The Works of Francis Durbridge

Francis Durbridge

TV Series

Francis Durbridge made the transition from radio to television with the first BBC television serial The Broken Horseshoe broadcast live in March 1952. This was the first of a string of highly successful television serials which garnered big audience ratings and critical success. The BBC accorded him a Francis Durbridge Presents credit before the title of each serial, a unique recognition for a television writer.

The Times commented in 1959 ‘When he writes a script nowadays Mr Francis Durbridge takes full advantage of his position as undisputed master of the detective serial. Boldly stamped across the screen, his signature is less the mark of an author than a brand name, guaranteeing the quality of the goods.’

For further information see below

Tv Series by Francis Durbridge

The list of Serials and date they were broadcast:

  • The Broken Horseshoe (1952)
  • Operation Diplomat ((1952)
  • The Teckman Biography (1953)
  • Portrait of Alison (1955)
  • My Friend Charles (1956)
  • The Other Man (1956)
  • A Time of Day (1957)
  • The Scarf (1959)
  • The World of Tim Fraser (1960)
  • The World of Tim Fraser – The Salinger Affair ((1960)
  • The World of Tim Fraser – The Mellin Forest Mystery (1961)
  • The Desperate People (1963)
  • Melissa (1964, 1974 and 1997)
  • A Man Called Harry Brent (1965)
  • A Game of Murder (1966)
  • Bat Out of Hell (1966)
  • The Passenger (1971)
  • The Doll (1975)
  • Breakaway – The Family Affair (1980)
  • Breakaway – the Local Affair (1980)

Eleven of the serials were produced and directed by Alan Bromly (1915-1995) with whom Francis Durbridge forged a strong working relationship as he had done with Martyn C. Webster for radio. The serials featured many of the leading television actors of the period including Patrick Barr, Stephen Murray, Tony Britton, Raymond Huntley, Donald Pleasance, Jack Hedley, Brian Wilde, Denis Quilley, Nigel Hawthorne, Peter Barkworth, Gerald Harper, Conrad Phillips, Sylvia Syms, John Thaw, Anouska Hempel, Derek Foulds, Martin Jarvis, Angela Browne and Judy Geeson.

Each of the serials involved a protagonist who could be described as an antihero, often an innocent suspect attempting to extricate himself from a web that enmeshed him more securely at every turn. Each episode saw the central character increasingly caught up in the murderous plot that was masterminded by someone whose identity remained a mystery until the denouement in the final episode. In addition to the hallmark twists, turns and cliffhangers of a typical Durbridge plot television brought new visual cliffhangers to the audience such as when the hero is driving in his car behind a removal van. The viewer knows that the van likely contains a man with a machine gun and our hero is in danger and it is at that moment that the end credits start to roll.

Particularly popular in both the UK and Germany was The World of Tim Fraser starring Jack Hedley in the leading role. With three stories spread over 18 weekly episodes it kept tv viewers enthralled and Jack Hedley became a heartthrob receiving huge fan mail and even setting a fashion trend for the sheepskin coat that he wore regularly in the serial.

As Donald Wilson the Head of BBC Serials summed up – “Durbridge is in a class of his own. He knows to the fraction of an inch how the audience will react to everything he does.”