When crime writer Georges Simenon first met Rupert Davies, he immediately declared: ‘Maigret, c’est Maigret!’

Liverpool actor Davies looked exactly as Simenon had envisaged the famous French detective Jules Maigret in all his books. He was completely bowled over.

It couldn’t have been a better first meeting for Davies, who played the pipe-smoking Inspector Commissaire on BBC TV from 1960 to 1963.

Actor Rupert Davies as Inspector Maigret

The programme, shot mainly in the studio and occasionally on the streets of Paris, made Davies a household name. Ron Grainer’s distinctive theme tune won an Ivor Novello award.

Davies also won the 1962 British Academy Best Actor Award for his portrayal of the French sleuth.

Oddly, Davies was not the first choice for the part. Basil Sydney played the role for the pilot episode in 1959, but was unable to continue.

Maigret was rarely without his trademark pipe, which suited pipe-smoker Davies. He earned the distinction of being named the inaugural Pipe Smoker of the Year in 1975, along with CBI chief Campbell Adamson.

Smoking Pipes: Mr. Campbell Adamson with actor Rupert Davies. January 1975 75-00425-002

Davies and his pipe were rarely separated. He even went go-karting with it in a celebrity charity gala at Beaulieu as our photo shows!

After Maigret, Davies was rarely off British TV screens, appearing in Emergency Ward 10, Ivanhoe, The Champions and Danger Man.

Actor Patrick McGoohan
13th January 1965.

He was even the voice of Professor Ian McClaine in the puppet adventure Joe 90, created by Gerry and Sylvia Anderson, and played MP Vincent Broadhead in Quatermass II.

Exclusive pictures by Graham Young, Birmingham Mail staff. Joe 90 series. Thunderbirds co-creator Sylvia Anderson at Cosflord Flights of Fancy sci-fi convention at RAF Cosford on Saturday, May 17, 2014. She did not appear on Sunday 18 as scheduled because of an urgent business meeting re new company glotime.tv. Words and pictures for Birmingham Mail by Graham Young. Event factfile: Cosford Flights of Fantasy ? May 17 and 18 will include the chance to see puppets from Thunderbirds and Joe 90 as well as Captain Scarlet and his evil nemesis Captain Black and Steve Zodiac, the heroic pilot of Fireball XL5. Also on display will be models, costumes, full sized vehicles and sets from the classic live action shows Space 1999 and UFO, with trade stands selling memorabilia.
Sylvia Anderson will be joined by other special guests for talks and talks and Q&A sessions. Admission to these by advance ticket only ? one day ¿25, two days ¿40. Limted places, but price includes free parking pass.
Saturday ? Sylvia Anderson, Brian Johnson, Alan Perry, Alan Shubrook, Tony Day (provisional).
Sunday ? Sylvia Anderson (cancelled), Brian Johnson, Alan Perry, Alan Shubrook, Mary Turner, Judith Shutt.
Sylvia Anderson ? co-creator, producer and the voice of Lady Penelope. Brian Johnson ? special effects or Thunderbirds, Space 1999, 2001, and an Oscar winner for The Empire Strikes Back. Alan Perry ? director of Captain Scarlet, Joe 90, UFO. Alan Shubrook ? model maker Thunderbirds, Captain Scarlet, Joe 90, The Secret Service, UFO. Alan will be providing an exclusive presentation of his own collection of backstage photos from his days working on the shows. Tony Day ? model maker for Thunderbird 6 and Doppleganger (provisional). Mary Turner ? puppeteer, puppet designer, Supercar through to Secret Service. Mary sculpted characters such as Steve Zodiac, Troy Tempest, Captain Scarlet and Lady Penelope. Judith Shutt ? puppet operator Stingray through to Secret Service.
Royal Air Force Museum Cosford, Shifnal, Shropshire, TF11 8UP. Open daily from 10am. Admission to the Royal Air Force Museum is free of charge. To purchase tickets to the special guest talks and Q&A sessions visit: www.rafmuseum.org/cosford. For further details about the ¿sford Flights of Fantasy¿exhibition call 01902 376200.

Born in Liverpool in May 1916, Davies honed his acting talents in the unlikely surroundings of prisoner-of-war camp Stalag Luft III near Sagan during the Second World War.

After serving in the British Merchant Navy, Davies became a Sub-Lieutenant Observer in the Fleet Air Arm – and was shot down off the Dutch coast in 1940.

At Stalag Luft III, later portrayed in the classic 1963 movie The Great Escape, Davies took part in stage performances with some famous fellow inmates.

They included Peter Butterworth, who would later star in 16 Carry On movies, Sybil Thorndike’s son John Casson and writer and director Talbot Rothwell. The group became lifelong friends.

“Carry on Behind”, the 27th in the series of ‘Carry On’ films now in production at Pinewood Studios. March 1975 75-01588 Actor Kenneth Williams

Their performances were a great help to escape bids. They caused so many boos and hisses that the Germans couldn’t hear the noise of a tunnel being dug! Davies himself was involved in three escape attempts.

After the war, Davies starred with other prisoners-of-war in the show Back Home at London’s Stoll Theatre and portrayed the Colonel in Alun Owen’s play The Rough and Ready Lot in 1959.

Then came Maigret and national fame. At the same time, another TV series was making a name for itself on the streets of Merseyside with a string of gritty storylines and powerful dramas. It was, of course, Z-Cars.

What a sight for TV crime series fans. Here pictured during a break in rehearsals for tonight’s show at London’s Prince of Wales Theatre are a team of TV cops. Putting the policeman’s lock on each other are Z-Cars Inspector Barlow (Stratford Johns) with his colleagues Robert Keegan, James Brady, Brian Blessed, Frank Windsor, James Ellis, Colin Welland, Peter Byrne, Geoffrey Adams, Johnny Briggs, Michael McStay, Robert Raglan, Bruce Seaton and Rupert Davies. 28th March 1965.

The two programmes actually came together in March 1965 when TV’s most famous cops, from all channels, put on a charity show at the Prince of Wales theatre, London.

A remarkable picture of the cast still exists. It shows Stratford Johns, Inspector Barlow in Z-Cars, trying to put a ‘policeman’s lock’ on Davies, far right. Other TV cops include Frank Windsor, Brian Blessed, Colin Welland, James Ellis and Johnny Briggs.

Davies played George Smiley in the movie The Spy Who Came in from the Cold in 1965 and appeared in a series of horror films, including Dracula Has Risen from the Grave with Christopher Lee and Witchfinder General, both in 1968.

Christopher Lee, being photographed for poster, dressed as character Dracula in film, Dracula A.D. 1972, at Elstree Studios, Hertfordshire, 24th October 1971.

In the latter, Davies was not amused to learn that live rats were going to be placed on his body in one of the torture scenes!

Director Michael Reeves told him not to move a muscle until one of the rats started nibbling his jaw. Then he might move his head  – but just a little!

*Hundreds of pictures from an unforgettable decade are packed into Clive Hardy’s fascinating book Around Merseyside in the 1960s. It’s available at £9.99 plus postage and packaging.

Just go to inostalgia.co.uk to place your order or ring the hotline on 01928 503777.