Born Victor Andrew de Bier Everleigh McLaglen on Friday, December 10th, 1886 in Tunbridge Wells, Kent, England, Victor McLaglen (a former boxer) was an adventurer at heart, never satisfied with the norm, and in some way seeking fodder for future stories that he might relay to friends, family and acquaintances; with his muscular physique, his craggy good looks, a disarming smile and a sincere laugh, from the beginning he was destined for Silver-Screen greatness. He appeared in nearly 120 movies, over the course of 39 years, yet, it was 4 classics in 5 years, (please see our McLaglen birthday tribute) enough for a lifetime for most actors, which set the stage, so to speak, for his celluloid goodbye; ending with a career full of classic Hollywood fare. Beginning in 1948, McLaglen began a string of movies that proved to be a rugged, off-road, 4×4 vehicle that drove him forever into the hearts and minds of movies-goers, TV watchers, VHS, DVD, Blu-Ray and streaming buyers, the aficionados and casual viewers alike. It was none the less a collection of some of the finest works which director John Ford and actor John Wayne had to offer: Fort Apache, 1948; She Wore a Yellow Ribbon, 1949, Rio Grande, 1950 and The Quiet Man, 1952.
I find McLaglen to be one of the most likable personalities in the annals of Hollywoodland; his strong-man persona and appearance belied his true acting abilities which were seldom any better used than in the four movies that we are focusing on in this post. That might be because each of the four films in question were directed by John Ford, which with The Quiet Man ended their long association that had begun in 1925 with The Fighting Heart. Their collaboration brought Mr. McLaglen 2 Academy Award nominations (The Informer, 1935 and The Quiet Man, 1952) and 1 Oscar statue (The Informer, 1935) and Ford gained a dependable actor for his “Stock Company” of players.
McLaglen was an avid sportsman, and in fact had a multi-purpose stadium built in 1935 on Riverside Drive just north of Hyperion Avenue at a cost of $40,000…
… McLaglen Stadium hosted a variety of events: equestrian, polo, junior college and minor pro football games, lacrosse, midget auto and motorcycle racing, softball, rugby and for while it was the premier soccer venue in Los Angeles[i].
Unfortunately, in 1938, due to flooding damage it fell in to disuse.
Much of what McLaglen did in front of the camera physically and emotionally portraying in a myriad of scenes, he had already lived out, a bigger than life, life. Boxer, wrestler, farm-hand (Canada), rancher (near Clovis, California), pearl-diver, big-game-hunter, miner[ii], and so much more was his personal experience that it provided a depth and breadth to his acting that not all actors (I know: duh, it’s called acting for a reason) have at their disposal. Many touchy-feely actors of today and of historic import may dismiss or trivialize the acumen of McLaglen’s acting, but his utilization of his experiences was really “method acting,” this prior to the Actors Studio (1947) being established and independent of the influence of Constantin Stanislavski’s system.
McLaglen’s work in the aforementioned 4 films is outstanding, leaving little behind and bringing all he had to the dinner-table of film. Bravo Mr. McLaglen for bringing such definable character to roles that could have been nothing more than brash, harsh, Irish-stereotypes. Instead these men were brought to life, given heart and eliciting laughter along the way. Thank you so much Victor McLaglen for your classic portrayals in Fort Apache, as Sgt. Festus Mulcahy, 1948; as Top Sgt. Quincannon in She Wore a Yellow Ribbon, 1949; in Rio Grande as Sgt. Maj. Timothy Quincannon, 1950 and as Squire ‘Red’ Will Danaher in The Quiet Man, 1952. Wonderful memories, rousing adventures, unabashed, unapologetic manliness is available wherever (home or theater) and whenever (day or night) a Victor McLaglen movie plays. Enjoy, I know you will.
Victor McLaglen with friends, family and more:
By C. S. Williams
[i] LA Weekly
[ii] Express to Hollywood by Victor McLaglen, Jerrolds, London, 1934; Victor McLaglen, the British Empire, and the Hollywood Raj: Myth, Film, and Reality by Richard A. Voeltz, Journal of Historical Biography 8 (Autumn 2010), University of the Fraser Valley, 2010