In lieu of an abstract, here is a brief excerpt of the content:

  • The Cinematic Informer
  • Ruth Barton (bio), Brian McIlroy (bio), Barry Monahan (bio), and Jerry White (bio)

Jerry White

For followers of Irish cinema, there is no literary work quite so important as Liam O’Flaherty’s 1925 novel The Informer. Simply saying “it’s been adapted four times” would be enough. That’s not true of any other Irish literary work that I know of, not even Ulysses (three adaptations, if you count Pat Murphy’s 2000 Nora and Sean Walsh’s 2003 Bloom as well as Joseph Strick’s more “literal” 1967 effort) or Caoineadh Áirt Uí Laoghaire (also three film adaptations, none of them feature-length: Bob Quinn’s 1974, fifty-minute version, a 2018 short from University College Cork student S. H. Bean, and Luke McManus’s 2012 Bás Arto Leary, a “gangster” version made as a thirty-minute television film). But there is more than that to say about the cinematic Informer. All of the novel’s film adaptations force a viewer to confront key issues in film history: the transition from silent to sound cinema; the beginnings of a globalized Hollywood; cinema, even commercial cinema, as a tool of affinity building between oppressed people struggling for their rights; the vitality of small-scale cultural production in a small country. These are the kinds of issues that our four authors explore in these short introductions to the four film versions of The Informer ; questions about whether the book is better than the movie are left fully to the side. All of these films except for the 1992 version appear in good DVD editions, and the two American efforts are available to stream on iTunes. We thus encourage readers to seek out the films themselves, and hope that these contributions (which build on the great work done by Daniel Moran’s New Hibernia Review article on the John Ford Informer) will give an interested viewer a sense of what makes each of them important in its own way.1 [End Page 37]

Ruth Barton
trinity college dublin

The Informer
Arthur Robison, United Kingdom, 1929

The archive gala screening at the sixtieth British Film Institute (BFI) London Film Festival of 2016 was a revelation to many of those who attended. Overshadowed for generations by John Ford’s much-garlanded Hollywood version of 1935, Arthur Robison’s 1929 adaptation of Liam O’Flaherty’s The Informer had been little seen or discussed until its restoration. This may well have been because those who were familiar with it only knew the early sound version, a part-talkie with awkwardly dubbed voices. Now at last, audiences were treated to a restoration of the original silent version with a six-piece ensemble playing a contemporary accompaniment written by Irish composer Garth Knox. Since then the BFI has released Robison’s The Informer on Blu-ray/DVD with Knox’s score, offering fans of silent era cinema the opportunity to discover a key work of the period.

With Brexit now on the agenda, The Informer acquired renewed meaning. Here was a film dating from a moment when Britain worked with its European neighbors to share talent and create artworks that were unashamedly international. More than that, the restoration revealed a masterpiece of Expressionist cinema, a story told with light and shadow, peopled by characters who would not have been out of place in Weimar Berlin. This silent version is the focus of this essay. The internationalization of O’Flaherty’s novel, I argue, resulted in two significant alterations to the original: the stylized rendering of Dublin and the complication of the figure of the Weimar vamp.

Arthur Robison remains one of the little-known figures of early cinema. Born in Chicago in 1888, the son of German immigrants, he trained as a doctor in Munich before abandoning medicine for a career in journalism and acting in Switzerland. In 1914, he relocated to Berlin, entering the film industry as a scriptwriter. Moving swiftly into direction, enjoying the remarkable career mobility available in the early days of cinema, Robison codirected his first film in 1916, an adaptation of popular writer Georg Engel’s Des Nächsten Weib. His second film was his first...