It seems that if you are talented and you live long enough, then you will eventually win some recognition for your art. Last year, actor, writer and director Bryan Forbes won a British Film Institute Fellowship. It was a hell of a time of a time coming for a man whose greatest work was made during the 1950s, 1960s and1970s, and who hasn’t made a movie in over 20-years. Yet, the award was more than deserved, and only a small token of praise directors as diverse as Forbes merits. I hope this award (which undoubtedly should also have been given to Ken Russell during his lifetime) will bring a reassessment to one of British cinema’s quite mavericks.
Bryan Forbes is responsible for such classic movies as Whistle Down the Wind, The L-Shaped Room, Séance on a Wet Afternoon, The Whisperers, and The Stepford Wives. If that wasn’t enough, Forbes has also directed Of Human Bondage, George Segal in King Rat, Michael Caine in Deadfall, Malcolm McDowell and Nanette Newman in Raging Moon and the fairy tale romance, The Slipper and the Rose.
Forbes started off as an actor, and was hailed as one of best Shakespearean actors of his generation. On film he is a recognizable face in many of those British “Bulldog Breed” flicks of the 1950s. From here, he progressed as a writer, with over 30 film screenwriting credits to his name—from The Cockleshell Heroes, to the brilliance of The League of Gentlemen, to Robert Downey’s Chaplin.
In the late 1960s, Forbes took up a position as Head of Associated British (EMI) Films, where he was involved in financing such films as The Railway Children and The Tales of Beatrix Potter. However, he resigned his position in 1971, frustrated by his inability to develop and produce films that he believed in. Forbes view on film is summed-up by an answer from this interview, made after his resignation in April 1971.
‘Life is pretty grotty, and anything that brings back a little Romanticism to life is not to be despised.’
There is a truth here, and while we hanker after films that push boundaries and shock our imaginations into overdrive, there is much to be said for those who can deliver strong, emotionally rewarding entertainments—like Bryan Forbes.
With thanks to NellyM