Yes, he was a star. He won the Oscar for Best Actor. And, no, he is not to be confused with Wallace Beery or France’s Jean Gabin, both of whom shared his general acting style and physicality.
Some other things you should know about Victor McLaglen:
— He came from a long line of Scotsman, born in Kent in 1886. He is not Irish despite his most famous role as Gypo, the bibulous Irish Republican Army man in 1935’s The Informer, who betrays a colleague for cash. The role won McLaglen a best actor Oscar and cemented a strong bond with the actor’s prime professional supporter, director John Ford.
— McLaglen was later nominated in the best supporting actor category for his role in Ford’s 1952 drama, The Quiet Man, in which the actor squares off with John Wayne over a sought-after property and the attentions of Maureen O’Hara.
— Ironically, Wayne portrays a former prizefighter in The Quiet Man, which he was NOT but McLaglen definitely WAS.
— The eldest of eight brothers, McLaglen was spared service in the Boer War thanks to the intervention of his father, a Protestant cleric and at the time Bishop of Claremont in South Africa.
— McLaglen was pugnacious by nature (Hollywood gossip mongers tabbed him as something of a “sadist”), and before turning to acting, toured as an exhibition boxer in various circus and vaudeville shows in South Africa, the U.S., Canada and Australia. A big dude, bulky and standing at nearly 6-feet-3, McLaglen was a formidable foe in the ring. (McLaglen later served with distinction in the First World War).
— The actor actually compiled a boxing record of 11 wins, six losses and one draw with nine knockouts. In 1909, he shared the ring with none other than then reigning champ, Jack Johnson, who won the title the year before and held on to it until 1915. It was a six-round exhibition bout.
— McLaglen began his Hollywood career in 1925 something called The Beloved Brute. He had already established himself as the resident screen roughneck in a slew of silent titles in England. In effect, he was on his way to successive stardom on both sides of the Atlantic.
— The actor appeared during the silent period with Delores Del Rio in 1927’s The Loves of Carmen, and a year later opposite Louise Brooks in A Girl in Every Port. With Ford, he starred in 1925’s The Fighting Heart, in 1928’s Mother Machree and Hangman’s House and in 1929’s Strong Boy, and The Black Watch.
— McLaglen sailed into the Thirties with panache, achieving top stardom at Fox. He worked with such diverse directors as Josef von Sternberg (1931’s Dishonored) and Allan Dwan (1932’s While Paris Sleeps).
— Ford cemented the actor’s star status in 1934’s The Lost Patrol and then The Informer. McLaglen even found himself cast opposite Shirley Temple in 1937’s Wee Willie Winkie with both sporting skirts (see the move to see why). Also, watch for McLaglen in George Stevens’ 1939 adventure drama, Gunga Din.
— McLaglen recieved a late career boost playing Sergeant Quincannon in Ford’s so-called “cavalry trilogy;” 1948’s Fort Apache, 1949’s She Wore A Yellow Ribbon, and 1950’s Rio Grande. Overall, McLaglen piled up some 124 credits as an actor from 1920 until 1959, the year he died at age 72. A different kind of star indeed.