May 12, 1935 [The Informer]

Victor McLaglen’s Gypo Nolan wanders through a Nighttown of his own making--no, of the Irish Rebellion’s, which had asked him to kill in cold blood and sent him staggering into the street to grab at scraps of traitorous paper, like Joyce’s Leopold Bloom, and become the victim of desperation--no, it’s the English who built the foggy maze, holding onto Ireland like a drunken drab demanding payment--no, it’s the promise of America, both Gypo and his lass sailing away for £20 total--and isn’t that the price, now, for informing?

I want to blame someone for the long night Gypo spends in The Informer, drinking and sweating, casting off his Judas notes like little candle-boats to light the way directly back to him, amazed he has once more drawn the short straw. As an actor McLaglen is all in here, not a single chip in reserve, as he gambles and wins the right to cobble a tragedy out of his soiled love and fear. It’s a strange performance, almost an impression of “Gypo” rather than an honest depiction. But this is where McLaglen serves the character so well. He wants us to see Gypo’s thick-headedness, and so makes himself thick in the process, lurching ever more drunkenly, waiting for someone to relieve him of the burden of Gypo--and that abandonment of the self lets the guilt overtake the role, and Gypo becomes more than a perspiring caricature. Shot, he wanders into a church--and I held my breath, hoping he would finally ask for forgiveness. It is all he has left, and only a fool refuses the last thing offered, even though it puts the taste of copper in his mouth and he has to accept it on his knees.


Popular Posts