Victor McLaglen – A Man as Big as the Screen

*The following is a guest post by my husband Gary, aka Santa on twitter as @SantaIsThinking

I signed up for the What A Character! Blogathon to write a post on one of my favorite character actors, Victor McLaglen (pronounced Muh-clog-len, not Mack-loff-len) because he appears in my favorite movies, adorns one of my walls at home, and reminds me in so many ways of my dad.

As I did research on him I realized that plenty had been written on him so what could I possibly add to that? He’s very loved by so many. So I decided, as I sit here with a Guinness, to focus on two things that I find most interesting about him, his adventurous youth and his big screen (grin) charm. vm-image-1

Victor Andrew de Bier Everleigh McLaglen (10 December 1886 – 7 November 1959)

His Adventurous Youth – Boers, Boxing, and Baghdad

Victor McLaglen was big enough at 14 to enlist in the English Army to fight the Boers. (Sounds like a young English lad’s dream, until he was found out a short time after and had to exit the Army.) When he was 18, he moved to Canada, became a wrestler and a boxer and toured with circuses, vaudeville and Wild West shows.

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He fought under his own name and took on the nickname ‘Sharkey’ McLaglen. In 1909, he survived a 6-round exhibition bout with heavyweight champion Jack Johnson. Commenting later on the fight, “He never knocked me down . . . but he sure beat the livin’ be-Jesus out of me.” In 1918, he was named the heavyweight champion of the British Army. For the record, Victor’s lifetime boxing record (as far as is known) was 11-6-1, with 9 KOs.

He returned to Britain in 1913 and enlisted in the Army, then served as captain (acting) with the 10th Battalion, Middlesex Regiment. Besides serving in WW1, other early chapters in his life included serving as a bodyguard for an Indian Rajah and later as Provost Marshal (head of Military Police) for the city of Baghdad. In the 1920’s, he was off to Hollywood.

His Career – Big Screen Grins and Bromance

Though a big man at 6’ 2 1/2” and broad-shouldered, it was his roguish charm and big toothy smile that took up most of the big screen. He often grinned and fought his was across the screen with the biggest Hollywood stars of the day (including Cary Grant, Douglas Fairbanks, John Wayne, and Maureen O’Hara). The ease and charm with which he interacted with his co-stars served to compliment and enhance their own substantial on-screen charisma.

Victor appeared as MacChesney, in the original bromance adventure movie Gunda Din (1939). The chemistry he had with Cary Grant and Douglas Fairbanks is why this film is in my top 5 films of all time. His comic timing and dialogue delivery was on par with his co-actors. If you’ve not seen it, rent it or buy it. And if you have seen it, might be time to watch it again (so says my Guinness). As you watch these three British sergeants and their native water bearer take on a murder cult in colonial British India, you’ll see a “best buds” heroic action movie DNA that has been passed down and continues to make ripples through many more modern flicks (and not just that poor Temple of Doom movie.)

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In The Quite Man (1952), McLaglen (now late in his career) played the role of Squire “Red” Will Danaher, resident loud-mouthed brother to Mary Kate Danaher (Maureen O’Hara.) In it, Victor squares off with Sean Thornton (John Wayne) over his sister, a farmstead, and that ornery Irish pride. It’s got romance, drinking, brawling, and… brawling. And the extended cast is a who’s who of some of the best character actors of the day. By the time this was filmed, Victor was 64, but he still gave John Wayne a run for his money with his hulking physical presence and personality (though John Ford and Wayne did have to take it easy on him during filming). His performance got him his second Academy nomination for Best Supporting Actor.

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This post isn’t an exhaustive overview of McLaglen’s life and family; others have done a better job of that. Rather it’s a feel-good loving tribute to someone I love watching on film. But if you want a few other notable movies to watch to get his range, try The Informer (1935) for which he won the Academy Award for Best Actor, She Wore A Yellow Ribbon (1949) another great pairing with Ford and John Wayne and The Lost Patrol (1934). The last Pre-Code feature has Boris Karloff in it and is a great survival story.

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McLaglen received a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame on February 8, 1960. I discovered his films in the early 70’s with my dad and continue to re-watch them today with my Irish wife. That lovable, hard-nosed character actor will always have a place in my heart…and I hope he can find a place in yours.

This is my entry to the 2016 What A Character! Blogathon, hosted by Kellee at Outspoken & Freckled, Aurora at Once Upon A Screen, and Paula at Paula’s Cinema Club, taking place all this weekend. Check all three day’s of posts this weekend for other fascinating character actor profiles. Catch me as @santaisthinking on Twitter.

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Announcement: 3rd annual WHAT A CHARACTER! BLOGATHON

“I was only a leading man for a minute; now I’m a character actor.”

… Robin Williams

Back in 2012 we- as in Aurora, Paula and I- borrowed a catch-phrase from our home of the classics, Turner Classic Movies (TCM) to host a blogathon dedicated to those whose names few remember.  The phrase is WHAT A CHARACTER! and the players are actors who rarely got leading parts, exhibiting instead a versatility and depth many leading players wished they had.  We never tire of seeing them or paying tribute and as the previous two installments of this event proved, neither do you.  So let this fun tradition continue with the third annual WHAT A CHARACTER! Blogathon…

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Contact us:

Kellee of Outspoken & Freckled aka (@IrishJayHawk66)

Paula of Paula’s Cinema Club aka (@Paula_Guthat) and

Aurora, of Once Upon a Screen aka (@CitizenScreen)

We are thrilled to be hosting this event again and we hope you’ll join us in shining the spotlight on the great character actors in the movies.  You know who they are, the Edward Arnolds and Eugene Palettes and Eve Ardens of the world, the ones whose names rarely appeared above the movie title, but who we relish in seeing time and time again.

If you’re interested in participating, and we certainly hope you are, please adhere to the following:

  • Let one of the hosts know which character actor is your choice.  Since there are so many greats worthy of mention, we won’t take any repeats and we’re not limiting these to “classic” actors.  Great character actors have made their mark since the end of the classic era and deserve some attention as well so the field is wide open.
  • Please include your twitter or FB tag, email address and blog name & URL.
  • Publish the post for either November 16, 17 & 18.  Let us know if you have a date preference, otherwise we’ll split publicizing duties equally among the three days.
  • Please include the blogathon graphic on your blog to help us publicize the event. (See the 3 pretty banners included in this post)
  • Include the graphic and link to the host sites in your WHAT A CHARACTER! post
  • If possible, please send any of the hosts the direct link to your WHAT A CHARACTER! post by the day before your due date.  Otherwise we’ll simply link to your site’s home page.
  • HAVE FUN and spread the word!  There are many great characters worthy of attention.

PARTICIPANTS:

Ann Doran & Luren Tuttle ~ Theresa guest post on ONCE UPON A SCREEN

Ann Dvorak ~ A PERSON IN THE DARK

Bealuh Bondi ~ A Thousand Words

Burgess Meredith ~ THE LAST DRIVE-IN

C. Aubrey Smith ~ CRITICA RETRO

Cecil Kellaway ~ THE LADY EVE’S REEL LIFE

Christopher Lloyd ~ THE MOVIE RAT

Don Beddoe ~ CHRISTY’S INKWELLS

Dame Edith Evans ~ MARGARET PERRY

Edna May Oliver ~ PORTRAITS BY JENNI

Edward Everett Horton ~OUTSPOKEN & FRECKLED

Esther Dale ~ CAFTAN WOMAN

Frank McHugh ~ THIS GIRL FRIDAY

Grant Mitchell ~IMMORTAL EPHEMERA

Harry Dean Stanton ~ JOEL’S CLASSIC FILM PASSION

Iris Adrian ~ SPEAKEASY

John Ridgley ~ COMET OVER HOLLYWOOD

Leo Carillo ~ PHANTOM EMPIRES

Melville Cooper ~ CLASSIC MOVIE HUB

Rochelle Hudson ~ BUNNYBUN’s CLASSIC MOVIE BLOG

Thelma Ritter ~ CINEPHILED

Thomas Mitchell ~ ONCE UPON A SCREEN

Tony Randall ~ A SHROUD OF THOUGHTS

 

A big thank you – HAPPY BLOGGING!

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