Francis Durbridge

Francis Durbridge

Durbridge in April 1967
Born (1912-11-25)25 November 1912
Hull, East Riding of Yorkshire, England
Died 11 April 1998(1998-04-11) (aged 85)
Barnes, London, England
Alma mater Birmingham University
Occupation Radio and television scriptwriter, playwright, author
Years active 1933-1998

Francis Henry Durbridge ( listen ) (25 November 1912 – 11 April 1998)[1] was an English playwright and author.[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 Birmingham University. 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]

In 1938, Durbridge created the character Paul Temple, a crime novelist and detective. With Steve Trent, a Fleet Street journalist and later 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] In the Netherlands Temple was known as Paul Vlaanderen.

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]

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

Work for radio

Paul Temple in the United Kingdom

Durbridge wrote twenty Paul Temple serials for the 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. In 1939 Carl Bernard took over the part of Paul. 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. The BBC 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. Listeners complained because the repeat was scheduled at the same time of day as the original broadcast. BBC Audio and Music head Jenny Abramsky told 6 July 2007's Radio 4's listeners' complaints programme, Feedback, that more repeats were inevitable because the level at which Parliament had set the television licence fee – the BBC's principal source of income – made spending cuts vital.

Paul Temple in Germany

Throughout 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]

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

Work for television

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 '80s and '90s.

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 is 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.[12]

In the 1960–61 The World of Tim Frazer was broadcast as an 18-episode serial featuring three adventures 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 sixties and seventies, many mini-series adapted from Durbridge's works were produced in Italy (RAI-TV). They featured some of the best Italian stage e time, among them Aroldo Tieri, Giuliana Lojodice, Nando Gazzolo, Ugo Pagliai, Luigi Vannucchi, Alberto Lupo, Rossano Brazzi. In France TV scriptwriter and director Abder Isker produced some 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 4 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 several Paul Temple novels in collaboration with John Thewes, Douglas Rutherford and Charles Hatten – and those he wrote with Rutherford appeared under the pen name "Paul Temple," making the fictional writer "real."

List of radio plays and serials

Paul Temple

Other radio plays and serials

List of TV series

None of the episodes of The Francis Durbridge Serial are believed to have survived.[18] 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.[19]

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

List of Italian TV adaptations

List of French TV adaptations

List of plays

List of films

List of novels

Paul Temple novels

Tim Frazer novels

Other novels


External links

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