Sunday, May 12, 2013

Bryan Forbes: More than The Stepford Wives

When Bryan Forbes died last week the headlines described his as "Stepford Wives Director Bryan Forbes".

I found that odd, because I suspect he was more celebrated in Britain for two films he made here at the start of the 1960s.

I wrote about The League of Gentlemen from 1960 a few years ago:
We are supposed to think of the 1950s as an irredeemably dull decade. People sat around waiting for the 1960s, the Beatles and the invention of sexual intercourse. This film suggests that it was a lot more interesting than that. Yes, there is dissatisfaction with the contemporary scene, but it springs from a sense that the spivs have supplanted the men who won the war. 
Hyde is lost in the post-war world; the military virtues he exemplifies are no longer wanted. His recruits are doing worse, trapped in awful marriages, tied to failing businesses or disgraced. One is obviously gay, and that in a film released a year before another Basil Dearden film, Victim, which is supposed to be the first time the subject was broached in a British film. 
The League of Gentlemen works as a thriller - you become engrossed in the details of the bank job and hope the gang will get away with it but it is also very funny. 
As I went on to say, the cast is terrific and Jack Hawkins gives a superb performance. You are utterly convinced that he has commanded men in battle.

Bryan Forbes starred in The League of Gentlemen and also wrote the script. If anything, the film's trailer sells it short...

A year later Forbes directed Whistle Down the Wind. It could have been insufferably twee, particularly when you add in the point that the trailer below skips over - the children believe that Alan Bates' character is Jesus.

Yet, despite Haley Mills' usual studied wide-eyed innocence and intermittent Lancashire accent, it works and seems to have haunted a lot of people who were young in the 1960s.

So these two films have a lot more to interest the British viewer than did the later The Stepford Wives.

1 comment:

Frank Little said...

One should give credit to the Radio 4 appreciations which also highlighted his breakthrough as a writer for the screen: The Angry Silence. It was interesting to hear how the critics were divided on political lines.