From reel to ideal: the Blue Lamp and the popular cultural construction of the English ‘bobby’

McLaughlin, Eugene (2005) From reel to ideal: the Blue Lamp and the popular cultural construction of the English ‘bobby’. Crime Media Culture, 1, (1), 11-30. (doi:10.1177/1741659005050241).


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Using the Ealing Studios film The Blue Lamp (1950) this article considers the shifting portrayal of the English police officer within the popular cultural imagination and how this has impacted upon attitudes to the police and their place within notions of ‘Englishness’. Drawing on a range of primary and secondary sources, I extend Clive Emsley’s (1992) seminal work on ‘the indulgent tradition’ of the English police by analysing how, in the immediate post-war period, a convergence of circumstances enabled The Blue Lamp to break with previous popular cultural representations. The article offers a series of insights into the deep cultural and interpretive work that had to be undertaken by Ealing Studios to produce PC George Dixon, the iconic image of the English ‘bobby on the beat’. It also suggests that despite this ‘Ealingization’ of the English ‘bobby’, for box office reasons audiences were also offered the metropolitan spectacle, glamour and turmoil of the chaotic life of the violent young ‘cop killer’ played by Dirk Bogarde.

Item Type: Article
Digital Object Identifier (DOI): doi:10.1177/1741659005050241
ISSNs: 1741-6590 (print)
1741-6604 (electronic)
Keywords: englishness, bobby on the beat, cultural constructions, ealingization, spectacle of criminality, spiv, welfare policing
Subjects: H Social Sciences > HM Sociology
H Social Sciences > HV Social pathology. Social and public welfare
P Language and Literature > PN Literature (General) > PN1993 Motion Pictures
Divisions : Faculty of Social and Human Sciences > Social Sciences
ePrint ID: 340125
Accepted Date and Publication Date:
March 2005Published
Date Deposited: 12 Jun 2012 09:08
Last Modified: 31 Mar 2016 14:29

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