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by Bamber Gascoigne

Francis Durbridge (1912-1998) - in full Francis Henry Durbridge


English tv, radio, and mystery writer, whose best known series character is Paul Temple and his wife Steve. Francis Durbridge was the master of the cliffhanger and one of the most successful writers for television. However, the first radio detective in England was probably Inspector Hornleigh, whose adventures were heard in Monday Night at Seven (1937-40) and who appeared in three films between 1939-41. In the Unites States, the first popular radio detective series was Detectives Black and Blue from 1931.

'I suppose,' the assistant commissioner said thoughtfully, 'that we detectives understand crime, understand the psychology of crime if you like. But we don't reach our understanding by experiments on rats, or by statistics.  (from The Curzon Case, 1972)

Francis Henry Durbridge was born in Hull, Yorkshire. From an early age, he was a voracious reader. Durbridge was educated at Bradford Grammar School, where he was encouraged to write by an English teacher. He declared that he's going to be the next Edgar Wallace.

While still a student, Durbridge had a radio play, Promotion (1933) broadcasted by the BBC. Durbridge studied English at Birmingham University. He joined the university theatrical club and performed in revue sketches (he was a terrible actor). After graduating in 1933, he worked as a stockbroker's clerk, before becoming a full-time writer, the only vocation he has an aptitude for.

In 1940 Durbridge married Norah Elizabeth Lawley; they had two sons, Nicholas and Stephen. At the age of 26, Durbridge created the character of Paul Temple. The first book, Send for Paul Temple (1938), a collaboration with John Thewes (possibly a pen-name for Charles Hutton), was a novelization of radio serial.

"By Timothy!" (Paul Temple's catchphrase)

Before his famous radio detective series, Durbridge wrote for the BBC diverse plays and sketches. From 1938, Durbridge cooperated in Temple stories with Charles Hatton, a prolific writer of radio plays. The early serials were broadcast live

Over the years,  several actors played the role of the novelist-sleuth, first by Hugh Morton in Send for Paul Temple (1938), Paul Temple and the Front Page Men (1938), and News of Paul Temple (1939), and then by Carl Bernard,  Richard Williams, Barry Morse, Howard Marion Crawford, Kim Peacock, and Peter Coke, beginning from Paul Temple And The Gilbert Case (1954). Coke's portrayal of the detective is perhaps the best known; later in his career he gained acknowledgement as a playwright and shell artist. With his baritone voice, he was a perfect for the character. Louise Trent, a Fleet Street journalist and later Temple's wife, nicknamed affectionally as Steve, was played by Marjorie Westbury from the fifth serial; she continued up through 1968.

Originally the signature tune for the series was taken from Rimsky-Korsakov's symphonic suite Scheherazade. Then the introductory and closing music was changed to Vivian Ellis's 'Coronation Scot,' it added greatly to the popularity of the radio series. In Finland, the theme song was 'The Devils Gallop' by Charles Williams.

The series became hugely popular in Britain and Temple's adventures were followed in many counties, among others in Germany, where Albert Lieven gained recognition in several adaptations of Durbridge's crime thrillers. However, Temple's four film appearances in the 1940s and 1950s are considered insignificant. John Bentley, who became a B-movie star in the black-and-white mysteries, was the hero in Calling Paul Temple (1948), Paul Temple's Triumph (1950), based on the 1939 radio serial News of Paul Temple, and Paul Temple Returns (1952), based on Paul Temple Intervenes. The British Monthly Film Bulletin characterized this production as a "slickly-made, American style thriller". The future Hammer star Christopher Lee played the killer, whose country home is filled with art and reptiles. All these films were directed by Maclean Rogers and made at the Nettlefold studios. The Cinema magazine concluded that a Temple film without Bentley was "as unthinkable as Quo without Vadis," but his greatest success he achieved in the role of Hugh Mortimer in the television series Crossroads. Anthony Hulme, who had acted in some minor productions, played the character in Send for Paul Temple (1946), directed by the  producer and screeenwiter John Argyle.

In the 1960s, Durbridge created for TV a new series character, Tim Frazer, starring Jack Hedley. Frazer, an engineer who is recruited as an undercover agent, appeared in three books. ". . . what kind of fool I was to have let myself be caught up in the cloak and dagger business of a Goverment department that was a cross between M-I-5 and the C.I.D. I should have gone back to engineering and had fun and games with shop stewards over tea breaks." (Tim Frazer Again, 1964) Durbridge wrote the TV series, which run for eighteen episodes, with Clive Exton, Charles Hatton, and Barry Thomas.

Dialogue dominates usually in Durbridge's novels, which sometimes reveal that they were originally written for radio or television. His characters belong to the middle-class and have much time to devote themselves in solving crimes – or planning them. The protagonist is sometimes a suspect, who tries to free himself from the web of intrigues. In News of Paul Temple (1940), the amateur detective travels to Scotland, where he reveals the identity of the head of Europe's greatest spy network. The codename of this mysterious person is Z4. It turns out that Z4 is a middle-aged woman, Mrs Weston, who runs with her husband a small holiday home at Inverdale. There is action and a couple of murders in the story, but the like in other Paul Temple novels, the general atmosphere is cosy. No reference is made to the ongoing World War II.

A Game of Murder was first made as a TV screenplay, nine years later it came out in book form. In the film The Vicious Circle (1957) an actress is found dead in Dr Latimer's flat and the weapon turn up in the boot of his car. Then another body is found and again all the clues lead to Latimer. In the story 12 Past 12, filmed in Germany under the title Piccadilly, Null Uhr Zwolf (1963), the young Edgar Wallace helps to solve a crime.

Durbridge published 35 novels, several of them were based on his tv or radio series. Suddenly at Home (1973), a thriller written for the stage, ran in the Fortune Theatre in London's West End for a year. Gerald Harper portrayed a suave ladies' man, Glenn Howard, who plans to murder his wife. "He had an emormous following of middle-aged women. Some of them came to see him in the play again and again." (Rula: My Colorful Life by Rula Lenska, 2013) Rula Lenska was cast in the small role of a mysterious au pair girl. Also the plays The Gentle Hook (1975), House Guest (1982) and A Touch of Danger (1988) ran succesfully in the West End.

Some of Durbridge's books were written in collaboration with other writers, among them John Thewes, Douglas Rutherford, and Charles Hatton. Paul Temple was credited as the author of his own adventures, two of which Durbridge wrote with Rutherford. The masterfully plotted novel My Wife Melissa, originally published in 1967, was reissued in 2013 by Bello  Books.

The Broken Horseshoe (1952) and Operation Diplomat (1952) were Durbridge's first TV thriller serials. They were produced live in a studio at Alexandra Palace. In 1997, Alan Bleasdale created his own version of Durbridge's 1960s BBC serial Melissa, in which a war correspondent, Guy Foster, falls in love with a beautiful but mysterious Melissa. Bleasdale described the mystery detective story as his "homage and tribute to one of this country's finest thriller writers." Durbridge died in London on 10 April 1998. 

Paul Temple: One of the most successful detective characters ever created for broadcasting. Paul Temple made his first radio appearance on 8 April on the BBC's Midland Region. As a result, the BBC received 7,000 letters from listeners demaning more. Temple is former reporter and playwright, who then becomes a successful novelist and criminologist, helping Scotland Yard. He solves mysteries with his wife, who changed her name from Louise Harvey to Steve Trent after a gang of diamond thieves murdered her brother, a Scotland Yard superintendent. – Temple had a thirty-year career on radio, and continued his adventures also in books from 1938 to the late 1980s. Two of the novels, The Tyler Mystery and East of Algers list Temple as the author. A Paul Temple comic strip, which lasted for two decades, was begun in 1951. Its artists included Alfred Sindall, Bill Bailey, and John Namara. – The BBC television series Paul Temple, Detective from 1968, written by Durbridge and starring John Bentley and Dinah Sheridan, ran for twelve episodes. Paul Temple, which ran from 1969 to 1971, was one of BBC's first color productions. Francis Matthews portrayed Paul Temple and Ros Drinkwater was Steve. Other radio series heroes: Harry Lime (produced in the 1950s in Britain, see Graham Greene), Dragnet (premiered on radio on NBC in 1949), Perry Mason (CBS soap opera from 1943 to 1955), Nick Carter (on radio from 1943 to 1955). For further reading: Francis Durbridge: The Complete Guide: With an Annotated Listing of His Novels and His Works for Radio, Television, the Stage and the Cinema by Melvyn Barnes (2018) 'Send for Paul Temple - Francis Durbridge and John Thewes,' in The Story of Classic Crime in 100 Books by Martin Edwards (2017); 'Paul Temple,' in Famous Movie Detectives III by  Michael R. Pitts (2004); St. James Guide to Crime & Mystery Writers, edited by Jay P. Pederson (1996); 'Durbridge, Francis (Henry' by Melvyn Barnes, in Twentieth-century Crime and Mystery Writers, edited by John M. Reilly (1985). Suom.: Paul Temple on seikkaillut mm. kuunnelmissa Paul Temple ja tapaus Conrad, Paul Temple ja Spencerin juttu, Paul Temple ja Valentinen tapaus, Paul Temple ja Alexin juttu. Televisiossa on nähty useita Durbridgen jatkojännäreitä, mm. Melissa, Mies nimeltä Harry Brent, Pelin loppu, Salama kirkkaalta taivaalta, Kaksoisolento, Epätoivoiset. Alan Bleasdale teki Melissasta kolmannen tv-sovituksen 1997. Toinen valmistui 1974.

Selected works:

  • Send for Paul Temple, 1938 (with John Thewes; film adaptation 1946)
  • Paul Temple and the Front Page Men, 1939 (with Charles Hatton; an adaptation of a play)
  • News of Paul Temple, 1940 (with Charles Hatton) - Mitä uutta Paul Temple? (suom. Antero Hälvä, 1953) - film 1950: Paul Temple's Triumph, prod. Nettlefold Films, dir. by Maclean Rogers, starring John Bentley (Paul Temple), Dinah Sheridan (Steve), Jack Livesey (Sir Graham Forbes), Barbara Couper (Mrs. Morgan)
  • Paul Temple Intervenes, 1944 (with Charles Hatton) - film 1952: Paul Temple Returns (from the novel), prod. Nettlefold Films, dir. by Maclean Rogers, starring John Bentley (Paul Temple), Patricia Dainton (Steve), Valentine Dyall (Superintendent Bradley), Grey Blake (Storey), Christopher Lee (Sir Felix Reybourne)
  • Send for Paul Temple, 1946 (screenplay with John Argyle) - film 1946, prod. Butcher's Film Service, producer-director John Argyle, screenplay Francis Durbridge and John Argyle, starring Anthony Hulme (Paul Temple), Joy Shelton (steve Trent/Louise Harvey), Tamara Desni (Diana Thornley)
  • Send for Paul Temple Again!, 1948 (with Charles Hatton)
  • Calling Paul Temple, 1948 (screenplay, with A.R. Rawlison) - film 1948, prod. Nettlefold Films, Butcher's Film Service, dir. by Maclean Rogers, starring John Bentley (Paul Temple), Dinah Sheridan (Steve Temple), Margaret Scott (Mrs. Trevellyan), Abraham Sofaer (Dr. Kohima)
  • The Back Room Girl, 1950
  • Beware of Johnny Washington, 1951
  • Design for Murder, 1951
  • The Broken Horseshoe, 1952 (television play)
  • The Broken Horseshoe (1952)
  • Operation Dilomat, 1952 (television play) - film 1953, prod. Nettlefold Films, dir. John Guillermin, starring Guy Rolfe, Lisa Daniely, Patricia Dainton
  • Paul Temple Returns, 1952 (screenplay)
  • The Teckman Biography, 1953 (television play)
  • The Teckman Mystery, 1954 (screenplay, with James Matthews) - film 1954, prod. Corona Productions, dir. Wendy Toye, starring Margaret Leighton, John Justin and Roland Culver
  • Portrait Of Alison, 1955 (television play) - TV series, 1955, prod. British Broadcasting Corporation (BBC), also released as Postmark for Danger, starring Patrick Barr, Lockwood West and Anthony Nicholls
  • My Friend Charles, 1957 (television play)
  • The Other Man, 1957 (television play)
  • A Time Of Day, 1957 (television play)
  • The Vicious Circle / The Circle, 1957 (screenplay) - film 1957, prod. Beaconsfield Productions, Romulus Films, dir. by Gerald Thomas, starring John Mills, Derek Farr, Noelle Middleton
  • The Tyler Mystery, 1957 (with Douglas Rutherford)
  • The Other Man, 1958
  • A Time of Day, 1959
  • The Scarf, 1959 (television play)
  • Eeast of Algiers, 1959 (with Douglas Rutherford)
  • The Scarf, 1960
  • The World Of Tim Frazer, 1960 (television play, with others)
  • Portrait of Alison, 1962
  • The World of Tim Frazer, 1962
  • My Friend Charles, 1963
  • The Desperate People, 1963 (television play)
  • Tim Frazer Again, 1964
  • Melissa, 1964 (television play) - TV series 1964, prod. British Broadcasting Corporation (BBC), starring Tony Britton, Kerry Jordan and Brian McDermott; TV mini-series 1966, starring Günther Stoll, Hubert Suschka and Hanne Wieder; TV mini-series 1966, starring Rossano Brazzi, Turi Ferro and Massimo Serato; TV mini-series 1997, prod. Channel 4 Television Corporation, Diplomat Films, starring Tim Dutton, Hugh Quarshie and Jennifer Ehle
  • Another Woman's Shoes, 1965
  • A Man Called Harry Brent, 1965 (television play)
  • The Desperate People, 1966
  • A Game of Murder, 1966 (television play)
  • Bat out of Hell, 1966 (television play)
  • Dead to the World, 1967
  • My Wife Melissa, 1967
  • The Pig-Tail Murder, 1969
  • Paul Temple and the Kelby Affair, 1970
  • Paul Temple and the Harkdale Robbery, 1970
  • A Man Called Harry Brent, 1970 (novelization of the television series)
  • The Geneva Mystery, 1971
  • The Passenger, 1971 (television play)
  • The Curzon Case, 1972
  • Bat out of Hell, 1972
  • Suddenly At Home, 1973 (play)
  • A Game of Murder, 1975 (novel)
  • The Doll, 1975 (television play)
  • The Gentle Hook, 1975 (play)
  • The Passenger, 1977
  • Murder With Love, 1977 (play)
  • Tim Frazer Gets the Message, 1978
  • Breakaway, 1979 (television play)
  • The Grandma Game, 1980 (play)
  • Breakaway, 1981
  • The Doll, 1982
  • House Guest, 1982 (play)
  • Paul Temple and the Margo Mystery, 1986
  • Deadly Nightcap, 1986
  • Paul Temple and the Madison Case, 1988
  • A Touch Of Danger, 1988 (play)
  • Paul Temple and the Conrad Case, 1989
  • The Small Hours, 1991 (play)
  • Sweet Revenge, 1993 (play)
  • Radio plays: Promotion (1933), Paul Temple (1928), Information Received (1938), And Anthony Sherwood Laughed (1940), Were Strangers (1941), Send for Paul Temple (1941), Mr. Harrington Died Tomorrow (1942), Paul Temple Intervenes (1942), The Essential Heart (1943), Frewell Leicester Square (1943), News of Paul Temple (1944), Send for Paul Temple Again (1945), Over My Dead Body (1946), Paul Temple and the Gregory Affair (1946), A Case for Paul Temple (1946; radiokuunnelma Paul Temple ja Valentinen tapaus, suom. Raija Paatela, 1961), Paul Temple and Steve (1947), Paul Temple and the Sullivan Mystery (1947), Mr. and Mrs. Paul Temple (1947), Paul Temple and the Curzon Case (1948), Paul Temple and the Madison Mystery (1949), John Washington Esquire (1949), Paul Temple and the Vandyke Affair (1950), Paul Temple and the Jonathan Mystery (1951), Paul Temple and Steve Again (1956), Paul Temple and the Lawrence Affair (1956), Paul Temple and the Spencer Affair (1957; radiokuunnelma Paul Temple ja Spencerin juttu, suom. Albin Ahonen, 1961), Paul Temple and the Conrad Case (1959; radiokuunnelma Paul Temple ja tapaus Conrad, suom. Albin Ahonen, 1961), Paul Temple and the Margot Mystery (1961), What Do You Think? (1962), Paul Temple and the Geneva Mystery (1965), La Boutique (1967), Paul Temple and the Alex Affair (1968)

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