Dedications: My four late friends Rory, Stan, Bryan, Jeff - shine on you crazy diamonds, they would have blogged too. Then theres Garry from Brisbane, Franco in Milan, Mike now in S.F. / my '60s-'80s gang: Ned & Joseph in Ireland; in England: Frank, Des, Guy, Clive, Joe & Joe, Ian, Ivan, Nick, David, Les, Stewart, the 3 Michaels / Catriona, Sally, Monica, Jean, Ella, Anne, Candie / and now: Daryl in N.Y., Jerry, John, Colin, Martin and Donal.

Friday, 15 June 2012

John Ford's London cop show

and a ferry to Hong Kong.

GIDEON OF SCOTLAND YARD (or GIDEON'S DAY) is an amusing view now - it must have seemed quaint even in 1958, I know I saw it as a kid. Directed (though you wouldn't know it) by John Ford as though he was having a vacation from THE QUIET MAN or THE SEARCHERS, it purports to show a typical day of Inspector Gideon who seemingly never gets to eat anything as he is always on the hop from one case to another. Here is a blurb: Scotland Yard Inspector George Gideon starts his day off on the wrong foot when he gets a traffic-violation ticket from a young police officer. From there, his 'typical day" consists in learning that one of his most-trusted detectives has accepted bribes; hunts an escaped maniac who has murdered a girl; tracks a young girl suspected of a payroll robbery and, then, helps break up a bank robbery. His long day ends when he arrives at home and finds that his daughter has a date with the policeman who gave him a ticket that morning.

John Wayne visits Ford on set
There is extensive shooting all over London and we see police procedures in that pre-computer and internet world with cops on the beat and without cellphones. Gideon drives a lovely old car as he drops off daughter Anna Massey at her music school. Mrs Gideon (Anna Lee) is kept firmly in her perfectly '50s kitchen (dig that check table cloth). Massey - who died last year, RIP label - was Ford's god-daughter (her father being Raymond Massey) - she played the young debutante in the original stage version of that other quaint view of '58 London, Minnelli's THE RELUCTANT DEBUTANTE (which I saw on a cinema screen recently, as per report below). A whole raft of English players pop up, some for just a moment: Miles Malleson, John le Mesurier, Marjorie Rhodes, Laurence Naismith as a sex killer - we just watch him climb the stairs to his victim (rather like how Hitch pulls away from the murder scene in FRENZY). 

Bank robbers were toffs then
Ford had made THE RISING OF THE MOON in Ireland in 1957 and ropes in some regulars from that here too: comedienne Maureen Potter, Cyril Cusack, Donal Donnelly. Jack Hawkins is his customary self radiating that natural authority not only for Ford here, but that PHAROAH for Howard Hawks and Roman admiral Quintus Arrius for Wyler in BEN-HUR. Top billed with Hawkins, Dianne Foster - a starlet of the time - has just 2 scenes. Gideon has a busy day coping with robberies, a murder or two, a corrupt colleague - but everything is wrapped up by the end of his long day. The Gideon books (21 in all) must have been popular, by John Creasey. It is an interesting view of police life before the gritty tv series like Z CARS took over in the '60s.

1958 seems very quaint here - as it does in the same year's studio confections THE RELUCTANT DEBUTANTE and Donen's INDISCREET, but things were changing as the '50s closed: next year 1959 saw ROOM AT THE TOP, I'M ALL RIGHT JACK, SAPPHIRE (and the American ANATOMY OF A MURDER - my next report, it airs again tomorrow); while 1960 brought that new era of movie-making with PSYCHO, L'AVVENTURA etc as well as England's PEEPING TOM, SONS AND LOVERS and 1961's VICTIM and FLAME IN THE STREETS, and those 'kitchen sink' items like A TASTE OF HONEY while by 1963 it was time for the new decade and BILLY LIAR, THE SERVANT and NOTHING BUT THE BEST ... as per other '60s posts here.

Lewis Gilbert's FERRY TO HONG KONG, a Rank Organisation actioner I remember from 1960 seems interminable now. We are on Orson Welles' ferry as habitual drunk Curt Jurgens is expelled from Hong Kong but is not allowed to enter Macao, so he goes back and forth on the ferry, to the annoyance of Orson, treating it all with disdain as the effete captain. Add in Slyvia Syms as a love interest (she was also in Hong Kong for THE WORLD OF SUZIE WONG that year), Irish Noel Purcell as the chief engineer and Jeremy Spencer as first officer. Rank was trying to compete with international movies then, this though is not one of their better efforts and quickly becomes tedious despite a storm at sea and marauding pirates, while we wonder at Orson earning a crust here.
 Sylvia is still going strong now, happily playing old ladies (popping up in REV etc, as well as her turn in THE QUEEN) - but as I said a while ago whatever happened to Jeremy Spenser?
It will be a pleasure to remind myself of Orson's greatness by returning to his Falstaff in CHIMES AT MIDNIGHT, which we liked so much back in 1966. 

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