Francis Durbridge

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Francis Durbridge
Writer Francis Durbridge.jpg
Durbridge in April 1967
Born(1912-11-25)25 November 1912
Died11 April 1998(1998-04-11) (aged 85)
Alma materUniversity of Birmingham
OccupationRadio and television scriptwriter, playwright, author
Years active1933-1998

Francis Henry Durbridge (About this soundlisten ; 25 November 1912 – 11 April 1998)[1] was an English playwright and author, best known for the creation of the character Paul Temple, the detective who first appeared in highly popular BBC multi-part radio serials from 1938 onward.[2]


Durbridge was born in Hull, East Riding of Yorkshire, and educated at Bradford Grammar School, where he was encouraged to write by his English teacher. He continued to do so while studying English at the University of Birmingham. After graduating in 1933, he worked for a short time as a stockbroker's clerk before selling a radio play, Promotion, to the BBC at the age of 21.[3]

Durbridge created the character of Paul Temple, a crime novelist and detective, in the 1930s. With Steve Trent, a Fleet Street journalist who would later become his wife, Temple solved numerous crimes in the glamorous world of the leisured middle classes, first on radio, then in films and, from 1969 to 1971, in a television series. In addition to the Paul Temple series, Durbridge wrote other mysteries for radio and television, many of which were also produced for Dutch, German and Italian television and radio.[4]

Durbridge also forged a successful career as a writer for the stage with seven plays, the last of which, Sweet Revenge, was written in 1991. He also wrote forty-three novels, many of which were adapted from his scripts, sometimes with the help of others.[5]

Work for radio[edit]

Paul Temple in the United Kingdom[edit]

Durbridge wrote twenty Paul Temple serials for radio. The first was Send for Paul Temple, broadcast in eight episodes on the BBC Midland Regional Programme from 8 April 1938. Hugh Morton played Paul, and Steve was played by Bernadette Hodgson. Carl Bernard took over the part of Paul in 1939. After the war the character was played by a succession of different actors: Barry Morse (1945), Howard Marion-Crawford (1946) and Kim Peacock (1946–1951). Peter Coke took over the part from the 1954 serial, Paul Temple and the Gilbert Case, onwards.[6][7]

Marjorie Westbury took over the part of Steve from the fifth serial, Send for Paul Temple Again (1945), although she had a small part in the fourth serial, Paul Temple Intervenes (1942). She remained as Steve for the rest of the radio run. To many people, Coke and Westbury are most firmly identified with Paul and Steve.[8]

Durbridge's grave at Putney Vale Cemetery, London, in 2015

The original signature tune was taken from Scheherazade by Rimsky-Korsakov, with incidental music taken from the works of other composers, including Tintagel by Sir Arnold Bax. The signature tune was later changed to Coronation Scot by Vivian Ellis. The BBC licensed the serials to broadcasters in Commonwealth countries, where they were transmitted long after their original runs in the UK.

Repeating the recordings on the BBC7 digital speech channel revived interest in the serials in the early 2000s. BBC Worldwide then released all the complete recordings known to have survived on CDs and cassettes.

On Monday 7 August 2006, BBC Radio 4 broadcast the first episode of a new production of Paul Temple and the Sullivan Mystery, a lost 1947-produced serial. The re-creation used the original 1947 script, vintage sound effects, music and microphones, and carefully reproduced 1940s upper-class accents. Paul Temple was played by Crawford Logan and Steve by Gerda Stevenson. This production was repeated on Radio 4 from mid-June 2007.

Paul Temple in Germany[edit]

In the 1960s, German radio adapted twelve Paul Temple serials. Like the BBC originals, each part ended with a cliffhanger, making them Strassenfeger ("street-clearers"), which were so popular as to leave the streets deserted. The actors were of national renown, with Paul Temple played by Luxembourg-born René Deltgen, and supported by Gustav Knuth, Paul Klinger and others. All of these German radio serials are, like the BBC originals, available on CD.[9][10]

The European Broadcasting Union invited Durbridge in 1967 to write an original radio serial for the international market, La Boutique. This was broadcast in more than fifteen countries, and in a variety of languages.

Work for television[edit]

Between 1952 and 1980, Durbridge wrote 17 TV serials for the BBC. Until 1959 they were shown under the umbrella title A Francis Durbridge Serial, which was then changed to Francis Durbridge Presents.[11] Versions were also made in the Netherlands, Italy, France and Germany. Even after Durbridge stopped writing, some serials were re-made in the 1980s and 1990s.

The Scarf was a six-part serial starring Stephen Murray and Donald Pleasence, and was aired by the BBC in February and March 1959. The theme music was The Girl from Corsica by Trevor Duncan. There was uproar in Germany in 1962 when comedian Wolfgang Neuss revealed in a newspaper who would turn out to be the murderer in the last episode of a German version called Das Halstuch [de].[12]

In 1960–61, The World of Tim Frazer was broadcast as an 18-episode serial featuring three adventures [1] starring Jack Hedley in the title role. They attracted almost 80% of all TV viewers—partly because, at that time, many European countries had one TV station each.[13]

In the sixties and seventies, many mini-series adapted from Durbridge's works were produced in Italy by RAI-TV. They featured some of the best Italian actors, among them Aroldo Tieri, Giuliana Lojodice, Nando Gazzolo, Ugo Pagliai, Luigi Vannucchi, Alberto Lupo and Rossano Brazzi. In France, TV scriptwriter and director Abder Isker produced some of Durbridge's adaptations for ORTF.

In the mid-1960s, mini-series based on the Paul Temple novels appeared on TV in Europe.[14]

The 1969–1971 television series Paul Temple ran for 52 episodes over four seasons, with the last 39 episodes (seasons 2–4) being the first international television co-production, made by the BBC with Taurus Films of Munich, West Germany. Paul Temple was played by British actor Francis Matthews, with Ros Drinkwater playing Steve. Only 16 of the 52 episodes survive in the BBC TV archives today, with their original English soundtracks (11 in colour, with 5 only available in black and white). The visuals of some of the 36 missing episodes survive in the ZDF TV archives in Germany, but only with the dubbed German soundtracks.[15][16]

The surviving 11 colour episodes of Paul Temple were re-run on UK Gold in its formative years. In July 2009, Acorn Media released the 11 existing colour episodes on DVD.[17] In April 2012, Acorn Media released a DVD of the final 5 episodes ever broadcast, which are only available in black and white. In August 2013, Acorn Media released all 16 existing episodes (11 in colour, 5 in black and white) on DVD, in a release named Paul Temple: The Complete Collection.


Durbridge wrote many Paul Temple novels, but mostly worked with a co-author because he regarded himself as a writer of dialogue, a scriptwriter rather than a novelist.[18] The first was Send for Paul Temple (1938), written in collaboration with John Thewes. 'Thewes' is thought to have been a pseudonym for Charles Hatton, with whom Durbridge collaborated on the following four Temple novelisations up until 1948.[18] All of these were rapidly adapted from Durbridge's original radio scripts in order to capitalise on the popularity of the radio serial. Publicity for Send for Paul Temple described it as "the novel of the thriller that created a BBC fan-mail record".

The two novels with Douglas Rutherford (The Tyler Mystery, 1957 and East of Algiers, 1959) appeared under the pen name 'Paul Temple'. The Tyler Mystery is unusual in giving Temple's wife Steve a more central role. East of Algiers was partly based on the 1947 radio serial Paul Temple and the Sullivan Mystery. From The Kebly Affair (1970) on the novels are credited to Francis Durbridge alone.

Durbridge wrote three Tim Frazer novels: The World of Tim Frazer (1962), Tim Frazer Again (1964) and Tim Frazer Gets the Message (1978).[19] Beware of Johnny Washington (1951, reissued by Harper Collins in 2017)[20] was a substantially re-written version of the first Paul Temple novel, Send for Paul Temple and there were three others based on Paul Temple scripts that were recycled as non-Temple books.[18] Two titles, Back Room Girl (1950) and The Pig-Tail Murder (1969) were written as original novels, but most of the later books were adapted from the television plays of the 1960s and 1970s.

List of radio plays and serials[edit]

The dates given are those of the first broadcast (and, in the case of serials, of the first episode):[21]

Paul Temple[edit]

  • Send for Paul Temple – 8 April 1938
  • Paul Temple and the Front Page Men – 2 November 1938
  • News of Paul Temple – 13 November 1939
  • Paul Temple Intervenes – 30 October 1942
  • Send for Paul Temple Again – 13 September 1945
  • A Case for Paul Temple – 7 February 1946
  • Paul Temple and the Gregory Affair – 17 October 1946
  • Paul Temple and Steve – 30 March 1947
  • Mr and Mrs Paul Temple – 21 November 1947
  • Paul Temple and the Sullivan Mystery – 1 December 1947
  • Paul Temple and the Curzon Case – 7 December 1948
  • Paul Temple and the Madison Mystery – 12 October 1949
  • Paul Temple and the Vandyke Affair – 3 November 1950
  • Paul Temple and the Jonathan Mystery – 10 May 1951
  • Paul Temple and Steve Again – 8 April 1953
  • Paul Temple and the Gilbert Case – 2 April 1954
  • Paul Temple and the Madison Mystery – 20 June 1955 (new production)
  • Paul Temple and the Lawrence Affair – 11 April 1956
  • Paul Temple and the Spencer Affair – 13 November 1957
  • Paul Temple and the Vandyke Affair – 1 January 1959 (new production)
  • Paul Temple and the Conrad Case – 2 March 1959
  • Paul Temple and the Gilbert Case – 22 November 1959 (new production)
  • Paul Temple and the Margo Mystery – 1 January 1961
  • Paul Temple and the Jonathan Mystery – 14 October 1963 (new production)
  • Paul Temple and the Geneva Mystery – 11 April 1965
  • Paul Temple and the Alex Affair – 26 February 1968 (revised version of Send For Paul Temple Again)
  • Paul Temple and the Sullivan Mystery – 7 August 2006 (new production)

Other radio plays and serials[edit]

  • Promotion – 3 October 1934
  • Information Received – 25 February 1938
  • We Were Strangers – 9 July 1940
  • And Anthony Sherwood Laughed – 20 December 1940
  • Mr Hartington Died Tomorrow § – 9 February 1942
  • The Essential Heart ‡ – 6 February 1943
  • Farewell Leicester Square § – 8 February 1943
  • Over My Dead Body – 11 April 1945
  • John Washington Esquire – 16 September 1949
  • What Do You Think? – 12 September 1962
  • La Boutique – 2 October 1967
§ as Lewis Middleton Harvey
‡ as Nicholas Vane

List of British TV series[edit]

None of the episodes of The Francis Durbridge Serial are believed to have survived.[22] All episodes of Francis Durbridge Presents survive except for The World of Tim Frazer of which only episode 3 and 10 (out of 18) are thought to still exist.[23]

  • A Francis Durbridge Serial
    • The Broken Horseshoe (1952)
    • Operation Diplomat (1952)
    • The Teckman Biography (1953–54)
    • Portrait of Alison (1955)
    • My Friend Charles (1956)
    • The Other Man (1956)
    • A Time of Day (1957)
    • The Scarf (1959)
  • Francis Durbridge Presents
    • The World of Tim Frazer (1960–61)
    • The Desperate People (1963)
    • Melissa (1964)
    • A Man Called Harry Brent (1965)
    • A Game of Murder (1966)
    • Bat Out of Hell (1966)
  • Paul Temple (52 episodes) (1969–71)
  • Francis Durbridge Presents
    • The Passenger (1971)
    • Melissa (1974)
    • The Doll (1975)
    • Breakaway – The Family Affair (1980)
    • Breakaway – The Local Affair (1980)

In 1997, Channel 4 broadcast a version of Melissa, adapted by Alan Bleasdale from the Francis Durbridge novel. Jennifer Ehle played Melissa.

List of German TV adaptations[edit]

List of Italian TV adaptations[edit]

List of French TV adaptations[edit]

  • L'Écharpe (1966, based on The Scarf), with Raymond Pellegrin
  • Mélissa (1968, based on Melissa)
  • À corps perdu (1970, based on Bat Out of Hell), with Danièle Delorme
  • La Mort d'un champion [fr] (1972, based on A Game Of Murder), with Marie-France Pisier
  • Un certain Richard Dorian (1973, based on A Man Called Harry Brent)
  • La Passagère (1974, based on The Passenger)
  • La Mort d'un touriste (1975, based on Tim Frazer: The Salinger Affair)

Other TV adaptations[edit]



  • Huivi (1962, based on The Scarf)


  • Paul Vlaanderen

List of plays[edit]

  • Suddenly at Home (1971)
  • The Gentle Hook (1974)
  • House Guest (1976)
  • Murder With Love (1976)
  • Deadly Nightcap (1983)
  • A Touch of Danger (1987)
  • The Small Hours (1991)
  • Sweet Revenge (1993)
  • Fatal Encounter (2002-posthumous)

List of films[edit]

List of novels[edit]

Paul Temple novels[edit]

  • Send for Paul Temple (1938) (with John Thewes, aka Charles Hatton?)
  • Paul Temple and the Front Page Men (1939) (with Charles Hatton)
  • News of Paul Temple (1940) (with Charles Hatton)
  • Paul Temple Intervenes (1944) (with Charles Hatton)
  • Send for Paul Temple Again! (1948) (with Charles Hatton)
  • The Tyler Mystery (1957) by 'Paul Temple' (with Douglas Rutherford)
  • East of Algiers (1959) by 'Paul Temple' (with Douglas Rutherford)
  • Paul Temple and the Kelby Affair (1970)
  • Paul Temple and the Harkdale Robbery (1970)
  • The Geneva Mystery (1971)
  • The Curzon Case (1971)
  • Paul Temple and the Margo Mystery (1986)
  • Paul Temple and the Madison Case (1988)
  • Paul Temple and the Conrad Case (1989)

Tim Frazer novels[edit]

  • The World of Tim Frazer (1962)
  • Tim Frazer Again (1964)
  • Tim Frazer Gets the Message (1978)

Other novels[edit]

  • Back Room Girl (1950)
  • Beware of Johnny Washington (1951) (a re-writing of Send for Paul Temple)[18]
  • Design for Murder (1951) (based on Paul Temple and the Gregory Affair, 1946)
  • The Other Man (1958)
  • A Time of Day (1959)
  • The Scarf (1960)
  • Portrait of Alison (1962)
  • My Friend Charles (1963)
  • Another Woman's Shoes (1965) (based on Paul Temple and the Gilbert Case, 1954)
  • The Desperate People (1966)
  • Dead to the World (1967) (based on Paul Temple and the Jonathan Mystery, 1951, 1963)
  • My Wife Melissa (1967)
  • The Pig-Tail Murder (1969)
  • A Man Called Harry Brent (1970)
  • Bat out of Hell (1972)
  • A Game of Murder (1975)
  • The Passenger (1977)
  • Breakaway (1981)
  • The Doll (1982)

Personal life[edit]

Durbridge married Norah Lawley in 1940. They had two sons. He died at his home in Barnes, London, aged 85, in 1998.[5]


  1. ^ "Francis Durbridge". BFI. Archived from the original on 26 July 2012.
  2. ^ "Francis Durbridge".
  3. ^ "IMDB – Accessed 17 March 2011". IMDb.
  4. ^ Liukkonen, Petri. "Francis Durbridge". Books and Writers ( Finland: Kuusankoski Public Library. Archived from the original on 29 November 2013.
  5. ^ a b "Obituary: Francis Durbridge". The Independent. 13 April 1998. Retrieved 18 October 2019.
  6. ^ "BBC Radio 4 Extra – Paul Temple – Episode guide". BBC.
  7. ^ "Paul Temple and the Vandyke Affair (Dramatization) [Original Staging Fiction]". iTunes.
  8. ^ "Paul Temple and the Conrad Case". RadioTimes. Archived from the original on 17 April 2016.
  9. ^ lb:René Deltgen
  10. ^ "Francis Durbridge Homepage – Paul Temple".
  12. ^ "BBC airing dates". BFI. Archived from the original on 16 March 2008.
  13. ^ laurence marcus. "TV SHOWS W – TVH".
  14. ^ "private investigator greece he writer theatre audio book and screenwriter Henry Francis Durbridge was the son of a Woolworth's manager and his, private investigator greece".
  15. ^ "An Introduction to the BBC's Paul Temple Television Series".
  16. ^ "Francis Matthews – obituary". 16 June 2014.
  17. ^ BBFC Clearance with Episode Titles Archived 25 May 2011 at the Wayback Machine
  18. ^ a b c d Barnes, Melvyn. Introduction to Beware of Johnny Washington, Harper Collins, 2017
  19. ^ "Tim Frazer - Spy Guys and Gals".
  20. ^ Beware of Johnny Washington, Harper Collins (2017)
  21. ^ BBC Genome
  22. ^ "Missing or incomplete episodes for programme A Francis Durbridge Serial". Lost Shows. Retrieved 8 January 2016.
  23. ^ "Missing or incomplete episodes for programme Francis Durbridge Presents...". Lost Shows. Retrieved 8 January 2016.

External links[edit]