In 1961, Forbes made his directing debut with the Attenborough-produced Whistle Down The Wind, featuring Alan Bates as a fugitive murderer whom farm children mistake for Jesus Christ. He also wrote and directed The L-Shaped Room (1962); Séance On A Wet Afternoon (1964), starring Attenborough and an Oscar-nominated Kim Stanley; the POW camp drama King Rat (1965); The Whisperers (1967), which earned Edith Evans an Oscar nomination; the Michael Caine caper film Deadfall (1968); and the tragic love story Long Ago, Tomorrow (1971). He also directed the 1966 comedy The Wrong Box.

After a long time away from the director’s chair, Forbes directed The Stepford Wives, from William Goldman’s adaptation of Ira Levin’s bestseller. The movie’s title has since become common slang for anyone who seems robotically straight-laced—invoked to describe more than one political spouse on the campaign trail—and for that it’s arguably Forbes’ most famous and lasting film. But for Forbes, the production was not a happy experience, and he publicly clashed with Goldman, then the hottest screenwriter in Hollywood.

After writing and directing the Cinderella movie The Slipper And The Rose (1977) and the long-after-the-fact sequel International Velvet, Forbes’ productivity slowed to a trickle, before finally coming to a halt. His last screen credit was for the screenplay of Attenborough’s Chaplin in 1992, but he was reportedly unhappy that his old friend and collaborator had brought in his old nemesis, William Goldman, to rewrite his work.


From 1955 until his death, Forbes was married to the actress Nanette Newman, who appeared in several of his films, including The League of Gentlemen, The L-Shaped Room, Séance On A Wet Afternoon, The Wrong Box, The Whisperers, Deadfall, Long Ago, Tomorrow, The Stepford Wives, and International Velvet.