GIDEON’S DAY. Columbia Pictures, UK, 1958; US, 1959, as Gideon of Scotland Yard. Jack Hawkins (Chief Inspector George Gideon), Anna Lee, Anna Massey, Andrew Ray, Howard Marion-Crawford, John Loder. Based on the novel by John Creasey. Director: John Ford.

   I don’t always enjoy police procedurals. To me, they’re either grim or boring. I was interested, though, in seeing this offering from the late ‘50s, as such slice-of-life films can lend us a window into another era. Sure enough, we get to see a lot of London in the year of Britain’s first motorway, the launch of the Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament and – most importantly, of course – Cliff Richard’s debut single.

   It’s a very English film, full of military types with stiff moustaches and even stiffer upper-lips. Despite all the red buses and clear class divisions, however, it was actually directed by the American Oscar-winning director John Ford. After all those gunfights, this must have been quite the change of pace.

   The excellent Jack Hawkins plays the stolid and dependable Detective Chief Inspector George Gideon, known as Gee-Gee to his colleagues. A middle-aged, middle-class family man, Gideon struggles to balance his home life with the demands of a high-ranking man of the met. We follow him through a single day, as he discovers that a colleague has been accepting bribes, an escaped mental patient is at large and that a violent gang are stealing payrolls.

   Throughout the film, Gideon is reminded that he must return home in time to enjoy tea with his wife’s aunt and uncle and accompany them to a concert in which his daughter will be giving a violin recital. In a recurring gag, Gideon is frustrated with a young, officious constable who fines him for running a red light. Such humour is needed, as the mental patient kills a young woman in a sexually-motivated attack and the colleague with the bribes is murdered by the gang.

   Based on a novel by John Creasey, one of Britain’s most prolific writers, but now forgotten, Gideon’s Day is a fairly grim, mundane affair with an episodic structure and a day-in-the-life gimmick which isn’t always plausible and often contrived. The situations are clearly harrowing for the Chief Inspector, but his wife doesn’t seem to understand. Frustratingly, the film doesn’t deal with this and Gideon only ever apologises.

   There are some decent actors on the bill: Anna Massey, in her first film, and Cyril Cusack and Laurence Naismith, and a brief role for John Le Mesurier and erstwhile Holmes and Watson Ronald Howard and Howard Marion-Crawford, appearing separately.

   It’s good to see 1950s London in colour, but there’s little else to recommend this one.

Rating: **