DIXON OF DOCK GREEN

British Police Series

Beginning in 1955 and finally ending in 1976, Dixon Of Dock Green was the longest running police series on British television and although its homeliness would later become a benchmark to measure the "realism" of later police series, such as Z Cars and The Bill, it was an enormously popular series. Dixon should be seen as belonging to a time when police were generally held in higher esteem by the public than they have been subsequently. The series was principally set in a suburban police station in the East End of London and concerned uniformed police engaged with routine tasks and low-level crime. The ordinary, everyday nature of the people and the setting was further emphasised in early episodes of the series with the old, British music-hall song--"Maybe its because I'm a Londoner"--with its sentimental evocations of a cozy community, being used as the series theme song. Unlike later police series, Dixon focused less on crime and policing and more on the family-like nature of life in the station with Dixon, a warm, paternal and frequently moralising presence, being the central focus. Crime was little more than petty larceny. However as the 1960s and the early 1970s brought ever more realistic police series from both sides of the Atlantic to the British public, Dixon Of Dock Green would seem increasingly unreal, a rosy view of the police that seemed out of touch with the times. Yet the writer of the series maintained to the end of the program's time on air that the stories in the episodes were based on fact and that Dixon was an accurate reflection of what goes on in an ordinary police station.

Police Constable(PC) George Dixon was played by veteran actor Jack Warner. The figures of both Dixon and Warner were already well known to the British public when the series was launched. In 1949 in the Ealing film The Blue Lamp, Warner had first played the figure of Dixon. A warm, avuncular policeman, his death at the end of the film at the hands of a young thug (played by Dirk Bogarde) was memorably shocking and tragic. British playwright Ted Willis, who with Jan Read, had written the screenplay for The Blue Lamp, subsequently revived the figure of Dixon for a stage play and then wrote a series of six television plays about the policeman. Thus the BBC was leaving little to chance in spinning-off the figure and the situation into a television series.

If Dixon was known to the public, the actor Jack Warner was even better known. Born in London in 1900, Warner had been a comedian in radio and in his early film career. Starting in the early 1940s he had broadened his range to include dramatic roles becoming a warmly human character actor in the process. But as well as playing in films with dramatic themes, such as The Blue Lamp, Warner continued to play in comedies such as the enormously successful Huggett family films made between 1948 and 1953.

In Dixon Of Dock Green, Jack Warner as Dixon is a "bobby" on the beat--an ordinary, lowest-ranking policeman on foot patrol. With the inevitable heart of gold, Dixon was a widower raising an only daughter Mary (Billie Whitelaw in the early episodes, later replaced by Jeannette Hutchinson). Other regular characters included Sergeant Flint (Arthur Rigby), PC Andy Crawford (Peter Byrne), and Sergeant Grace Millard (Moira Mannon). From 1964 Dixon was a Sergeant.

The series was the creation of writer Ted Willis, who not only wrote the series over its 20 years on British television but also had a controlling hand in the production. Longtime producer of the series was Douglas Moodie whose other television credits include The Inch Man and The Airbase. Dixon was produced at the BBC's London television studios at Lime Green. The show began on the BBC in 1955 and ran until 1976. Altogether some 307 episodes were made, at first running 30 minutes and later clocking in at 45 minutes. And of course the early episodes were in black and white while the later ones were in colour.

The BBC scheduled Dixon in the prime family time slot of 6:30 P.M. on Saturday night. At the time it started on air in 1955, the drama schedule of the BBC was mostly restricted to television plays so that Dixon of Dock Green had little trouble in building and maintaining a large and very loyal audience. In 1961, for example, the series was voted the second most popular program on British television with an estimated audience of 13.85 million. Even in 1965 after three years of the gritty and grimy procedural police-work of Z Cars, the audience for Dixon still stood at 11.5 million. However as the 1960s wore on, ratings began to fall and this, together with health questions around Jack Warner, led the BBC to finally end the series in 1976.

-Albert Moran


Dixon of Dock Green
Photo courtesy of BBC

CAST

George Dixon......................................... Jack Warner Andy Crawford......................................... Peter Byrne Mary Crawford....... Billie Whitelaw/Jeanette Hutchinson Sgt. Flint ................................................Arthur Rigby Insp. Cherry .................Stanley Beard/Robert Crawdon PC Lauderdale................................... Geoffrey Adams Duffy Clayton.......................................... Harold Scott Johnny Wills................................... Nicholas Donnelly Tubb Barrell............................................ Neil Wilson Grace Milard........................................ Moira Mannion Jamie MacPherson.............................. David Webster Chris Freeman .........................................Anne Ridler Bob Penney .......................................Anthony Parker Alex Jones................................................. Jan Miller PC Jones.............................................. John Hughes Kay Shaw/Lauderdale....................... Jacelyne Rhodes Michael Bonnet......................................... Paul Elliott Jean Bell............................................. Patricia Forde Bob Cooper....................................... Duncan Lamont PC Swain............................................. Robert Arnold Liz Harris........................................... Zeph Gladstone Shirley Palmer........................................ Anne Carroll Betty Williams......................................... Jean Dallas PC Burton........................................... Peter Thornton DS Harvey........................................... Geoffrey Kean PC Roberts....................................... Geoffrey Kenion Insp. Carter............................................ Peter Jeffrey Ann Foster......................................... Pamela Bucher Brian Turner...................................... Andrew Bradford DC Pearson.............................................. Joe Dunlop PC Newton .......................................Michael Osborne DC Webb............................................. Derek Anders Sgt. Brewer................................... Gregory de Polney Alan Burton.......................................... Richard Heffer Len Clayton............................................. Ben Howard

PRODUCERS
Douglas Moodie, G.B. Lupino, Ronald Marsh, Philip Barker, Eric Fawcett, Robin Nash, Joe Waters

PROGRAMMING HISTORY
154 c. 30-minute episodes 275 c. 45-minute episodes

BBC

July 1955-August 1955                               6 Episodes June 1956-September 1956                       13 Episodes January 1957-March 1957                         13 Episodes September 1957-March 1958                    28 Episodes September 1958-March 1959                    27 Episodes September 1959-April 1960                       30 Episodes October 1960-April 1961                           30 Episodes September 1961-March 1962                    27 Episodes September 1962-March 1963                    27 Episodes October 1963-March 1964                        26 Episodes September 1964-March 1965                    26 Episodes October 1965-April 1966                           31 Episodes October 1966-December 1966                   13 Episodes September 1967-February 1968                 20 Episodes September 1968-December 1968               16 Episodes September 1969-December 1969               16 Episodes November 1970-March 1971                      17 Episodes November 1971-February 1972                  12 Episodes September 1972-December 1972               14 Episodes December 1973-April 1974                        16 Episodes February 1975-May 1975                          13 Episodes March 1976-May 1976                                8 Episodes

FURTHER READING

Cotes, Peter. "Obituary: Lord Willis." The Independent (London), 24 December 1992.

Scott, Richard. "Villainy By the Book." The Times (London), 12 November 1994.

West, Richard. "Sunday Comment: Bring Back the Friendly Bobby." The Sunday Telegraph (London), 13 June 1993.

 

See also British Programming