A John Ford film that isn’t a Western is usually a dodgy proposition at best. Masterful director though he was, he very rarely made good films outside of his Monument Valley home ground, and yet, because I’m a sucker who will watch anything the man touched, I routinely decide to put myself through even his most drab, dull films, just for the sake of completism. Gideon’s Day (or Gideon of Scotland Yard in the UK) is one of many minor and instantly forgettable films the man made throughout his career. He rarely made truly awful films (Donovan’s Reef and a few others to be excepted), but he quite frequently made distinctly average films where one can tell he’s simply waiting for the paycheck.
And so it is here. Starring Jack Hawkins – who even at the best of times was only a mildly competent character actor and certainly not a charismatic lead – we follow his day’s work as a detective in Scotland Yard. A lot of things happen, and very quickly. Within minutes he has to fire another police detective for corruption, deal with a hit-and-run, and a murderer on the loose, whilst also dodging his own parking violations, the cad. None of these various separate threads ever come together and so the film ends up being a series of vignettes rather than a coherently structured work. There are some mildly humorous moments, unsurprising given that the film was scripted by T.E.B Clarke, who wrote a fair few Ealing comedies, including Passport to Pimlico and The Lavender Hill Mob. If anything, the whole film builds up to one admittedly fairly decent punchline, but that’s hardly too impressive a feat.
This being a John Ford film, it also looks pretty at the very least. Whilst Ford was far more comfortable filming the wide open vistas of the Wild West, he makes good use of London here, or at least a studio version of it. In particular, there are some gorgeously moody and smokey night-time scenes here which suggest that Ford could have made a pretty decent film noir director if he ever tried his hand at that, but he was also probably far too sentimental to handle the toughness of that genre. Otherwise, Gideon’s Day is about as forgettable and mediocre as the last piss I took, and though it’s not awful by any means, it’s certainly not worth watching unless you’re a Ford obsessive like me.