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The Blue Lamp (Ealing 1950, Jack Warner, Dirk Bogarde) 

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The Blue Lamp

The Blue Lamp was a seminal film from Ealing Studios that set out to show ‘fairly and realistically the work of the London police,’ as producer Michael Balcon wrote in his autobiography, an aim echoed by The Times, who said it ‘tells a story excitingly and gives admirable documentary illustrations of the way the police goes into action against the criminals.’

Jack Warner was cast as archetypal British beat bobby PC George Dixon, an old-timer nearing retirement. He’s joined by new recruit PC Andy Mitchell (Jimmy Hanley) who he takes under his wing. The two are called to a ‘domestic’ and find the row is over the couple’s daughter Diana (Peggy Evans), who has fallen in with petty criminals Tom Riley (Dirk Bogarde) and Spud (Patric Doonan), who are planning to rob a cinema. Warner arrives at the scene and the terrified Bogarde shoots him and flees. The full might of Scotland Yard swings into action and the film moves towards a climactic chase of the two killers at the White City stadium.

The close examination of the police procedure meant The Blue Lamp carried a then-rare documentary realism and the book the film was based on itself drew on two real-life murders; civilian Alec de Quentis, shot trying to foil a robbery in Tottenham Court Road in 1947, and the murder of PC Edgar at Southgate a year later. The film was favourably compared to America’s The Naked City and, as The Daily Express said, ‘This mixing up of trivia with murder, street-corner comedy with death, gives the film its particular richness and makes it the best journalistic job that British films have ever done.’ The film confirmed Bogarde as a British star in the making while Jack Warner’s character, PC Dixon, was, of course, resurrected in the long-running TV series, Dixon of Dock Green.

Cast: Jack Warner as PC George Dixon; Dirk Bogarde as Tom Riley; Jimmy Hanley as PC Andy Mitchell; Robert Flemyng as Police Sgt. Roberts; Peggy Evans as Diana Lewis; Bruce Seton as PC Campbell; Meredith Edwards as PC Hughes; Frederick Piper as Alf Lewis; Tessie O’Shea as Herself; Clive Morton as Police Sgt. Brooks; Patric Doonan as Spud; Dora Bryan as Maisie; Gladys Henson as Mrs Dixon; Bernard Lee as Inspector Cherry

Writers: T E B Clarke, from Ted Willis and Jan Read’s novel / Director: Basil Dearden

UK / Ealing / 84 minutes / 1950