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The Blue Lamp
Directed by Basil Dearden
Written by T.E.B. Clarke
Starring Jack Warner
Jimmy Hanley
Dirk Bogarde
Robert Flemyng
Distributed by Ealing Studios
Release date(s) UK 17 January 1950 (London)
USA 1 June 1950
Australia 24 November 1950
Running time 84 min
Country UK
Language English

The Blue Lamp is a British crime film released in early 1950 by Ealing Studios, directed by Basil Dearden and produced by Michael Balcon. It stars Jack Warner as police constable George Dixon, Jimmy Hanley and Dirk Bogarde in an early and defining role. It was the progenitor of the long-running television series Dixon of Dock Green (even though Dixon's murder is the central plot of the original film).

The title refers to the blue lamps that traditionally hung outside British police stations (and often still do). George Dixon is named after producer Michael Balcon's former school in Birmingham.

The screenplay was written by ex-policeman Thomas Ernest Bennett Clarke. The film is an early example of the "social realism" films that would emerge later in the 1950s and 1960s, but it follows a simple moral structure in which the police are the honest guardians of a decent society, battling the disorganised crime of a few unruly youths.

Contents

Plot

The action takes place in the area of London known as Paddington Green and is set just a few years after the end of World War II. P.C. George Dixon (Warner) a long-serving traditional "copper" who is due to retire shortly, takes a new recruit, Andy Mitchell (Hanley), under his aegis, introducing him to the easy-going night beat. Dixon is a classic Ealing 'ordinary' hero, but also anachronistic, unprepared and unable to answer the violence of Tom Riley (Bogarde). Called to the scene of a robbery at a local cinema, Dixon finds himself face-to-face with Riley, a desperate youth armed with a revolver. Dixon initially tries to talk Riley into surrendering the weapon, but Riley panics and fires. Dixon walks to his own death almost uncomprehending.

Dixon is taken to hospital, but dies some hours later. The ending is another Ealing quirk, with ordinary decent society, including 'professional' criminals used to violence, banding together to track down and catch the murderer, who is trapped in the crowd at a greyhound track. To Andy Mitchell falls the honour of arresting Riley.

Production

The producers obtained full co-operation from the Metropolitan Police and were therefore able to use the real-life former Paddington Green Police Station, then at 64 Harrow Road, London W9 and New Scotland Yard for location work. Most of the other locations were in inner West London, principally the Harrow Road precincts between Paddington and Westbourne Park.

Locations used

The original blue lamp was transferred to the new Paddington Green Police Station. It is still outside the front of the station and was restored in the early 21st century. Most of the locations around the police station are unrecognisable now due to building of the Marylebone flyover.

The Metropolitan Theatre of Varieties, featured prominently at the start of the film, was demolished because it was thought likely that the Marylebone flyover would need the site, although that turned out not to be the case. It is now the site of Paddington Green Police Station. The scene involving a robbery on a jeweller's shop was filmed at the nearby branch of national chain, F. Hinds (then at 290 Edgware Road). This was also knocked down when the flyover was built.

The scenes of the cinema robbery were filmed at the Coliseum Cinema on Harrow Road, next to the Grand Union Canal bridge. The cinema was probably built in 1922, was closed in 1956 and later demolished[1]. The site is now occupied by an office of Paddington Churches Housing Association.

Some of the streets used, or seen, in the film include: Harrow Road W2 and W9, Bishop's Bridge Road W2, Westbourne Terrace Bridge Road W9, Delamere Terrace, Blomfield Road, Formosa Street, Lord Hill's Road, Senior Street, Ladbroke Grove W10, Portobello Road, Latimer Road, Sterne Street W12 and Hythe Road NW10. The church which features prominently towards the end is St Mary Magdelene Church, Senior Street, W9. All of the streets around the church were demolished in the early 1960s to make way for the new Warwick Estate. Tom Riley's home was in a run down mews; Amberley Mews. This was demolished and replaced by Clearwell Drive. It is from this mews that Riley walks into Formosa Street, then crosses the Halfpenny Bridge. He then goes into Diana Lewis' flat on the corner of Delamere Terrace and Lord Hill's Road where he attacks her and is chased out by the following detective. There then follows one of first extended car chases in British film. The route of the chase is as follows: Senior Street W9, Rowington Close W9, Harrow Road W9, Ladbroke Grove W10, Portobello Road W10, Ladbroke Grove W10, Royal Crescent W10, Portland Road W10, Penzance Place W10, Freston Road W10, Hythe Road NW10, Sterne Street W12 - then a chase on foot onto Wood Lane and then into White City Stadium. Most of the chase is a logical following of Riley's car apart from when the car goes from Hythe Road NW10 into Sterne Street - Hythe Road in 1949 was a dead end.

White City Greyhound Track was the former 1908 Olympic Stadium and is now the site of the BBC White City building.

Cast

Reception

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Awards

The film won the BAFTA Award for Best British Film.

Legacy

Several of the characters and actors were carried over into the TV series Dixon of Dock Green, including the resurrected Dixon, still played by Warner. The series ran on BBC Television for twenty-one years from 1955 to 1976, with Warner being over eighty by the time of its conclusion.

In 1988, Arthur Ellis's satirical BBC Two play The Black and Blue Lamp had the film characters of Riley (Sean Chapman) PC "Taffy" Hughes (Karl Johnson)) transported forwards in time into an episode of The Filth, a gritty contemporary police television series, replacing their modern day counterparts.[1]

The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen: Black Dossier by Alan Moore and Kevin O'Neill has one panel suggesting George Dixon died in August 1898, the time-period given for the first two graphic novels, as well as The War of the Worlds. However, no explanation of this claim is given.

References

Notes

Bibliography

  • The Great British Films, pp 140-141, Jerry Vermilye, 1978, Citadel Press, ISBN 080650661X

External links

Awards and achievements
Preceded by
The Third Man
BAFTA Award for Best British Film
1951
Succeeded by
The Lavender Hill Mob

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