Thursday, 24 November 2016

“I think he must have been uneducated, he had a northern accent”

Now I wish I could report that this was the product of some gormless over privileged member of a TV reality show from deepest Surrey which would at least pander to my opinion of such shows.

Union Street near Traffic Street, circa late  1940
But no it was a carefully created piece of dialogue from an episode of Scotland Yard which ran through the 1950s.

The episodes were produced as short cinema features supporting the main film and lasted for 30 minutes.

They were based on “real life cases from the vaults of London’s Metropolitan Police headquarters” and were introduced by “Edgar Lustgarten the famous Criminologist.”

I have to confess I am a sucker for all these old 1950s and 60s dramas which form a large chunk of my Christmas requests and this year the wish list was fulfilled, so along with Scotland Yard and The Blue Lamp were a few Ealing Comedies and The League of Gentlemen.

What they have in common is that they offer up a wonderful slice of how we lived and yes right down to the that assumption about the North.

Long before “Loadsofmoney” poked fun at how we lived north of Watford Gap there were whippets, cloth caps and slag heaps which alternated with cheery Cockneys consuming vast quantities of jellied eels and the odd pie and mash as some of the nation’s stereotypes.

There was a time when I would get quite cross at such lazy portrayals of great sections of Britain, but they do tell us something of what the attitudes of those who made the films at the time far more than they represent an accurate picture.

And there will be someone who can point me to the scholarly paper which explores popular culture and its relation to the class prejudices of those engaged in writing and producing British films, plays and radio broadcasts.

Well I hope so.

And in the meantime  I think everyone should take 30 minutes out and watch an episode of Scotland Yard.

Picture;Union Street near Hope Street, late 1940s, from the collection of Cynthia Wigley

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