Sunday, June 23, 2024

2024 Blind Spot Series: The Informer


Based on the novel by Liam O’Flaherty, The Informer is the story of a former IRA soldier who decides to inform to the British about IRA activities in the hopes he can escape to America with his girlfriend where he would later deal with guilt of his actions. Directed by John Ford and screenplay by Dudley Nichols, the film is an exploration of man’s role in the Irish War of Independence conflict where he gets a chance to leave Ireland but must contend with what he must where he would alienate himself from those he cared about. Starring Victor McLaglen, Heather Angel, Preston Foster, Margot Grahame, Wallace Ford, and Una O’Connor. The Informer is a gripping and somber film by John Ford.

Set in the span of 12 hours in 1922 during the Irish War of Independence, the film follows a disgraced IRA officer who decides to inform on his best friend to the British in the hopes he can use the reward to take himself and his girlfriend to America only for the IRA to become suspicious over what had happened. It is a film that explores a man’s decision to inform his friend to the British so he can take his girlfriend to America where he would spend the reward money getting drunk and lavish his spendings on the people who are unaware of how he got the money. Dudley Nichols’ screenplay is straightforward in its narrative as it follows Gypo Nolan (Victor McLaglen) who had just been ousted by the IRA for refusing to kill a British soldier as his girlfriend Katie (Margot Grahame) is hoping to go to America but a ticket for both costs 20 pounds.

Seeing a bounty for his friend Frankie McPhillip (Wallace Ford) for 20 pounds, Nolan rats out to the British army where they succeed in finding him as Nolan gets his reward where he would spend the rest of the night spending his money on getting drunk and entertaining the locals while IRA leader Dan Gallagher (Preston Foster) wants to know what happened to McPhillip where he asks Nolan only to later suspect Nolan. Even as the night becomes more chaotic when Gallagher realizes something is up, he is also personally involved since he is in a relationship with McPhillip’s sister (Heather Angel).

John Ford’s direction is atmospheric for the overall setting of the film as it is shot at the RKO Studios lot in Hollywood which plays as this small Irish town at night filled with fog and light. While there are some wide shots to establish the locations, much of Ford’s direction emphasizes on medium shots and close-ups with the latter playing into some of the emotional reactions that Nolan is dealing with. Even as he would get drunk throughout where the medium and wide shots have Ford highlight the space of a room or a pub where Nolan is the center of attention. Ford also maintains this air of intrigue as it relates to what Nolan has done and how it would affect the IRA, with Gallagher being a commandant who runs a local faction of the IRA as he is also a friend of McPhillip. Even as there are scenes of IRA members carrying pistols but also having to hide from the British soldiers who would often march in the streets as it adds to the sense of danger that is happening in Ireland at that time.

Ford also plays into this exploration of guilt in Nolan where he would hide his shame through drink and partying where he would even crash into a high-society party where he buys drinks a British woman for Kate. It is one of the few moments of humor that occurs in the film that involves Nolan and a friend of his in Terry (J.M. Kerrigan) though the film would remain serious and intense during its third act when a kangaroo court occurs where Nolan tries to accuse someone of being the informer. Ford would maintain this sense of dread while its climax is about Gallagher realizing the truth and what is at stake with Nolan’s act of selfishness would also come into play once Katie finds out what he did. Overall, Ford crafts a thrilling and compelling film about a man who informed on his friend during the Irish War of Independence.

Cinematographer Joseph H. August does incredible work with the film’s black-and-white photography with its usage of fog and shadow to help maintain a chilling atmosphere for the exteriors while using low-key lights for some interior scenes at the homes for a few characters. Editor George Hively does excellent work with the editing as it features some rhythmic cuts to play into the drama and suspense while most of it is straightforward. Art director Van Nest Polglase and set decorator Julia Heron do brilliant work with the look of the interior of the pubs as well as the secret places where IRA hold their meetings and the exterior of some of the buildings that Nolan goes into. Costume designer Walter Plunkett does terrific work with the costumes with some of the posh clothing the women wear along with more rugged look of the men including lots of trench coats the IRA wears.

Makeup artist Robert J. Schiffer does nice work with the makeup in the look of the women at the posh party scene. The special effects work of Harry Redmond Sr. and Harry Redmond Jr. is fantastic for some of the scenes involving gunplay as it plays into the chaos and conflict between the IRA and the British. The sound work of Hugh McDowell Jr. and Robert Wise is superb for the sound in the way a fight would sound in and out of a pub as well as the chaos that goes on in the pub and in the streets. The film’s music by Max Steiner is wonderful for its sweeping orchestral score that features elements of Irish woodwinds and melodies that play into the land of Ireland along with layers of drum cadences and soaring strings as well as a soundtrack that is filled with traditional Irish folk songs as the music is a highlight of the film.

The film’s remarkable cast feature some notable small roles and appearances from Dennis O’Dea as the street singer, Grizelda Harvey as the English lady living in a posh house who looks like Katie, May Boley as the owner of the posh house in Madame Betty, D’Arcy Corrigan as a blind man who was given a one-pound note from Nolan, Francis Ford as a judge in the kangaroo court, Joseph Sauers and Neil Fitzgerald as a couple of IRA officers respectively in Bartly Mulholland and Tommy Connor with the former being suspicious of Nolan, and Donald Meek as the local tailor Peter Mulligan whom Nolan accuses of being the informer. Una O’Connor is fantastic in her small role as McPhillips’ mother who is shocked over what has happened while J.M. Kerrigan is superb as Terry as a friend of Nolan who helps him spend the money and party where he unfortunately enables his actions. Wallace Ford is excellent as Frankie McPhillip as an IRA officer who was Nolan’s best friend as well as a target for the British for killing a British soldier where he hopes to see his mother and sister while still doing things for the IRA.

Margot Grahame is brilliant as Katie Madden as Nolan’s girlfriend who hopes to go to America as she becomes surprised by the idea becoming a reality until she learns about what Nolan did to get the money. Preston Foster is amazing as Dan Gallagher as an IRA commander who runs his own local faction where he becomes suspicious on what happened to McPhillip as he is also in love with McPhillip’s sister where he becomes suspicious towards Nolan as he knows that Nolan has become a liability to the IRA. Heather Angel is incredible as McPhillip’s sister Mary who is troubled by what had happened as well as becoming tired of the violence as she hopes Gallagher would smooth things out only to realize that Nolan is the one that has been making a mess. Finally, there’s Victor McLaglen in a phenomenal performance as Gypo Nolan as a former IRA officer who had been ousted for letting go a British soldier as he decides to rat out McPhillip to the British for money where he tries to not feel guilty by imagining him and Katie going to America as well as drinking a lot and accusing someone else as it is this chilling performance that requires a lot of physicality as it is one of McLaglen’s finest performances.

The Informer is an incredible film from John Ford that features a tremendous leading performance from Victor McLaglen. Along with its ensemble cast, intoxicating visuals, Max Steiner’s riveting music score, and a compelling story of guilt and greed during the Irish War of Independence. It is a suspense drama that explores a man’s willingness to get something good going in his life only to do something awful as it would cost him everything as well as the plight of the people who know him. In the end, The Informer is a phenomenal film from John Ford.

© thevoid99 2024


Brittani Burnham said...

I'll have to add this to my list! I'm so behind on my Blind Spots this year.

ruth said...

I have such a huge blind spot on John Ford. This one sounds intriguing and I love Max Steiner's scores, esp. Gone with the Wind and Casablanca.

thevoid99 said...

@Brittani-John Ford is essential for anyone that loves film. This is the first of four Oscar wins for Best Director to Ford as I really enjoyed this. He's made over 100 films in his career and no one has lived up to his legend.

@ruth-Steiner's score in this incredible as it's one of the reasons for the film to be seen while there's a lot of films from John Ford that needs to be seen as I do love what I've seen from him so far.

SJHoneywell said...

My favorite thing about this movie is that if you look at the Best Actor race from this year at the Oscars, three of the nominees were for Mutiny on the Bounty, and they all cancelled each other out--McLaglen won.

thevoid99 said...

@SJHonewell-McLaglen got lucky then. He is great in this.

Birgit said...

This is a big film that I have yet to see. John Ford would touch on the IRA in his films in one way or another. I need to see this film. You gave a great review.

thevoid99 said...

@Birgit-Thank you. It's currently available to rent on YouTube for $4.