Sapphire (1959) Racial Tension & Jazz On The Streets Of London

Sapphire (1959) movie poster film 1959 basil dearden

British director Basil Dearden steps forth with another progressive movie centered around London and prejudices. This time it’s deep racial tensions rife through-out the city. It starts with the gruesome find of a young girls body on Hampstead Heath. In comes Superintendent Robert Hazard (Nigel Patrick) and his right hand man Inspector Phil Learoyd (Michael Craig) hot on the case. Following their early investigations they discover that the murder victim was a young feisty girl called Sapphire Robbins (Yvonne Buckingham). This leads them to her college boyfriend David Harris (Paul Massie) and he quickly becomes prime suspect in the case.

Sapphire (1959) Sapphire Robbins (Yvonne Buckingham) london basil dearden

Tagline – Down a path of emotion and hate from dim-lit jazz pads to “respectable” homes she sought the thrill of forbidden love!

Tracking down Sapphires family brings her brother Dr Robbins (Earl Cameron) to London, much to the initial shock of the two detectives as Dr Robbins is black, whereas they had assumed Sapphire was white. Sapphire was of a light complexion and had been passing herself of as white but also enjoying the night club scene as a dancer at various jazz clubs and the International Center. Opening up the case to a whole new level of suspects.

Sapphire (1959) Nigel Patrick earl cameron hampstead heath london

Now Superintendent Hazard is a kind, thoughtful policeman in this terrible time of racial tension within the city but unfortunately his younger Inspector is less so, struggling with his own intolerant ways. As they investigate the crime they stumble across all manner of differing views, from a barrage of bigoted landlady’s to the narrow-minded and plain racist to intolerant family members. With prejudices even crossing over from the black community.

Sapphire (1959) Nigel Patrick (Michael Craig) bar scene drinkSapphire (1959) international centre

You can always tell a “Lily-Skin” when they hear the beat of the bongos.

No matter how fair their skin they can’t hide that swing!

Can the detectives decipher this murder mystery and discover what happened to poor Sapphire and who had ended this tragic young girls life with so much venom? If you can find this absolute gem of a film I thoroughly recommend you giving it a go.


The music is from composer Philip Green with The Johnny Dankworth Orchestra supplying the jazz vibes through-out the film. The jazz theme really suits this late 50’s London drama as we travel through the streets of the city.

Sapphire (1959) Nigel Patrick (Michael Craig) hospital nurse

The film plays out the social commentary of the time with a great understanding, realism and at times, sensitivity to the subject matter. A very progressive film to finish off the late 1950’s and another piece of brilliance from Basil Dearden and screenwriter Janet Green.

Keep watching the screens. All the best from the Wolfie x


16 thoughts on “Sapphire (1959) Racial Tension & Jazz On The Streets Of London

  1. Terrific film! A gripping story and some superb performances. I love Nigel Patrick in this (one of the best British character actors). Have you seen him in The League Of Gentlemen? That is a cracking British heist film from 1960.

    Liked by 1 person

    • I doffed my hat to you Maddy 🙂 thank you as always. Nigel Patrick was a pure delight in this. I haven’t seen The League Of Gentlemen yet but as I’m working my way through Basil’s films it is very near the top of the pile. Sooner rather than later I hope, esp now you have enlighten me to the knowledge that Nigel Patrick is in it. It does sound like so much good fun.

      Liked by 1 person

  2. Dearden one of those guys who kind of flies under the radar till you stop and look at his list of titles. I too am a fan of League of Gentlemen. Haven’t heard of this one so will be on the look out if it turns up over here meaning Canada.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. […] Keep an eye out for the interrogation scene during Gene’s training program. Eddie Albert’s Mac is great as Gene’s concerned handler. The schooling and scolding from Irene Worth is another key scene to watch out for. Plus it’s probably good practice to never order the rabbit stew! Canadian Paul Massie pops up in another top British production the following year in the Basil Dearden film Sapphire. […]


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