Obituary: Scott Forbes

Scott Forbes was a complex and very private Englishman who rocketed to fame in the surprising role of a cowboy called Jim Bowie, on a popular American television series, The Adventures of Jim Bowie, in the late 1950s.

For years afterwards, he would find himself surrounded by excited American tourists in public places, having become part of the fantasy life of the American nation. It was a well-kept secret at the time that Jim Bowie, with his deep Southern drawl and astonishing good looks, was played by an Englishman educated at Repton and Balliol College, Oxford. The promoters of the series, feeling that the US public would not accept a frontiersman played by an Englishman, launched him with a fabricated biography, claiming that he had been born in South Africa and grown up in eastern Pennsylvania.

Forbes drifted into acting as a young man-about-London after someone suggested, entirely on account of his good looks, that he audition for the leading role in a play. Up to that moment he had no thought of acting, having read PPE at Oxford and gone on to a job at the Ministry of Defence. He got the part and was taken up by the theatre impresario Binkie Beaumont, at whose suggestion he took the stage name of "Julian Dallas".

As Julian Dallas he went to the Liverpool Old Vic for a year in the late 1940s, working with Tyrone Guthrie and Peter Glenville. He then returned to London for a number of plays, including Peter Ustinov's House of Regrets and The Cradle Song directed by John Gielgud, and made two films with the J. Arthur Rank Organisation, The Reluctant Widow and The Blue Mill, before going to Hollywood under contract to Warner Brothers in 1950.

He did a lot of work in American films, theatre and television, but many people felt that he should have stayed in London. John Gielgud, touring California with his Ages of Man, said, "Oh Julian, my dear boy, whatever are you doing here?" John Osborne saw him in The Rainmaker at the La Jolla theatre in California and said: "We need people like you in the London theatre. You would be a star!"

As an actor Forbes had a quiet intensity which could draw his audience into the action. His magnetism, which began with his looks, deepened with his development as an actor. He had a very beautiful, expressive voice and knew how to use it. He went to drama school in New York, studied acting with Morris Carnovisky and worked on his Southern accent for Jim Bowie with the actress Jeanne Moody, from Alabama, who subsequently became his wife and mother of his two daughters, Elena and Jessica.

He acted in the theatre opposite some of America's leading ladies, including Eva Le Gallienne in Maxwell Anderson's Elizabeth the Queen (1961-62; the critic James Powers described him as "the dashing, handsome and bewitching Earl of Essex"), played Maxim de Winter in Rebecca on live television in 1952 and made films with Errol Flynn and James Mason. He also played opposite Eartha Kitt in Seventy Times Seven (1959), made in Cuba.

Forbes returned to Britain to do some television in 1960, including Alun Owen's play Lena, My Lena with Billie Whitelaw, and again in 1963, this time to work in the theatre, playing the husband in Harold Pinter's The Lover, with Vivienne Merchant and directed by Pinter. It was at this point that he became seriously interested in writing plays and scripts. His play The Meter Man, produced by Ronald Hayman at the Lamda theatre in 1964, was subsequently performed all round the world and made into the film The Penthouse (1967) with Suzy Kendall.

He and his family returned to live in Britain in 1963 and he continued to write plays and scripts as well as acting, mainly for television, becoming a familiar face on BBC television's Play of the Month. But in the second half of his life he gradually lost the taste for public performance, becoming reclusive and quiet in his ways. These years were characterised by a deepening love of his family and home, of the classical music he would listen to by the hour and a habit of solitude and long hours spent in writing.

When Scott Forbes died his family held a small private funeral with no announcements in the press. He is buried in a country churchyard near his last home in Wiltshire, close to the fence, away from the crowd.

Jenny Pearson

Conrad Scott Forbes, actor and playwright: born High Wycombe, Buckinghamshire 11 September 1920; married 1954 Jeanne Moody (two daughters); died Swindon, Wiltshire 25 February 1997.

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