John Ford is best known as a director of westerns but as a new DVD collection shows he also made a police procedural based in London called Gideon's Way (1958) or as it was known on its American release Gideon of Scotland Yard with a screenplay by T.E.B Clarke (Hue and Cry 1947, The Lavender Hill Mob 1951) adapted from a novel by John Creasey an English crime and science fiction writer who wrote more than six hundred novels using twenty eight different pseudonyms.
The movie follows one day in the busy life of George Gideon a Chief Inspector of the Flying Squad based at Scotland Yard in an office whose window overlooked Westminster Bridge and the Houses of Parliament, in fact a model made by the films art director Ken Adam a German national who flew for the RAF during World War 11. Gideon's day starts with breakfast provided by his obediently loyal wife, he drops their two kids off at school and their grown up daughter at the Royal Institute of Music where he receives a summons from a keen young copper for a traffic offence. Ending his day by wrestling to the ground an armed robber who has just killed a man. Our police inspector is no diplomat, he's unfeeling towards victims of crime, expects his very well attired wife to wait on him hand and foot, and drinks while on duty. It's not surprising that the Sweeney got a bad name?
Filmed on location in and around London and at the MGM British Studios at Boreham Wood Herts it stars Jack Hawkins as Gideon, Peeping Toms own Anna Massey as his daughter and Anna Lee as Kate Gideon the compliant wife. Although the acting can sometimes leave a little to be desired, we do get some commendable character actors in smaller roles including Cyril Cusack as the petty crook Birdy Sparrow, Andrew Ray as the 'keen' young copper with Jack Watling as the fighting Reverent Smalls.
It was in the 1950's that we saw the police as heroes, hard working, happily married and honest. Something which had changed since the 1940's when the flashy evil spiv was the centre of attention and would of course change again during the beginning of the next decade. Which presented a less flattering view of the police in films like Hell is the City (1960) The Criminal (1960) and Never Let Go (1960). This was the first feature film about the detective but the character was to be seen in a TV series between 1964 and 1966 and spanning 26 episodes starring John Gregson as Gideon.
We will let Gideon's Way's Cinematographer Freddie Young have the last say 'Gideon was not a great film; it was untypical of John (Ford). That particular thing was not his cup of tea. I don't know why he did it; he probably just wanted to make a film in England. He didn't show much emotion about it at all. I never saw him intense or excited'