There is a saying that you know you’re getting old when policemen start looking younger. Well, I’m firmly entrenched in middle age now and I can categorically say that the copper, in the video clip below, doesn’t strike me as being in the throes of youth…………….The only way I would class him as young is if he suffered the same medical condition as Benjamin Button, ie he got younger looking as he aged.
The man in question in that clip is the late actor Jack Warner. He played the title role of Sgt George Dixon in the BBC’s police drama Dixon of Dock Green between 1955-1976. Warner portrayed the role of the amiable rozzer, until five years before his death aged 85, in 1981.
As you will see from the clip above there is a timer at the bottom of the screen. This wasn’t for an editor’s use. It was to remind the production team when the aged policeman needed to change his incontinence pants.
It was rumoured they had a bloke dressed in black with a tape measure on hand during filming. However, I suspect that was a show insider’s mischief making.
When Sgt Dixon read a villain his rights, he informed them they had a right to remain silent. However, if they did choose to converse, could they speak up a bit as his hearing wasn’t what it was.
I’m by no means mocking the age Warner worked until; I’ve nothing but admiration for the late actors career longevity. My point is him being cast as a policeman diminished the reality of the show. It’s pretty clear that the onus was obviously on casting the amiable, popular actor in the role of Sgt George Dixon, at the expense of that realism.
I recall watching this crime drama on a Saturday tea time in the early 1970’s. I vividly remember those cold dark winter nights in the North East of England. Evenings where we’d move the sofa and the coffee table nearer the fire, countering the chill as we ate tea and watched a septuagenarian rozzer maintain law and order in Dock Green.
While consuming our Saturday tea of melted Red Leicester cheese on toast or pikelettes, my brother Ian and I would sit engrossed in front of the monochrome TV picture. A half hour where we’d ponder who’d stolen Mrs Grimes’ cat or let down old Albert’s bike tyres.
The only movement would be if my dad went out for more coal. I never understood why he did this as we had a gas fire at the time!
From memory, it wasn’t the best written or most realistic cop show I’ve seen in my half century of years. However, I remember it with fondness and it takes up a small corner of happier times in my life tapestry.
The sanitised version of a coppers role portrayed in Dixon of Dock Green was soon to disappear, as in 1975 viewers were introduced to the realism and violence of the Flying Squad in the hard-hitting drama The Sweeney.
The hard fisted, heavy drinking, womanising Flying Squad officer Jack Regan in The Sweeney was a million miles from the gentle, authoritative approach of Sgt George Dixon.
Viewers moved into an era where we were no longer sheltered from the more salubrious side of policing. The Flying Squad didn’t hunt down Mrs Grimes’ cat . They fought proper villians who robbed banks, committed murders and still let down old Arthur’s tyres.
Dixon’s quiet and amiable intro of an elderly copper saluting, saying “Evening All!” and calmly telling the viewers a snippet of the minor crime they were about to be involved in, was no more. With The Sweeney the intro titles, of a car chase in a Ford Granada and a fight to a loud fast moving musical score, left you in no doubt what to expect in the next hour.
At the end of each episode of Dixon of Dock Green, Sgt Dixon summarised what happened to the villain, bode us a friendly farewell before saluting prior to the end credits rolling.
For two young impressionable lads, all was right with the world and we knew who to turn to if someone stole our bike or kidnapped our cat………………… Incidentally, it would have been pointless the kidnappers trying to shake us down for cash for the cat, as we didn’t have one!
To close, I’ll plagiarise Dixon’s farewell to his viewing public back in those halcyon days of the 1970s ……… “Night All!”