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Dixon of Dock Green (1955-76)

Courtesy of BBC

Main image of Dixon of Dock Green (1955-76)
BBC, 9/7/1955 - 5/1976
154 x 30 min, 275 x 45 min episodes, black & white/colour
Created byTed Willis
 Jan Reid
Producers includeDouglas Moodie
 Ronald Marsh
 Joe Waters

Cast: Jack Warner (PC George Dixon); Peter Byrne (Detective Sergeant Andy Crawford); Billie Whitelaw, Jeannette Hutchinson, Anna Dawson (Mary Crawford); Geoffrey Adams (Detective Constable Lauderdale); Arthur Rigby (Desk Sgt Flint); Nicholas Donnelly (PC Willis); Anthony Parker (PC Bob Penney); Jocelyne Rhodes (WPC Kay Shaw)

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The travails of PC George Dixon of London's Dock Green police station.

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George Dixon is the archetypal British bobby, tackling ordinary, everyday, rather than serious crime. He patrolled a world in which victims of petty theft and larceny were treated to a nice cup of tea and a 'talk'; in much the same way as the viewers were addressed at the beginning of each episode, often with his best remembered phrase, 'Evenin' all', and wished farewell in homilies to camera concerning the episode just gone.

The character was born in the Ealing film The Blue Lamp (d. Basil Dearden, 1949), in which PC Dixon is shot down - and ultimately killed - by a dangerous young tearaway, played by Dirk Bogarde. Part of Dixon's mythical appeal, perhaps, was his resurrection on the small screen. Unlike his detective precursors, Dixon was an ordinary beat policeman whose appearance reassured, rather excited. But it was his everyday concerns and those of the folk around Dock Green that viewers found fascinating at a time when little was known about the workings of London's Metropolitan Police.

The arrival of the new series in July 1955, just before ITV's launch in September, demonstrates the BBC's determination to respond to the new commercial channel with its own brand of populism. Writer Ted Willis, renowned for his leftwing work in film, theatre and television, was heavily influenced by American playwright Paddy Chayevsky's 'marvellous world of the ordinary'. Although it is hard to read Dixon as 'radical' today, it was considered groundbreaking when first transmitted. The fact that star Jack Warner was nearing retirement age when he began the role added to the sense that this series was about nostalgia rather than real life. For the next 21 years, despite the arrival of the BBC's Z Cars (1962-78), not to mention competition on 'the other side' (No Hiding Place, 1959), Dixon of Dock Green attracted audiences of over 14 million in its heyday.

Dixon was promoted to Sergeant in 1964. Gradually, his exploits began to seem out of kilter with the times. By the time he finally retired in 1976, Warner was over 80 years old. So closely was he identified with the role that, at his funeral in 1981, officers from the Metropolitan Police Force carried his coffin. Today, whenever more police 'on the beat' are advocated, Dixon's dog-days are frequently evoked, as a time when everything was - literally, in the case of television - more black and white.

Susan Sydney-Smith

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Video Clips
1. Dixon's introduction (3:08)
2. The Captain (3:20)
3. Fancy food (1:33)
Complete episode: 'The Rotten Apple' (29:41)
Production stills
Eddington, Paul (1927-1995)
Warner, Jack (1896-1981)
TV Police Drama