Francis Durbridge was king of the twisty-turny thriller in radio and television, and one of the few screenwriters whose name became a brand. His film adaptations formed the template for much of the deluge of low-budget B-movies that followed in the 50s and early 60s.
Durbridge was born in Hull and educated at Bradford Grammar School and Birmingham University. He worked in a stockbroker's office but writing was his focus. His first play for radio was accepted when he was 21 and was successful enough to be remounted several times and produce a sequel. His real breakthrough came in 1938 when he was asked to do something different and he came up with the serial Send for Paul Temple. This was an immediate hit and the radio adventures of the eponymous amateur detective continued regularly for 30 years.
The template is very simple: a bizarre event triggers an investigation by Temple which leads to multiple cliffhangers and deaths until the main villain is unmasked in the final episode. Characterisation is brief and psychological motivation entirely absent; what matters is the puzzle. The critics were sniffy, but audiences lapped it up.
It was inevitable that film makers would come calling and he adapted his Paul Temple scripts for some bargain basement productions. Television also came calling and rather than revamp Paul Temple, Durbridge developed The Broken Horseshoe, the first of many one-off serials where his name was the most important selling point. Paul Temple finally made it to TV in the late 60s in a fondly-remembered series starring Francis Matthews. In the 70s Durbridge scored a number of successes in the West End with efficient thrillers.
His work was translated into many languages and he was particularly popular in Germany.
|1946||Send for Paul Temple|
|1948||Calling Paul Temple|
|1950||Paul Temple's Triumph|
|1952||Paul Temple Returns|
|1953||The Broken Horseshoe|
|1954||The Teckman Mystery|
|1955||Portrait of Alison|
|1957||The Vicious Circle|
Francis Durbridge at Amazon UK
Francis Durbridge at Amazon US