Dixon of Dock Green – A Slight Case of Love

slight

A Slight Case of Love opens in a non-linear fashion, but the reason why quickly becomes clear.  We see a woman telling her fiance that their marriage is impossible, since she has to care for her invalid mother.  This is repeated twice more – with different men but the same woman (although her appearance changes each time).  We then see each of the men hand over a cheque for one thousand pounds.

And this is only the tip of the iceberg as the woman, Kate Harris (Moira Redmond), has also conned at least four other men.  Crawford and Brewer have little to go on – apart from the irate responses of her victims.  One of them, George Bunning (Alec Wallis), can probably be taken as typical, as he’s incredibly angry and demands immediate action from Crawford – warning him that if there’s not a satisfactory conclusion he’ll make Crawford suffer.  Needless to say, Andy’s neither impressed or cowed by this.

This makes the response of Harris’ eighth victim, Lewis Naylor (Julian Glover), even more extraordinary.  He’s also keen to find her, but he doesn’t want her to go to prison – he still wants to marry her and so wouldn’t want his wife to have received a prison sentence.

Naylor is a powerful man (a merchant banker) and it’s hard at first to know if his motives are quite what he claims them to be.  This is due to Julian Glover’s icily efficient and clipped performance.  It’s one we’ve seen from him many times before (his career has often consisted of him playing villains and rogues) so there’s a certain ambiguity in his playing.  But it soon becomes clear that he’s completely sincere and, though he knows he’s not the first she’s conned, to him it doesn’t matter.

Later, we see why Kate has carried out these deceptions – together with her sister Fleur (Isla Blair) she owns a pottery business that is suffering from considerable financial difficulties.  If they don’t find eight thousand pounds then the bank will foreclose on their loan.  It explains why, although when the law catches up with her it’ll hardly be a defence.

Naylor does visit Dock Green but it becomes clear to him that whilst they also want to find the woman, when they do she’ll suffer the full penalties of the law.  So he leaves to hire a private detective to track her down whilst Brewer ponders on the two mugshot pictures he’s picked out.  No other victims were able to identify anybody from the photos held by the police, which strikes Brewer as a little odd.  Dixon surmises that it may be because although Naylor knows they’re not the ones, he wants to question them to see if they know Kate’s true identity.

This is a reasonable assumption, but it’s never followed through and the true reason seems to be that it allows the Dock Green boys to visit the two suspects, add them both to the identity parades, and also bulk out the running time of the episode.  But both encounters are good fun, especially Andy’s run-in with Heather (Mela White).  Andy and Heather are old acquaintances, although she insists that she’s now going straight and tells him she’s writing a memoir of her colourful career entitled Horizontal Confessions.  Andy caustically responds that it should be titled A Hard Time Was Had By All (!).

A Slight Case of Love is an interesting tale of morality.  Both Kate and Fleur are unrepentant – they needed eight thousand pounds and they took it from people who wouldn’t miss a thousand each (Kate considers they would be able to write it off as petty cash).  As a hard-headed, rational businessman, Naylor’s desire to marry her (even though he knows that she’s a serial con-artist) seems inexplicable – and can only be explained away by the fact that he’s in love.

Naylor’s private detective manages to find Kate, which allows the Dock Green coppers to take her into custody.  Five of her victims are lined up to pick her out of an identity parade – four do so and one doesn’t (the one who doesn’t is, naturally, Naylor).  Dixon’s outro tells us that Kate was convicted but also that on her release Naylor was waiting and he closes by saying that it’s “not every discharged prisoner who comes out to spend her honeymoon in the Bahamas.”

Julian Glover gives an excellent performance and he’s the main reason why this episode works as well as it does.  A lesser actor might have struggled with the apparant contridications of his character, but Glover is never less than totally assured.  Moira Redmond (a familar face from both films and television) has a hard role to play – does she love Naylor or is she simply marrying him for his money?  But this ambiguity is something that Redmond can play with and it helps to provide a little spark to the story.  Glover’s real-life wife, Isla Blair, played Fleur.  It’s the less rewarding, more passive role, but it’s always a pleasure to see her.

This is one where the detection is pretty minimal (and it’s the private detective that does most of the work anyway, although Crawford is happy with that).  Instead, the focus is on the rather mismatched pairing of Kate Harris and Lewis Naylor.

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