Director: John Ford
Production: RKO/Pictures Inc.; black and white, 35mm; running time: 91 minutes; length: 10 reels. Released 1935.
Producer: Cliff Reid; screenplay: Dudley Nichols, from the novel by Liam O'Flaherty; photography: Joseph H. August; editor: George Hively; sound: Hugh McDowell Jr.; art directors: Van Nest Polglase and Charles Kirk; music: Max Steiner; costume designer: Walter Plunkett.
Cast: Victor McLaglen (Gypo Nolan); Heather Angel (Mary McPhillip); Preston Foster (Dan Gallagher); Margot Grahame (Katie Madden); Wallace Ford (Frankie McPhillip); Una O'Connor (Mrs. McPhillip); J. M. Kerrigan (Terry); Joseph Sauers (Bartly Mulholland); Neil Fitzgerald (Tommy Connor); Donald Meek (Peter Mulligan); D'Arcy Corrigan (Blind man); Gaylord Pendleton (Dennis Daly); May Boley (Madame Betty); Leo McCabe (Donahue); Francis Ford (Flynn); Grizelda Harvey (The Lady); Dennis O'Dea.
Awards: Oscars for Best Director, Best Actor (McLaglen), Best Screenplay, Best Score, 1935; Best Screenplay, Venice Film Festival, 1935; New York Film Critics Awards for Best Picture and Best Director, 1935.
Nichols, Dudley, "The Informer" (condensed screenplay), in Theatre Arts (New York), August 1951; as "Le Mouchard," in Avant-Scène du Cinéma (Paris), February 1965.
Mitry, Jean, John Ford, Paris, 1954.
Bluestone, George, Novels into Films, Berkeley, 1961.
Haudiquet, Philippe, John Ford, Paris, 1966.
Baxter, John, The Cinema of John Ford, New York, 1971.
McBride, Joseph, and Michael Wilmington, John Ford, London, 1975.
Bogdanovitch, Peter, John Ford, Berkeley, 1978.
Ford, Dan, Pappy: The Life of John Ford, Englewood Cliffs, New Jersey, 1979.
Sinclair, Andrew, John Ford, New York, 1979.
Anderson, Lindsay, About John Ford, London, 1981.
Caughie, John, editor, Theories of Authorship: A Reader, London, 1981.
Schatz, Thomas, Hollywood Genres: Formulas, Filmmaking, and the Studio System, New York, 1981.
Gallagher, Tag, John Ford: The Man and His Films, Berkeley, 1986.
Stowell, Peter, John Ford, Boston, 1986.
Lourdeaux, Lee, Italian & Irish Filmmakers in America: Ford, Capra, Coppola & Scorsese, Springfield, 1990; 1993.
Davis, Ronald L., John Ford: Hollywood's Old Master, Norman, 1997.
Girus, Sam B., Hollywood Renaissance: The Cinema of Democracy in the Era of Ford, Capra, & Kazan, New York, 1998.
Levy, Bill, John Ford: A Bio-Bibliography, Westport, 1998.
Eyman, Scott, Print the Legend: The Life and Times of John Ford, New York, 1999.
New York Times, 10 May 1935.
Variety (New York), 15 May 1935.
Greene, Graham, in Spectator (London), 11 October 1935.
Mitry, Jean, "John Ford," in Films in Review (New York), August-September 1955.
Stanbrook, Alan, in Films and Filming (London), July 1960.
Barkun, Michael, "Notes on the Art of John Ford," in Film Culture (New York), no. 25, 1962.
McVay, Douglas, "The Five Worlds of John Ford," in Films and Filming (London), June 1962.
"Special Issue" of Avant-Scène du Cinéma (Paris), February 1965.
"John Ford Issue" of Présence du Cinéma (Paris), March 1965.
"John Ford Issue" of Cahiers du Cinéma (Paris), October 1966.
"John Ford Issue" of Velvet Light Trap (Madison, Wisconsin), August 1971.
"John Ford Issue" of Focus on Film (London), Spring 1971.
Anderson, Lindsay, "John Ford," in Cinema (Beverley Hills), Spring 1971.
"Ford's Stock Company" in Filmkritik (Munich), January 1972.
Scapperotti, Dan, in Magill's Survey of Cinema 2, Englewood Cliffs, New Jersey, 1980.
Veress, J., in Filmkultura (Budapest), January 1985.
Reid's Film Index (Wyong), no. 3, 1989.
Fuller, Samuel, "Comment John Ford et Max Steiner ont fait mon film préféré," in Positif (Paris), no. 400, June 1994.
* * *
John Ford was the perfect choice to direct the film version of Liam O'Flaherty's novel about the Sinn Fein Rebellion in Dublin in 1922 as Ford's Irish heritage proved invaluable in setting the background for the film. The Informer was Ford's 74th film as a director and he would do 48 more before his retirement in 1966.
Flaherty's novel was first filmed as an early talkie in Great Britain in 1929 with Lars Hansen in the leading role. Six years later, Ford's version was released through RKO Radio Pictures. The mood piece surprised everyone, including the studio, by winning four Academy Awards and moving John Ford into the top echelon of Hollywood directors and Victor McLaglen into the role of one of the film industry's most trusted character actors.
Strictly observing the unities of time and space, the film traces Gypo Nolan from betrayal to death in just one 12-hour period. Whether Ford was aware he was making a film noir or not, he preceded the 1940s spate of "dark" films by having The Informer take place entirely at night.
The film opens with Gypo encountering a poster stating that there is a reward out for information leading to the capture of Frankie McPhillip, his rebel friend. Tearing the sign down and tossing it away, Gypo goes on his way only to discover, in one of Ford's most brilliant visual moments, that the poster takes on a life of its own and follows him down the street, eventually blowing onto his leg and clinging to it. The visual imagery continues as the viewer is introduced to Gypo's girlfriend Katie as a lovely madonna who suddenly changes into a bleach-blonde street-walker by merely removing her scarf.
Reasoning that he and Katie would be able to get a boat to the United States with the money offered to turn Frankie in, Gypo informs on the fugitive to the police. As Frankie visits clandestinely with his mother and sister, he is ambushed and killed. Gypo gets his reward, but is soon under suspicion by rebel leader Dan Gallagher. Celebrating by getting drunk, Gypo is caught and, having spent all the blood money, confesses. He hides in Katie's apartment and when she innocently reveals his whereabouts, he is shot. The wounded Gypo staggers to a church where Frankie's mother is praying. She forgives him and he dies under the altar.
Much has been said about composer Max Steiner's contribution to The Informer. The music suitably underscores all the action from the atmospheric beginning to the religious ending. The flawless cast, composed mainly of Irish-born actors, make the film and the plot believable, and the lighting, costuming, art direction and cinematography all contribute to the stifling and tense atmosphere. Although over 60 years old, this melodrama still holds up well in a period when another Irish rebellion has been raging in the 1990s.
"The Informer." International Dictionary of Films and Filmmakers. . Encyclopedia.com. (December 16, 2018). https://www.encyclopedia.com/movies/dictionaries-thesauruses-pictures-and-press-releases/informer
"The Informer." International Dictionary of Films and Filmmakers. . Retrieved December 16, 2018 from Encyclopedia.com: https://www.encyclopedia.com/movies/dictionaries-thesauruses-pictures-and-press-releases/informer
Encyclopedia.com gives you the ability to cite reference entries and articles according to common styles from the Modern Language Association (MLA), The Chicago Manual of Style, and the American Psychological Association (APA).
Within the “Cite this article” tool, pick a style to see how all available information looks when formatted according to that style. Then, copy and paste the text into your bibliography or works cited list.
Because each style has its own formatting nuances that evolve over time and not all information is available for every reference entry or article, Encyclopedia.com cannot guarantee each citation it generates. Therefore, it’s best to use Encyclopedia.com citations as a starting point before checking the style against your school or publication’s requirements and the most-recent information available at these sites:
Modern Language Association
The Chicago Manual of Style
American Psychological Association
- Most online reference entries and articles do not have page numbers. Therefore, that information is unavailable for most Encyclopedia.com content. However, the date of retrieval is often important. Refer to each style’s convention regarding the best way to format page numbers and retrieval dates.
- In addition to the MLA, Chicago, and APA styles, your school, university, publication, or institution may have its own requirements for citations. Therefore, be sure to refer to those guidelines when editing your bibliography or works cited list.