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Those were the days,my friend,we thought they'd never end....
Before "Dixon of Dock Green" there was "PC49",possibly of Dock Green as well,certainly some murky part of a smog bound London where the occasional car-horn was drowned by the sound of goods trains and the sad wail of ships' hooters on the turgid Thames.Created for radio,the character of Archibald Berkeley Willoughby made an uneasy translation to the world of the British "quickie" movie in the late 1940s.For a start Brian Reece who had created the role and had a huge following as a result wasn't used in the film,"49",as he was known,being played by Hugh Latimer.Furthermore, "49"'s part of London existed only in the imagination of the listeners,and bringing it to life on the screen was going to disappoint at least as many of them as it delighted.It would be easy to laugh at the world portrayed in this film,so many of the beliefs,customs and moral attitudes may seem to sophisticated 21st century audiences ridiculously naive or even reactionary.Please bear in mind that the Londoners of 1949 would find the vast majority of our enlightened" beliefs as outrageous as we find theirs.What is regarded as mainstream entertainment they would see as horrifying and obscene.This was an era when cinemas were not allowed to open on a Sunday,it was 3 years before the word "virgin" was allowed to be spoken in a movie(which was immediately awarded an "X" certificate thus guaranteeing it a popularity far in excess of its merit.Viz:-"TheMoon is Blue"). PC 49 himself was a young idealistic Met copper in the days when they wore high collar tunics and were recruited straight from the forces. He was looked up to by the boys at the Youth Club and had the grudging respect of the local ne'er-do-wells.Clean of mind and limb,we would do well to remember that men like him did exist in the bad old days when there was a blame culture and old people weren't locked away in homes the moment they became unproductive. As was the fashion at the time,49 had a fiancée - Joan - and their relationship was all rather jolly and Enid Blyton-ish.Both would have been outraged at any suggestion that they should have sex before marriage -or much of it after marriage probably.In this film she is played by Miss Patricia Cutts on whom I had a bit of a crush since I'd seen her in a "Just William" film.She disappeared from the movies for many years in the mid-fifties before appearing in "Private Road" in 1971 which sadly proved her swansong.She died at the tragically young age of 48 in 1974. 49 was absolutely sure that he was on the side of the angels,no agonising self-doubt for him,if "chummy" needed nicking he got nicked,no fannying about."Out you go,49",Sgt Wright used to say,ushering him from the office on to his beat.And off he went,happily chatting to the coaster mongers and shopkeepers,seeing old ladies across the road and confiscating catapults from schoolboys.As he dreams of hearing a shout of "Stop! Thief!" whereupon he'll take off his helmet and run like the wind with God and Right on his side,,he fades into history along with "Meccano" and "The Schoolboys' Exhibition" and,believe me ,the world is a far poorer place without him.
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