The Works of Francis Durbridge

Francis Durbridge

Radio Works

Francis Durbridge’s output for radio was considerable in the 1930s and 1940s and in addition to his own name he wrote under several pseudonyms as Frank Cromwell, Lewis Middleton Harvey and Nicholas Vane.

His first broadcast production was The Three-Cornered Hat a short play included in Children’s Hour and broadcast on 25th July 1933 and this was followed by several other children’s plays and short stories.

His first adult radio play was The Word Woman a twenty-five minute play produced by Charles Brewer on 11th October 1933. He also contributed a number of sketches to popular radio variety shows of the time including The Radioptimists and Divertissement. Through his work on variety sketches he became acquainted with John Bentley the actor who would later appear as Paul Temple in three feature films and Hugh Morton who played Temple in the first three Paul Temple radio serials.

His big breakthrough with the public came with Promotion, a one-hour play produced by Martyn C. Webster and broadcast on 3rd October 1933, about life in a large department store called Dolmans. Francis Durbridge drew upon his family knowledge for his plot as his father was the manager of the Midland region for Woolworths stores. This was followed a year later by Murder in the Midlands a 45-minute play also produced by Martyn C. Webster and broadcast on 13th November 1934. This was the first of his plays that was clearly crime fiction. 


For further information see below

Radio Serials by Francis Durbridge

Finding the Format

The earliest recordings still existing of any Francis Durbridge radio plays is Murder in the Embassy a one hour play with incidental music produced by Archie Campbell and broadcast on 4th August 1937 and The Melody Man a thirty minute play with music written especially as a vehicle for the popular singer and entertainer Hutch which was broadcast on 17th December 1937.

But it is with Send For Paul Temple broadcast in 1938 that Francis Durbridge found the format that was perfect for the nature of his plots so that each episode usually ended with a cliff-hanger gripping and holding the audience until the following week’s broadcast.

Beside the 20 Paul Temple radio serials he also wrote eight other thriller serials for BBC radio. [For list see drop down below]

The non Paul Temple serials and their year of broadcast are as follows:
  • A Case for Sexton Blake (1940)
  • And Anthony Sherwood Laughed (1940)
  • The Man from Washington (1941)
  • The Girl at the Hibiscus (1941)
  • Death Comes to the Hibiscus (1941)
  • Mr Hartington Died Tomorrow (1942)
  • Introducing Gail Carlton (1944)
  • Johnny Washington Esquire (1949)

From the 1960s Francis Durbridge focussed on his television career. His last radio serial La Boutique was specially commissioned by the European Broadcasting Union in 1967 – a unique compliment to a British thriller writer. It was produced by Martyn C Webster and broadcast by the BBC from the 2nd to the 16th October 1967, and numerous local productions of La Boutique were broadcast all over Europe.