|Character actor Victor McLaglen's youthfulness in this photograph belies his later roles for director John Ford where he was
classically cast as the grizzled Irish U.S. Cavalry sergeant in such films as Fort Apache and She Wore a Yellow Ribbon. In this c.
1928 studio publicity still, McLagen is costumed as Captain Donald Gordon King for the John Ford film The Black Watch. (An
interesting side note to The Black Watch is the fact that a then unknown John Wayne played an uncredited part as a member of
42nd Highlanders in the film. Later Wayne would assume the role of leading man to McLagen’s supporting roles)
Victor Andrew de Bier McLaglen was born in Tunbridge Wells, Kent, England on 10 December 1886. His father Andrew, an
Anglican bishop, moved the family to South Africa for a time when McLaglen was a child.
While often appearing as military characters in films like The Black Watch, McLaglen himself actually did serve with the colours in
1901, just after the death of Queen Victoria. He lied about his age - he was only 14 at the time – with the hopes of seeing action in
South Africa during the closing stages of the Anglo-Boer War. His service papers describe him as being 5 feet 11 1/2 inches tall and
144 pounds at the time of his attestation with the 1st Life Guards on July 3, 1901. The papers also state that he had previous
military service with the City of London Artillery. He received Good Conduct Pay on 3 July 1903 and again on 1 April 1904. Not
long after this on 5 October 1904 No. 2370, Trooper McLaglen was discharged "...in consequence of his having made a
misstatement as to age on enlistment." McLaglen served for a total of 3 years, 95 days. His father was apparently the informant.
McLaglen's older brother Sydney Temple Leopold McLaglen had earlier enlisted in the Royal Horse Artillery and was discharged
in 1900 also for having enlisted while underage. Perhaps a streak of martial over eagerness ran in the family.
Four years later, he moved to Canada, where he earned a living as a wrestler and heavyweight boxer, with several notable wins in
the ring. One of his most famous fights was against Heavyweight Champion Jack Johnson. The fight was a 6 round exhibition bout.
Between bouts, he toured with a circus, which offered $25 to anyone who could go three rounds with him.
He returned to England during World War One and it has been said that he served with the Royal Irish Fusiliers although he
actually served as a temporary captain with the 10th Battalion, Middlesex Regiment, now part of the Princess of Wales's Royal
Regiment (Queen's and Royal Hampshires). Deployed to the Mesopotamian theater of operations, he served for a time as military
Provost Marshal at Sheikh Saad, 125 miles south-east of Baghdad along the Tigris river. He would receive a Mention in
Despatches from General French on 12 January 1920. He also continued boxing and was named heavyweight champion of the
British Army in 1918.
2nd Lieutenant 10th Batt., the Duke of Cambridge's Own (Middlesex) Regiment - 19 June, 1915
Lieutenant - 1st July 1917
Temporary Captain - ?
Deputy Assistant Provost Marshal - ?
Relinquishes temporary rank of Captain - 4 March 1919
Mentioned in Despatches - 12 January 1920
His Medal Index Card states that he was entitled to the British War and Victory Medals.
After the war, he began taking roles in British silent films. McLaglen's career took a turn in the 1920s when he moved to
Hollywood. After initially being offered leading roles he would become best remembered as a scene-stealing character and
supporting actor. The highlight of his career was an Academy Award for Best Actor for his role in John Ford’s The Informer (1935),
based on a novel by Liam O'Flaherty. He was nominated again, this time for Best Supporting Actor, for his role opposite John
Wayne in The Quiet Man (1952).
He was especially popular with director John Ford, who frequently included McLaglen in his films. Toward the end of his career,
McLaglen made several guest appearances on television, particularly in Western series such as Have Gun, Will Travel and
Rawhide, sometimes under the direction of his son Andrew McLaglen.
He died of a heart attack in 1959. He had by that time become a naturalized U.S. citizen.
Black and White Publicity Still
8 inches by 10 inches
Autry - Photographer
Fox Film Corporation
Hollywood, California, United States