Francis Durbridge

and Germany

Perhaps more than any other European country Germany took Francis Durbridge serials to its heart both on radio and television. He was often compared to Agatha Christie and Edgar Wallace in magazines such as Bild und Funk and the popularity of his serials was such that the German press gave him a nickname. He became the straβenfeger or street sweeper because when a Francis Durbridge serial was on television the train stations, streets, restaurants and cinemas were all deserted.

Such was the economic effect that some businesses even raised a petition to ban his television serials and one film producer ran a newspaper spoiler advert that read ‘Come tonight to the cinema to see Genosse Münchhausen because Dieter Borsche is the villain in The Scarf.’ The popularity reached all levels of German society, on the last night of one serial the German parliament adjourned its debate so members of parliament could go home to watch it.

Today the last episode of The World of Tim Frazer still holds the record as the most watched television programme in German television history with 93% of the possible total viewing audience watching it.

Perhaps unique amongst the many stories of his popularity was the press report of a family so engrossed in an episode of a Francis Durbridge television serial that they failed to notice that their house was on fire. Fortunately they were eventually alerted to the danger by a passer-by!


For further information see below

Work by Francis Durbridge in Germany

Between 1949 – 1988

Between 1949 and 1968 13 Paul Temple radio serials were produced in Germany (two of which were produced twice). The first was Paul Temple und die Affäre Gregory and introduced René Deltgen (1909-1979) as Paul Temple, a role he was to reprise in 12 of the 13 Paul Temple radio serials. Steve was played by a number of different actresses with Annemarie Cordes (1918-1998) holding the record for 7 appearances in the role.

These serials were enormously popular and are still regularly repeated on radio and are available as popular audio downloads and CDs today. In 2022 a new radio production Paul Temple und der Fall Valentyne was produced by Pidax and attracted good reviews – ‘Paul Temple and the Valentyne Case offers everything that makes a good Paul Temple: A broad story with many unexpected twists, false leads and a lot of exciting and convincing characters.’ It featured Matthias Kiel as Paul Temple and Katja Keβler as Steve.

It was through the Paul Temple radio serials that Francis Durbridge first teamed up with Marianne de Barde (1900-1995) as a translator of his work. The first Durbridge television serial to be produced in Germany was Der Andere (The Other Man) produced in 1959 and translated by Marianne de Barde as were the further ten television serials produced in Germany between 1959 and 1983.

In addition to the locally produced television serials Francis Durbridge licensed German-dubbed versions of four BBC serials. A number of his stage plays also toured in Germany but unlike elsewhere in the 1980s Francis Durbridge also allowed six of these to be produced as plays for German television.

The Challenge

One challenge for anyone studying the work of Francis Durbridge in Germany is to identify which production is based upon which original work.

Due to the danger of the German press disclosing the identity of the villain based upon the prior British television transmission, plots, character names and even on occasion the villain, were frequently changed in the German productions which in a couple of cases were significantly different from the plot of the BBC serial upon which they were supposedly based. The popularity of his work also led to several projects and films being promoted as linked to Francis Durbridge when this was not the case.

As a cautious person Francis Durbridge avoided making any legal challenges to these although they would probably have succeeded.