George Dixon: former Lord Mayor of Birmingham and educational pioneer: a little bit of film and TV history
George Dixon was a former Lord Mayor of Birmingham of the 1870’s and a renowned educational pioneer in the city. He founded Edgbaston High School for Girls in Westbourne Road to educate young women, the daughters of artisans and craftsmen in Birmingham.
The George Dixon Grammar Schools were built in 1906 to honour his memory on the mile-long City Road, built at the turn of the 20th century during the municipal boom in Birmingham inspired by Joseph Chamberlain who at that time founded the University of Birmingham also in Edgbaston.
George Dixon to those ‘Baby Boomers’ who grew up in 1960’s Britain meant a kindly, avuncular copper who pounded the beat in Dock Green in East London on black and white TV on BBC1 on Saturday evenings.
Did you know how PC George Dixon got his name…?
Sir Michael Balcon, then Head of the Ealing Studios was a former pupil of the George Dixon Grammar School for Boys in City Road, Edgbaston in Birmingham.
Ealing Studios released a film called: ‘The Blue Lamp’ in the early 1950’s starring Jack Warner as PC George Dixon. PC Dixon was shot dead by a very young actor named Dirk Bogarde (remember him…?) who played a petty villain on PC Dixon’s beat in bomb-damaged London.
PC George Dixon’s name was inspired by Sir Michael Balcon’s former school George Dixon Grammar in Birmingham.
PC Dixon was reincarnated for the very successful ‘Police Procedural’ TV show of the 60’s and 70’s on BBC1, still played by the original actor from ‘The Blue Lamp’: Jack Warner.
Sir Michael Balcon’s daughter Jill Balcon established links with her father’s old school in Birmingham some years ago. Jill was part of an acting dynasty and married into the Day-Lewis theatrical family which includes Jill Balcon’s double-Oscar winner son Daniel Day-Lewis whose grandfather is Birmingham-born Sir Michael Balcon.
Daniel Day-Lewis also won a ‘Best Actor’ Oscar in 2013 for his appearance as ‘Lincoln’ in the Steven Spielberg biopic.
There is another Birmingham link to Abraham Lincoln. One of Lincoln’s greatest friends and influences was Birmingham MP and anti-slavery campaigner John Bright.
Bright encouraged Lincoln to adopt the abolition of slavery as a central aim of his war against the Confederacy and for many years a bust of John Bright MP stood in The White House.
Birmingham therefore is linked via Sir Michael Balcon and his Ealing Studios films to Hollywood and the Oscars won by his grandson Daniel Day-Lewis.
Birmingham also has several other links to the early British film industry. The first ODEON ‘picture house’ was built in Birmingham by Oscar Deutsch.
The acronym ODEON was coined by Oscar Deutsch and stood for: ‘Oscar Deutsch Entertains Our Nation’ and the first ‘ODEON’ was in Birmingham. The word ODEON has become a by-word for a cinema in the British film industry.
Birmingham also has the oldest continuously operating cinema in Britain in ‘The Electric Cinema’ in Station Street near the ‘Old Rep’ having first shown news reels and short films since 1909.
Current owner Tom Laws has reinvented and reinvigorated ‘The Electric Cinema’ as a Art Deco cinema with a bar, double armchair-style seats which movie-goers can enjoy, creating an enjoyable personal cinema experience, totally different to the multiplex.
The fact that Celluloid was invented in the city too makes Birmingham a very important place in the history of the British film industry.