George Dixon was a policeman of the old school. A dependable officer who would help old ladies cross the street and whose idea of treating juvenile delinquents was with a 'clip' round the ear. George Dixon was a 'Community Copper' before the term had even been invented.
Jack Warner (real name John Waters), first played Dixon in the 1949 Rank movie, 'The Blue Lamp,' in which he was gunned down by armed robber Dirk Bogarde. His creator, Ted Willis, resurrected him six years later as a replacement for the BBC series Fabian of the Yard. Willis spent a number of weeks researching at Paddington Green station, where he 'recruited' some 250 officers to provide him with anecdotes, until he finally placed Dixon at London's fictitious Dock Green police station, where he became a permanent fixture for the next 21 years, making the series the longest running police show in British TV history. Willis created a cosy, non-violent image around George Dixon, episodes began and ended with a monologue to camera beneath the police stations blue lamp, with a moralistic message that crime doesn't pay, before old George would disappear into the night whistling 'Maybe It's Because I'm A Londoner'.
By the early sixties, however, Dixon was beginning to look his age, especially when compared to the new tough realism of Z Cars. Nevertheless he soldiered on for another decade or so, being promoted to 'Desk Sergeant' -whilst new, younger characters, such as Detective Sgt Andy Crawford came to the fore. With his promotion George rarely strayed beyond the station's front doors, and indeed, the last few years of the series saw him preparing for retirement, not surprisingly as Warner was now 80 years of age! Jack Warner died 5 years after the series finished, and in tribute to him his coffin was borne by officers of Paddington Green Police Station, as the shows theme 'An Ordinary Copper' was played over a PA. It was not just Jack Warner who was buried that day, it was an entire age of innocence, where the good guys upheld simple, traditional values and the bad guys came quietly.
More than a quaintly old fashioned and reassuring television series came to an end when George Dixon went off duty for the final time, a doorway to an old way of life was closed and firmly bolted forever. Dixon of Dock Green was the final representative of a moralistically paternalistic Britain, whose decline had arguably begun in the immediate aftermath of World War II. In the harsh and cynical television world of the new breed of coppers such as 'The Sweeney's' Jack Regan, George Dixon's era had become as extinct as the dinosaur. But like all dinosaurs it was representative of the values and outlooks of the age that spawned it. Viewed in this context, it more than deserves its fondly remembered classic status. " G'Night all!"
Related Article: Cops on the Box - an early history of UK TV cop shows
Published on December 7th, 2018. Written by Laurence Marcus & SRH for Television Heaven.