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At the home of George Gideon, a chief inspector at Scotland Yard, Gideon is promising his wife Kate that he will bring home a fresh salmon for her dinner party when he receives a phone call from Herbert "Birdie" Sparrow, one of his informants. In a hurry to reach the Yard before meeting with Birdie, Gideon runs a red light and is pulled over by Simon Farnaby-Green, an earnest young police constable. To Gideon's annoyance, Simon disregards the inspector's rank and sternly issues him a ticket. After Gideon drives his eighteen-year-old daughter Sally to school, Sally realizes that she has forgotten to give him a ticket to her concert recital that night and asks Simon, who has followed them to school, to deliver it to Gideon at Scotland Yard. Upon reaching the Yard, Gideon irritably summons Sgt. Eric Kirby into his office and suspends him for accepting bribes. Gideon then goes to meet Birdie at the church in which he works as a caretaker. Before Gideon arrives, the church's vicar, Rev. Julian Small, is derided as a "sissy" by a group of street urchins. Gideon hopes to obtain more information about Kirby's bribes from Birdie, but their conversation is cut short when the inspector is called away to investigate a payroll robbery. At the scene of the robbery, the police find a tire track belonging to the thieves's car. Gideon then goes to question Kirby's wife at the lavish apartment she shares with her husband. Mrs. Kirby becomes agitated when Gideon suggests that the couple's elaborate furnishings have been purchased with her husband's ill-gotten gains and orders the inspector to leave. As Gideon walks down the corridor outside the apartment, a police officer arrives with the news that Kirby has been run down by a car and killed. When Gideon relays the message to Mrs. Kirby, she breaks down in tears. Soon after, Scotland Yard is alerted that a psychopathic killer is on his way to London from Manchester. Upon reaching London, the killer, Arthur Sayer, visits his niece, Rosie Saparelli. When Rosie leaves the flat to run an errand, Arthur sneaks up the stairs and murders her daughter Dolly. After exiting the house, Arthur drops his Manchester newspaper on the sidewalk. The paper is picked up by Simon, who follows Arthur to the washroom of a theater where the agitated killer declares he was driven to commit the murder. Later, at Scotland Yard, Simon is brought to Gideon because the young constable has been credited with cracking the case. Gideon initially does not recognize Simon, but when he finally does, instead of praising him, Gideon upbraids him for the traffic citation, causing the flustered Simon to forget to deliver the concert ticket. After Simon leaves, word comes that the tire tracks from the payroll robbery match those of the car that ran down Kirby. Soon after, Mrs. Kirby comes to Scotland Yard and tearfully admits that her husband had been associating with "shady characters." Gideon then shows Mrs. Kirby a woman's photograph they found in Kirby's locker, and she identifies the woman as her husband's consort. Meanwhile, Birdie is being pursued by two thugs who suspect him of being a police informant. While taking a break at a pub, Gideon is accosted by Birdie's drunken wife, who warns that her husband is in danger and begs the inspector to lock him up for his own protection. The thugs follow Birdie to the church, and when they begin to menace him, Rev. Small, a former war hero, overpowers them, thus earning the respect of the watching street urchins. After the woman in Kirby's photo is identified as Joanna Delafield, Gideon goes to question her, but she denies knowing Kirby. Gideon then brusquely informs her that Kirby has been murdered and leaves. Gideon next goes to interview Walker, the payroll master who was robbed. When he is shown Joanna's photo, Walker recognizes her as a recently hired employee. After an investigation into Joanna's criminal record reveals that she has been involved in several other payroll robberies, Gideon goes to her apartment to arrest her, but is met by Joanna's gun-wielding husband Paul, who claims that the robberies were justified because the money allowed him to pursue his true talent as an artist. Handing the gun to Joanna, Paul instructs her to watch Gideon while he finishes packing. While Paul flees out the back door, Gideon tells Joanna that she will hang for Kirby's murder, prompting her to lower her weapon is horror. At the end of the day, Gideon is about to go home when a call comes in about a break-in at the exclusive St. James Safe Deposit. Fitzhubert, a young aristocrat with a penchant for crime, and several of his confederates were about to break into the safe when a dowager stopped by to deposit her jewels. The dowager notified the police, who now arrive to cordon off the area. Using a bullhorn, an officer beseeches the criminals to come out peacefully, but Fitzhubert runs out firing his gun and is apprehended by Gideon. Gideon, bearing his salmon, returns home long after both dinner and Sally's concert have ended. Sally then arrives, accompanied by Simon, who used Gideon's ticket to attend the concert. Just then, Scotland Yard phones to inform Gideon that Paul has been traced to the London airport. Simon offers to drive Gideon there in his old jalopy, but along the way is stopped for a traffic violation. When Simon protests that the ticket should be forgiven because he was driving the chief inspector on an important mission, Gideon smiles.
John Le Mesurier
T. E. B. Clarke
J. B. Smith
Frederick A. Young
Gideon of Scotland Yard
Although the movie holds many pleasures, Columbia didn't think it could compete with the splashier fare encouraged by Hollywood as competition with TV continued to escalate. So it was released to US theaters in the cheaper black-and-white format and elbowed off the mainstream exhibition circuit.
The studio's lack of confidence proved infectious, and the picture's reputation still hasn't recovered among American viewers. It's hard to imagine a good John Ford film being half forgotten today-especially one from the same decade that gave us The Searchers (1956) and The Quiet Man (1952), to mention just a couple of his 1950s classics-but Gideon of Scotland Yard has suffered that fate. Even now its continuity is choppy in spots, a lingering effect of cuts made for the US market.
English actor Jack Hawkins, once called by Ford the "finest dramatic actor with whom I have worked," plays George Gideon, a dedicated Scotland Yard inspector. The movie follows him through a long, action-packed day that he and his family take totally in stride, seeing every complication and inconvenience as part of a police officer's regular lot in life.
On one level the picture is a police procedural, observing Gideon as he tracks down clues to a murder, a rape, a bank robbery, and a case of police corruption, among other crimes. On another level it's a domestic comedy showing how the Gideon family copes with everything from an uppity traffic cop to Gideon's chronic habit of getting stuck at work late into the evening. It's common for police dramas to shuttle between personal and professional scenes, but it takes a Ford to interweave the two sides of the equation with such perfect balance. He even pulls off the picture's silliest running gag, about our hero's efforts to bring home a fish in time for supper.
English screenwriter T.E.B. Clarke, whose credits include the 1951 caper hit The Lavender Hill Mob, penned the script, basing it on John Creasey's novel Gideon's Day - the first of twenty-one books Creasey wrote, using the pseudonym J.J. Marric, about the inspector's exploits. In addition to Ford's movie, Creasey's novels inspired a British television series called Gideon's Way in the UK and Gideon CID in the US; it ran for twenty-six episodes in 1964-65.
Ford was so famous for westerns that New York Times critic Bosley Crowther started his review of Gideon of Scotland Yard by marveling at the absence of John Wayne and horses. He went on to applaud the movie for its wry "spoofing" and the "good British-comedy style" of its supporting cast.
Finding it less funny, Ford authority Tag Gallagher calls it the director's only tragicomedy, using cheerful scenes to make its deeper interests-"the claustrophobia, craziness, and complacent despair of modern life"-stand out in sharper relief. Not for nothing does Ford display a newspaper headline about the hydrogen bomb and choose a theme song that echoes, "London Bridge is falling down...."
As often with Ford's work, Gideon of Scotland Yard fits too many categories for critics to pigeonhole it easily. It has indisputable comic ingredients from the fish-for-dinner motif to the junior cop who's cheeky enough to give Gideon a traffic ticket and then start wooing his starry-eyed daughter. Yet the somber undertones can't be ignored, especially when Gideon confronts the cold, hard facts of a brutal, senseless crime. Ford certainly took the story seriously, orchestrating its elements carefully and departing from the shooting script whenever he saw fit. As a story organically unfolds before the camera, he said in a 1958 interview, "one must develop each character in the actor [along with] the mood and the tempo," so that drama and humor reach an ideal mix. This is exactly what he accomplishes here.
Although the genre, the dry British humor, and the London setting aren't typical for this director, auteurists will be pleased to find that Gideon of Scotland Yard is recognizably a John Ford film. This is evident throughout the picture in its visual style, marked by richly expressive images shot with superb economy. Ford's personal stamp is especially vivid in the final scenes, when Gideon finishes his day (at last!) by returning to his loyal wife and daughter, who are guarding the hearth and awaiting his arrival with the patience of a homesteading family on the Western frontier. London Bridge may be metaphorically falling down, but our hero has earned a warm welcome back into the fold-even if he does have to rush right out again when the Yard summons him after hours.
In addition to Hawkins's finely tuned performance, Gideon of Scotland Yard benefits from excellent acting by Cyril Cusack as a Cockney snitch, Maureen Potter as his gin-addicted spouse, Andrew Ray as the impertinent young constable, Michael Trubshawe as a sergeant whose oversized mustache should get a screen credit of its own, Anna Lee as Gideon's long-suffering wife, and Anna Massey making her screen debut as their daughter. With talents this strong to draw on, one suspects Ford would have liked to visit England a lot more often than he did.
Producer: Michael Killanin
Director: John Ford
Screenplay: T.E.B. Clarke, based on the novel by John Creasey as J. J. Merric
Cinematography: Frederick A. Young
Film Editing: Raymond Poulton
Art Direction: Ken Adam
Music: Douglas Gamley
Cast: Jack Hawkins (George Gideon), Dianne Foster (Joanna Delafield), Cyril Cusack (Herbert "Birdie" Sparrow), Andrew Ray (Simon Farnaby-Green), James Hayter (Robert Mason), Ronald Howard (Paul Delafield), Howard Marion-Crawford (chief), Laurence Naismith (Arthur Sayer), Derek Bond (Eric Kirby), Grizelda Hervey (Mrs. Kirby), Frank Lawton (Frank Liggott), Anna Lee (Kate Gideon), John Loder (Ponsford), Doreen Madden (Miss Courtney), Miles Malleson (judge), Marjorie Rhodes (Rosie Saparelli), Michael Shepley (Sir Rupert Bellamy), Michael Trubshawe (Sgt. Golly), Jack Watling (the Rev. Julian Small), Anna Massey (Sally Gideon).
by Mikita Brottman and David Sterritt
Gideon of Scotland Yard
The working title of this film was Gideon's Day, which was also the British release title. The voice of Jack Hawkins, as his character, "Inspector George Gideon," introduces many of the events as he describes the typical day in the life of a Scotland Yard Inspector. According to an August 1957 Hollywood Reporter news item, the film marked the resumption of the Columbia British Productions operation after a fourteen-year lapse. A December 1957 New York Times news item noted that although the British release print was in color, in the United States the film was shown in black and white. The viewed print was in color. The article added that director John Ford cut the picture from 118 to 90 minutes. Gideon of Scotland Yard marked the screen debut of Anna Massey, the daughter of actor Raymond Massey. Although the film was produced in the latter part of 1957, a January 1959 Hollywood Reporter news item noted that its release was delayed until 1959 to avoid competition with the Ford film The Last Hurrah .
Chief Inspector Gideon of Scotland Yard was the protagonist of a series of novels by British writer J. J. Marric, pseud. of John Creasey, (1908-1973), the first of which was Gideon's Day, the basis of this film. There were twenty additional Gideon novels. The British television series Gideon's Way, which was shown on ITV from March 18, 1965 -May 10, 1966, was also based on the character of Gideon. In that series, John Gregson starred as the inspector.
Released in United States 1959
Released in United States February 1990
Shown at American Museum of Moving Images, New York City February 18 & 23, 1990.
American print was released in black and white.
Released in United States 1959
Released in United States February 1990 (Shown at American Museum of Moving Images, New York City February 18 & 23, 1990.)