Today we’ll be looking at where Andy Milligan’s 1967 film THE NAKED WITCH was (probably) filmed, as well as trying to find the actor who played the “Dumb One” (Lee Forbes). And to make it more challenging, in the 55 years since the film was made, it’s been renamed, it’s also been lost, most of the cast and crew are either dead or their where-abouts are unknown (or they’re not talking), and somewhat of a dispute over where the film was actually shot has emerged between the lead actress and just about everyone else. And with all that drama I can’t help but think Andy might just be smiling up on all this and having a good laugh (or at the very least he might just be laughing at me for going to this extreme).
To begin our quest we should first review the two schools of thought on where THE NAKED WITCH might have been filmed.
On one side we have a newspaper account, as well as Milligan’s own recollections placing the majority, if not all, of the filming at two beach-side cottages in Manasquan, NJ. The article indicates “it’s Mr Forbes’ family who owns the beachfront property where the troupe is staying” and that it was “two oceanfront cottages where the actors [were] encamped.” The article also goes on to say “The indoor scenes are set up in the cottages or in an adjacent garage. Outdoor scenes are usually shot along the beachfront or in a nearby marshy section along the Manasquan River.“
We also have Milligan in his own words (from “The Ghastly One” – Jimmy McDonough), “We shot down in Manasquan, NJ. Some guy who played the hunchback (Lee Forbes), his parents owned the house. Terrible actor, but he could od a deaf-mute. He played the lead and we got Manasquan. We shot in about seven days, shot all week. We stayed in two beach houses, had one hell of a time.”
On the other side is the recollection of the main actress, Beth Porter*, which puts almost all of the filming at and around Milligan’s house on Staten Island (7 Phelps Place). From her autobiography, “Andy operated from a rambling house on Staten Island…The cast was put up in the various bedrooms, and the downstairs was transformed into an ad-hoc sound stage. Shooting began in winter, and the schedule was tight.” You can read Ms Porter’s full account of the filming, and many other great stories from her life and career in her autobiography, “Walking on my Hands”.
It’s possible both are correct to some degree, because after Ms Porter had some of her memories refreshed in an exchange “with one of the leads” she now seems to agree that “yes, there were some scenes shot on that beach in New Jersey, but the newspaper article is filled with errors and half-truths“. (A news source filled with errors and half-truths? I guess some things never change).
Not to jump head-long into the debate myself, but based on this line from the article, “Only about eight or 10 are in Mr. Forbes’ cottages at one time. The others commute between here and New York or Philadelphia“, perhaps another possible theory is Ms Porter may have been one of the cast that didn’t stay in the cottages but commuted in. And if that commute from NYC was via ferry then its possible she mistook that for the Staten Island Ferry instead of a NJ bound one… But until a copy of the film is found and we can hopefully compare environmental evidence we’ll just have to let the sparks fly as they may.
All that being said, what I believe is not in doubt is that, regardless of how much of TNW was filmed in NJ, the two cottages in question were in fact owned by the parents of one of the actors, Lee Forbes (even Ms Porter agrees based on a FB posts in the FB Andy Milligan group). And it’s through that one bit of information that we will discover the exact location of those cabins where some, if not all, of the film was shot in the early months of 1966. And along the way we’ll learn a little about who Lee Forbes, the dumb hunchback, actually was.
Chile seems to be as good a place as any to start our journey (don’t worry, we’ll get to New Jersey soon enough). It’s a nice country, or so I’m told (I’ve not yet made it to South America proper), and aside from llamas and wine it also happens to be the birth place of Ernesto Guzman Donoso, who was born into what appears to have been a well-off, or the very least well-connected Santiago family in August 1893. I suggest a well-off and/or connected family, because by 1916 Ernesto, while still a senior at the University of Michigan majoring in engineering, he was appointed by the Chilean government as Consul for the Ann Arbor district. I’m just guessing, but there had to be some major string pulling behind the scenes to make that happen at such a young age, and it could not have been cheap to send someone to the United States for college (it wasn’t cheap even for someone FROM the United States!).
At some point, perhaps while still in Michigan, Ernesto married Viola Forbes, who’s name their children would eventually take. By 1919 Ernesto was stationed in New York at the Chilean Embassy, and his area of specialty appears to have been railroads, representing the Chilean State Railways and pining several articles on the subject. And on March 3, 1927, while Ernesto was still serving in New York City, Viola gave birth to Leonard Guzman Forbes, with his brother, Robert Guzman Forbes following two years later in 1929.
Ernesto appears to have enjoyed the trappings of being a foreign diplomat, with his name popping up in society columns in NY, Miami, and Chile as well. And while Viola is never mentioned, in July 1944 it was noted in The Miami News that a Mrs E A. Wetmore (her husband, E. A., was a member of the Chicago Board of Trade), would “leave August 1 for New York City and from there she will go to Manasquan Beach to be the guest of Ernesto Guzman Donoso and his sons, Robert Guzman Forbes and Lee Guzman Forbes.” Bingo!
So now we have Lee (Leonard) Forbes firmly placed in Manasquan, NJ. But this of course only confirms what we already knew. It doesn’t give us WHERE in Manasquan old Ernest was BBQing on the beach for Mrs Wetmore and the kids. Let’s keep digging, picking up with Robert first and then and Lee himself.
It appears two Guzman-Forbes brothers grew up in the Westchester County area of New York, with both attending Valley Forge Military Academy in Pennsylvania. Robert spent four years in the air force, then went to the University of Virginia and the New York School of Visual Arts. He was an Art Director for Avon , and then went on to become a very successful freelance artist in commercial illustration and design, and was a nationally known animal portraitist with his work being featured on playing cards, greeting cards, porcelain plates and in various publications. He was also the owner of a gallery in Avon, CT., before moving to Florida with his long time companion, Kenneth Edward Keating, where they both passed away in the early 2000s.
As for Lee, beyond Lee’s compulsory Selective Services registration (where he’s described as: white male, 5’10”, 150 lbs, black hair, brown eyes, and a ruddy complexion), I’ve found no firm record of him continuing into the armed forces after Valley Forge like his brother, nor of him attending college. However there was a Leonard G. Forbes who was discharged from the ASA (Army Security Agency, which was United States Army’s electronic intelligence branch) in 1947, and if that was “our” Lee then that means he spent two years working for what in effect was the NSA (National Security Agency).
In any case, by the 1950s he did seem to be somewhat of a wanderer. In 1953 he was a cargo supervisor on the SS Armira, which appears to have had variables routes including stops in Quebec, Louisiana, and various ports throughout the Caribbean. Then in 1956 he and another hitchhiker were arrested in Missouri for inviting themselves into a roadside motel room for the night, without registering (or paying). When not roaming he seems to have split his time between New Jersey and New Rochelle throughout the 1950s/60s, with Manasquan apparently being his primary address. In January 1963 Lee married a Laura M. Ross, but I’ve found nothing else about her or their marriage other than the registration.
At some point in the late 1950s Lee had become an Insurance Adjuster, which is somewhat ironic given that Lee was not a very good driver, which can been seen in the following newspaper articles, with 34 outstanding warrants in NJ at one point, and two drunk driving arrests to top the cake. The first DUI (which occurred on the Triborough Bridge in NYC) and the subsequent discovery of the bevy of outstanding warrants made several newspapers in New Jersey and New York for a number of weeks.
Why was this such a news-worthy item? I wonder if the papers were hoping that people would make the erroneous link between the Forbes name and that other Forbes family from New Jersey, of which I’ve found no connection. In any case, it’s thanks to all those articles and Lee’s run-ins with the law that we discover the address of the location of which we are searching:
The Naked Witch House
338 1st Ave, Manasquan, NJ.
So now that we’ve found it, what of the house?
Originally built in 1922, 338 1st Ave was, like most of the cottages along 1st Ave, actually two separate structures and had two addresses, one on 1st Ave (338), and one on the beach-side, 339 Beach Front, thus matching the two-cottage criteria. The 1st Ave structure consisted of a garage and workshop at street level and a two bedroom apartment above it, also matching descriptions of the location. The beach-side structure, was (per the realtor’s listing for it, a “well maintained 2/3 bedroom beachfront home [which] also features a full finished basement for extended family visitors.” So plenty of room to shoot a Milligan film in! Here are pictures of the actual location, again from the real estate sales material (Zillow).
The portion of Manasquan that the Guzman-Forbes used as their summer-retreat and sometimes residence was developed by The American Timber Company, which was founded in 1893 as a landholding company by H. H. Yard, whose English ancestors immigrated to Philadelphia in 1665 and later owned land that became the community named Yardville, near Trenton. The name is an odd choice because the company claims they have never cut down a single tree, and in effect was just a real estate company. For decades, at least into the 1990s, American Timber owned the land, but through what initially was casual and then later more formal long-term lease arrangements, residents would own the structures and American Timber retained ownership of the land itself. This was the case for #338 until 1991 when the land was sold to a Mrs Ann Rule (not the true-crime author), where she lived until her death in 2009. After nearly six years on the market, in 2015 her estate sold it to the current owners. Which begs the question, does that mean it’s still there? Well…
No. Much like the film itself the original cottages are also now lost to history. The new owners proceeded to rip down both 94 year old structures and replace them with a single three-story beach-front house, which I’m sure, based on what it’s appraised at, they hope lasts the next 100 years. And now that we’ve determine the location and it’s fate, let’s shift back and see if we can determine what happened to Lee Forbes.
The circumstances around how, where, and when Lee and Andy first crossed paths is unknown. In fact Andy makes it sound like Lee was just an inconsequential “extra” used in effect just to gain usage of the location, referring to him in McDonough‘s book as “Some guy“, and saying he was a “[t]terrible actor, but he could do a deaf mute. He played the lead and we got Manasquan“. But actually Lee had already worked with Andy in THE PROMISCUOUS SEX, playing the Mr Contronia character who rapes the lead character Liz. Perhaps Andy was just being Andy, or perhaps he really just didn’t remember Lee that well. At this point we’ll of course never know.
I found very little on Lee after the 1960s. In addition to the two Milligan credits, both of which are lost, IMDb has three other credits linked to him, although I doubt the “Lee Forbes” is our Lee Forbes. I screened two of them (HELLROLLER and THE WIZARD OF SPEED AND TIME) and while the person identified as Lee in HELLROLLER might possibly be him, I still highly doubt it; without a confirmed and clear picture of him it’s nearly impossible to confirm one way or the other. I found no one in WIZARD that would even suggest being a sixty year old man, and I gave out of steam, and hope, before screening STAR SLAMMER, but again I highly doubt our Lee is in it. One big strike against all three of these films is that they are California productions, and Lee seems to have stayed mostly in New York, living in Brooklyn through the 1990s and into the first years of the twenty first century .
But aside from those three probably-not-him films I found no other residue of Lee’s life after 1967, other than several NYC addresses. By 1992 he was living in the Marlboro Houses, which is part of NYC’s public housing projects in Brooklyn. His last known address was 227 Madison St, which it turns out is Gouverneur Hospital on the Lower East Side, and also where Lee passed away on August 3, 2002.
Leonard Guzman Forbes
March 3, 1927 – August 3, 2002
* I did attempt to contact Ms Porter for this post but she indicated she wasn’t currently available. Hopefully in the near future we will be able to connect and if/when that does happen I’ll either update/amend this post, or if warranted will do a separate post.