The Informer
Zach Davis

Directed By: John Ford

Starring: Victor McLaglen, Heather Angel, Preston Foster, Margot Grahame, Wallace Ford, and Una O’Connor

The Informer marked the first of four Oscars for John Ford, the most won by any director.  There is a very interesting flow to the movie.  As talkies had only been around for a little less than a decade, sound techniques had not quite been standardized when this movie came out in 1935.  When the film starts, it actually resembles a silent film with the music giving direction to the mood of the characters and imposed images used showing the introspective thoughts of the characters.  Even the early actions of the characters are drawn out, as they would be in a silent film.  However, the dialogue takes center stage by the end of the film in understanding the characters and their emotions.  It was as if the transition from silent movies to talkies actually took place throughout The Informer.

The story starts with a downtrodden Gypo (Victor McLaglen) who has been court marshaled by the Irish Republican Army (IRA) for disobeying orders.  He has been starving and living day to day for a month when he comes across a wanted poster for his friend Frankie McPhillip (Wallace Ford), a member of IRA.  The person providing information leading to Frankie’s capture will be rewarded twenty pounds.  At first, Gypo rips down the poster, not entertaining the idea of ending his suffering with such betrayal.  However, Gypo finds his girlfriend Katie resorting to prostitution to get by and he rushes over to stop the matter.  Katie (Margot Grahame) tells him that she doesn’t want to resort to prostitution but maybe if they went to America together they could both have a fresh start.  Advertised in a nearby window is passage to America for ten pounds per person.  Even though Gypo is slow he can figure out that the twenty pound reward would pay for passage for Katie and him.

Later that night, Gypo runs into Frankie who tells him he is going to his mother’s house.  Shortly after, Gypo decides to inform on Frankie, and the British police kill Frankie in a shootout.  Being a member of the IRA as well, Frankie’s informer becomes top priority for Dan Gallagher (Preston Foster) and his men.  Gypo is a lead suspect, and in true Irish fashion, he turns to the drink to deal with his grief.  It doesn’t go unnoticed though that Gypo suddenly is able to afford all sorts of things, and Gypo becomes his own worst enemy.  Can the IRA prove that Gypo was the informer, or will Gypo get away safely with Katie on the way to America?

Victor McLaglen won the Oscar for Best Actor for his role as Gypo very deservedly.  He appeared drunk the entire film, and I have to give credit to the makeup department for the sweat he continually had to wipe off his face.  Those makeup artists really knew how to make a man look drunk.

The rest of the cast, particularly Margot Grahame and Preston Foster, did fine jobs, but their acting is more suited for the theatre. They exaggerated emotions and syllables in an unnatural way as one would on stage.  This style is very typical of the times because the art of screen acting had not quite been refined yet.  I have to say that this does not detract from the film however.

For The Informer, I would not recommend trying to keep pace with Gypo and his drinking habits.  You may find the floor quicker than the end of the movie.  In fact, I’d say you don’t even need any help from our liquid savior.  Water will do.  This classic gets a sober rating.