Follow TV Tropes


Film / The Informer

Go To

The Informer is a 1935 film directed by John Ford, starring Victor McLaglen. It is the second film adaptation of 1925 novel of the same title by Irish novelist Liam O'Flaherty, coming after a 1929 British silent adaptation.

The film is set in Dublin during The Irish Revolution. Gypo McLaglen is a former IRA soldier who was drummed out for having mercy and allowing a prisoner to escape. He is desperately poor and somewhat bitter at his comrades for casting him aside. His girlfriend Katie is a prostitute who mocks Gypo for his poverty when Gypo takes exception to a john trying to pick up Katie on the street. Right after this, Gypo runs into Frankie McPhillip, an old IRA comrade who is a fugitive from the British but has snuck back into town to visit his family. There is a £20 price on Frankie's head, which coincidentally is exactly the price of passage for Gypo and Katie to America. Gypo tells the British paramilitary police, the Black and Tans where Frankie is in exchange for the reward. Tragedy ensues.

The Informer lost the Best Picture Oscar to Mutiny on the Bounty but won most of the other prizes, including director for Ford, actor for McLaglen, and screenplay for Dudley Nichols. Nichols turned down his award due to labor disagreements; this was the first time an Oscar was ever refused.


  • All for Nothing: Gypo blows all but £5 of his reward money over just a few hours. He gives that £5 to Katie, but that's not even enough for her to make it to America alone.
  • Department of Redundancy Department: "Whenever you see one of us you'll see the other, or vice versa, as the case may be."
  • Drawing Straws: IRA soldiers do this to decide who will execute Gypo.
  • The Dying Walk: Gypo goes on a veritable dying stroll. After getting shot several times, he manages to stagger down the street into a church, where he confesses to Frankie's mom before collapsing in death.
  • Extremely Short Timespan: The story takes place over not much more than 12 hours or so.
  • Face Framed in Shadow: The faces of the guests at Frankie's wake are framed this way when Gypo barges in and starts acting suspiciously. Then Gypo is framed this way when he's being held in a basement, awaiting execution.
  • Flashback: When Gypo first sees the wanted poster for Frankie, he has a flashback to him and Frankie drinking in a pub together.
  • Have a Gay Old Time: "Is there something queer about me?"
  • I Need a Freaking Drink: Gypo dives into a bar and starts pounding whiskey after informing on Frankie. It's the start of a bender that doesn't stop until he's arrested.
  • Kangaroo Court: The less-than-rigorous IRA tribunal that tries Gypo.
  • Miss Kitty: Aunt Sally, proprietor of the brothel that Gypo visits as during his drunken spree.
  • My God, What Have I Done?: Katie reacts in this way after finding out that her insulting Gypo for being poor, as well as her longing to emigrate to America, are what drove him to rat out his friend.
  • Not Even Bothering with the Accent: Some of the actors in this film were Irish but most weren't (which still puts it ahead of the 1929 silent film version of the same story which didn't have a single Irish actor playing a listed character.) Of those Fake Irish, some attempted an accent but many didn't, notably Preston Foster, who plays IRA commander Dan Gallagher.
    • For an added bonus Gallagher's name is consistently mispronounced as "Gal-IGG-er" when the Irish pronunciation is Gal-EH-her
  • Oh, Crap!: Gypo has a moment of this when the realization that the IRA tribunal is for him percolates through his alcohol-soaked brain.
  • Ominous Fog: The streets of Dublin are socked in by fog, setting a suitably ominous mood as Gypo makes a terrible mistake.
  • Price on Their Head: The British are offering £20 for information leading to the capture of Frankie McPhillip. Gypo goes for it.
  • Streetwalker: How Katie makes a living.
  • Too Dumb to Live: A smart guy would not have ratted out his buddy and risked the wrath of the IRA; a somewhat smart guy would have kept the £20 to himself and laid low until it was safe to leave Ireland. Gypo is not a smart guy. Instead he goes on a very loud and public drinking spree in which he throws money all over the place, buying food and drinks for bar patrons, buying a round of drinks at a brothel, giving £5 to a random hooker to help her get out of town. He also loudly and obtrusively barges into Frankie's wake to give his condolences. This makes it perfectly clear to the IRA that he's the informer. Then, when he escapes from the clutches of the IRA, he runs to Katie's room rather than to the custody of the Black and Tans, where he would have been safe.
  • Villain Protagonist: Gypo isn't precisely evil, but he's definitely selfish and cowardly, and he's prone to violence. He also fingers an innocent man as the informer in an effort to save his own skin.
  • "Wanted!" Poster: How Gypo finds out about the price on Frankie's head.