'Stepford Wives' Director Bryan Forbes Dies at 86

5:54 PM PST 05/08/2013 by Mike Barnes
Courtesy Everett Collection
Forbes on the set of "Long Ago Tomorrow."

The London native also co-wrote Robert Downey Jr.’s “Chaplin” and earned an Oscar nomination for his script for “The Angry Silence.”

Bryan Forbes, the acclaimed British writer-director who helmed the sinister suburban horror classic The Stepford Wives, died Wednesday after a long illness at his home in Surrey, England. He was 86.

Forbes also co-wrote the screenplay for Chaplin, the 1992 Richard Attenborough biopic of Charlie Chaplin that starred Robert Downey Jr. in his Oscar-nominated role as the Hollywood legend.

The London native and Commander of the Order of the British Empire earned an Oscar nomination for co-writing the food-for-thought factory drama The Angry Silence (1960), which starred Attenborough.

Forbes’ first feature as a director was Whistle Down the Wind, the 1961 film starring Haley Mills and Alan Bates about children who come across an escaped convict and mistake him for Jesus.

He also directed James Clavell’s prisoner-of-war drama King Rat (1965), starring George Segal; the classic Victorian English comedy The Wrong Box (1966), starring Michael Caine, John Mills, Ralph Richardson and Peter Sellers; the family tale International Velvet (1978), starring Tatum O’Neal; and 1971’s Long Ago Tomorrow (also known as The Raging Moon), which starred Nanette Newman — whom he had married in 1954 — opposite Malcolm McDowell.

Newman appeared in many of Forbes' films, including Columbia’s The Stepford Wives (1975), which starred Katharine Ross and Paula Prentiss in the tale revolving around Connecticut wives who are just too perfect to be true. She survives him.

Forbes wrote the screenplay for International Velvet and adapted Of Human Bondage for the 1964 film that toplined Laurence Harvey and Kim Novak. He also wrote the scripts for The Captain’s Table (1959), starring John Gregson; the Caine-starring Deadfall (1968); and Hopscotch (1980), led by Walter Matthau.

Forbes in the early 1970s worked on the documentary Elton John and Bernie Taupin Say Goodbye Norma Jean and Other Things, which chronicled the British pair’s rise to stardom.

Forbes began his career as an actor, playing supporting roles in such British films as An Inspector Calls (1954) and The Colditz Story (1955). He and Attenborough formed the production company Beaver Films in the late 1950s and were frequent collaborators.

Forbes also wrote several novels, including The Soldier’s Story, which was published last year. He was made a Commander of the Order of the British Empire in 2004 for his service to the arts.

In addition to his wife, survivors include daughters Emma Forbes, a British TV host, and journalist Sarah Standing. Forbes’ first wife was Irish actress Constance Smith.

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