About Victor Andrew DeBeer McLaglen
<The Times, November 9, 1959>
MR. VICTOR McLAGLEN
RUGGED GOOD NATURE
Mr. Victor McLaglen, a British-born film actor, died in Hollywood on Saturday at the age of 72.
Born in Tunbridge Wells on December 11, 1886, the eldest of a clergyman's eight sons, he joined the Life Guards in 1900 pretending to be 18 and in the hope of serving in the Boer War, but he was in fact not sent out of England. Instead he became a regimental boxing champion before his family found him and brought him home. His father later became a Bishop in South Africa, and in 1914 McLaglen was in Cape Town, having meanwhile had experience in music halls, as a professional boxer he once lasted six rounds against Jack Johnson, the world champion, and as gold prospector in Australia. He quickly returned to England and rejoined the Army, serving in Mesopotamia with the Royal Irish Fusiliers and becoming Assistant Provost-Marshal in Baghdad with the rank of captain.
After the war he tried various jobs before agreeing to appear in a film just for fun. He was an immediate success in "The Call of the Road" (1920), and starred in several more British films before going to Hollywood in 1924. The title of his first American film, "Beloved Brute", formed an apt summary of his role in the film world. Never conventionally handsome he possessed a rugged virility and at the same time radiated charm and good nature, so that his popularity was as great with women filmgoers as with men. During the silent era he appeared with great success in a series of action films, though generally with a fair admixture of comedy. Among them were "Beau Geste", "The Loves of Carmen", "A Girl in Every Port", and "King of the Khyber Rifles", in several of which he starred with Edmund Lowe, with whom he had begun a fruitful partnership in his most famous silent film, "What Price Glory?"
Their most successful sound film together was "The Cockeyed World" (1930), but from the beginning of the 1930s McLaglen began to strike out on his own as a dramatic actor in such films as Sternberg's "Dishonoured" with Marlene Dietrich, and Ford's "The Lost Patrol" and "The Informer". In the latter he won the Academy Award for the best acting performance of 1935 with a memorable portrayal of a simple, well-meaning Irish giant betrayed by greed into treachery. His other films of the period were extremely varied, including "Professional Soldier", with Freddie Bartholemew, "Klondike Annie" with Mae West, and "Wee Willie Winkie" with Shirley Temple (another Ford film).
He continued to act through the 1940s and 1950s, his last film being "Sea Fury", made last year in this country, and announced that he had no intention of retiring and taking things easy so long as the public wanted him. He was married three times, leaving a son and a daughter. He became an American citizen in 1933.