin is the true-life, atmospheric setting of the picture, which takes place in 1922. Dense fog and a long damp night are the main elements of a story about deep Irish patriotism and the fight of the Irish Republican Army. The conflict of individuality and the cause is what makes THE INFORMER tick. McLaglen's large, simple character just wants to go to America and we're reminded by signs of the price for a ticket frequently. Two different signs become the psychological centerpiece for the drunken Irishman. One is the previous, the other a WANTED sign. Should he do it and get the money to go?
John Ford once famously said, "My name is Ford. I make Westerns." After seeing this film, he obviously could do a heck of a lot more. The serious social issues dealt with here are heartfelt and ones you will find yourself thinking about. And the look of the piece is amazing, consisting of long dark shadows cutting into a miserable Ireland night. Ford was always known for his luminescent, gorgeous cinematography that helped to foresee the conflicts within his characters. This is hard in color, but he did it in pictures like THE SEARCHERS, painting John Wayne in a sometimes vicious manner. Victor McLaglen's performance not only benefits from the lighting, but by the sheer simplicity of his acting. He shoves a lot. He knocks people out. He is a brute who knows no better. He should, however, know whether or not to cross the IRA.
See the film to find out the gritty details. See it also for McLaglen and Ford's patriotic portrayal of the IRA. Max Steiner's score is innovative in how it matches gestures of the characters, placing more emphasis on them. This was usually only seen in silent films, especially Chaplin. The topic of naming names or "informing" is obviously still important. Just look at how the media covered this year's Oscars, giving much attention to the Elia Kazan scandal.