Matthews interview in 1995.
with Adam Jezard
by Greg Marshall. 22 July 2001.
comments or additions??.
The Mysterious Disappearance of Paul Temple
Francis Matthews was born in York in 1927 and joined the Theatre Royal in Leeds at 17. His acting career has encompassed theatre, film, radio and television but he is particularly well remembered for his role as the titular Paul Temple in the BBC series that ran between 1969 and 71. In an interview with journalist Adam Jezard in January 1995 he recalled making the series and other TV serials based upon the other writings of the crime-solving novelist’s creator, Francis Durbridge.
On the role that FM believes
led him to be cast in the 1958 film,
of Frankenstein: "By that time I’d done quite a lot of telly,
which was starting. I’d been in a Francis Durbridge
series, My Friend Charles...
"Durbridge, every year he did a new serial, television serial, each year it emptied the streets, it was the most popular thing. It was live, black-and-white television and every Saturday night you’d get another episode of the Francis Durbridge serial, and they’d be cliff-hangers. You’d be left at the end of each episode thinking; ‘What, when, oh, can’t be. Wait a minute, he was..." And I played this frightfully nice sort of Kenny More (British 50s film star Kenneth More) character who, right in the very last episode, turns out to be the killer. Evil, turned really evil, and had a great fight with the hero at the end.
"I played many villains. I don’t know why I have this reputation for being a charming leading man because in this period (1950s-1970s) I was doing so many television movies and one forgets. You know, there was OSS and Man in a Suitcase, The Avengers eventually and The Saint came along. You worked all the time in those days, there was lots of work for actors..."
On being cast as the lead
in Paul Temple (1969-71): "I had
done two of his (Durbridge’s TV serials),
Friend Charles and The World of Tim Frazer,
with Jack Hedley, who was the big, big, big
star – you see, whatever happened to Jack Hedley?
All of us are yesterday’s men! But Jack Hedley
was the biggest thing on television at that time and he was wonderful.
And I did about eight episodes of a thirteen-part thing he was in and then
by this time I knew Francis very well, Francis
Durbridge rang when Paul Temple was
being cast simply offered me the job. Again, it wasn’t a question of having
to search for it. Francis, when he rang me
up, said; ‘I’ve always had you in mind. If we were going to put Temple
on the screen, I’d like you to do it.’
"So I got that. And that was, I suppose, the thing, more than the horror films, in 1969 this was, that really made the break for me. Well, it made me well known on television. It was the worst thing I’ve ever done, I suppose – apart from one of my scenes in Dracula – Prince of Darkness (1966) – but the most popular. Made me high-profile you see."
Question about filming of an opening sequence in which Temple is pursued through a car park: "We did that in a multi-storey car park in Swiss Cottage. There were some marvellous sequences in it. Some of the later episodes, when we got towards the end of the series when we’d decided not to do anymore... Because it was going to be a five-year commitment and they suddenly decided, I don’t know why, the BBC... there were so many strange things happened which damned the whole thing. It was sad really that they dropped it. It was good for me in a way. It forced me not to get stuck with the character, but it was sad in that it was so liked by people and so successful."
Question about the TV
series’ origins: "...1938 the first serial, and went on until 1968,
on radio and then in 1969 on television. Everyone said, ‘Oh I loved you
on radio’, and I said, ‘Oh, it wasn’t me, I never did it on radio’. But
it’s interesting to note with the current craze for UK
Gold (revival satellite channel) and revivals and everything being
brought back on television, and nostalgia and everything, that the BBC
have never ever repeated a single episode of Paul
Temple. It made more money abroad and drew bigger audiences than
Forsyte Saga. It really was, at the time, the biggest thing, certainly
in Europe, and in Australia and places like that.
"I did promotional tours with bands and motorcades in Sweden and places like that, for fun really – yes it was huge! It was huge.
"For reasons they will never explain to me, and nobody will tell, they stopped the show. It was something to do with the financial involvement of the German company which was publicising it all over Munich. I mean they had huge colour hoardings all over Munich saying: ‘Paul Temple, every Thursday’ and 25 million viewers – 25 million! – watched it in Germany every week. But for some reason the BBC cut it off. Hew Weldon said (FM slips in to nasal upper-crust voice): ‘Oh, I’m fed up with these bloody Germans giving us so many problems. You know they want a lot of colour photographs and publicity. That’s Lew Grade, that’s not the BBC. They want us to be like Lew Grade, we can’t have that!’"
Question on similarities
with Lew Grade’s series The
"It was nothing like The Saint. The Saint
was a bachelor, picking up girls and driving in his fast sports car all
the time. Paul Temple was a criminologist and a writer, with a wife!
"In fact, what the Americans did when they were offered it – because they (the BBC) wanted America to take it, because it would have been enormously successful for the BBC. The American’s turned it down, said it was too English, too parochial, and then went ahead and did a thing called McMillan and Wife with Rock Hudson and this girl (Susan St James) who was exactly like our girl (Ros Drinkwater, who played Steve Temple). She was as thin as a lead pencil and had dark hair.
"That was one of the problems, as well, that the BBC didn’t like her (Drinkwater) and the Germans did. They wanted to get rid of her and the Germans refused. It was all... nothing to do with me, I was too busy doing the part. But they (the Americans) copied it and years later they did another version called Hart to Hart, which was exactly the same, in fact even closer, because she was a designer and he was a writer of thrillers. So that was Paul Temple. So they copied us, without giving any credit to Francis Durbridge, of course. But then Francis Durbridge copied The Thin Man, you know the married couple, William Powell and Myrna Loy. And I’m sure that when Durbridge got the idea in the train – he wrote the idea down in a train, scribbled down, I don’t know why he called it Paul Temple – but that was a pinch of The Thin Man. But everything is a pinch of something else.
"But Temple – they (the BBC) never repeated them, never sold the rights to anybody, and they’ve never put the videos out."
On a question about why
the BBC won’t produce a video version:
"They won’t do it. First of all, I think they’ve destroyed all of them.
I think they have an archive of about 10 episodes left out of 52. The rest
of them they gave to the Germans. The Germans bought the whole lot.
"We made them at the BBC and the Germans helped to finance the international market. Then, when the BBC said they were not going to do anymore, the BBC sold them. The head of series told me ‘We’ve sold the lot for 650,000 pounds’. The Germans dubbed them into German, dubbed them into Swedish, dubbed them into French, dubbed them into... and sold them all over the world and made about a seven-million pounds profit, which the BBC could have had, but the BBC said (FM affects upper-crust accent) ‘Oh, what!’
"... That German company made a huge profit out of them. Of course, they transferred them onto 35m film from tape, dubbed them into German and rewrote the stories... but because some of the stories were so dreadful, some of the dialogue so terrible, they even changed the dialogue and changed the stories to fit the pictures and made them even more gutsy and exciting.
"It was only because of the Germans that I was allowed to get out of a Hillman Imp (a mass-produced small car) which the BBC had given me as this, you know, multi-millionaire hero. I didn’t drive a car, and my wife has to drive me everywhere in a Hillman Imp, and they (the Germans) insisted I got into a Rolls-Royce and look as if I was wealthy, and drive myself. And also that I was occasionally allowed to hit people and get angry. But the BBC had decided that I was going to be very quiet and urbane. I think the Germans made the show better.
"And towards the end it got even better. The last year... no the last 26 episodes... no, the last 13... we had better writers, a better producer and they were splendid, they were really very good scripts.
"It was a huge hit, but the BBC has always been ashamed of it and they never mention it. If you watch archive material on the BBC, like they have done their fiftieth anniversary of television, their twenty-five years of this and that, they never mention Paul Temple. They’ll mention Compass and The Brothers and things like that, but they never mention Paul Temple, which was more successful than any of them.
"I don’t understand it. And I didn’t offend anybody, I was a very good boy and I did my job, and I always knew my lines, and I was always there on time, and I never gave them any trouble. But there you are. It’s a mystery to me, a complete mystery."
On a comment about BBC Enterprises*, the business arm of the BBC: "Oh, that’s all new. We didn’t have that when I was doing Temple. They had no idea about marketing, publicity, about pushing... I mean, they never publicised Temple at all, they just let it ride. They only time they did any publicity they gave us a cover of the Radio Times (the BBC’s listings guide), in about our third week, and they photographed us with a fish-eye lens so we both looked distorted. It was quite awful. And inside they didn’t do anything. Nowadays, if you do something like that, they give you long, in-depth articles."
Since this interview some of Mr Matthews’s Paul Temple episodes have been shown on satellite TV in the UK. In May 1995, Francis Matthews starred in and directed Francis Durbridge’s thriller The Gentle Hook at The Thorndike Theatre in Leatherhead, Surrey, England.
© Adam Jezard 2001. Not to be reproduced without permission.
now BBC Worldwide.