Wednesday, March 28, 2018

Born Today In 1921, Actor, Writer Sir Dirk Bogarde

Sir Dirk Bogarde was born today, March 28, in 1921.  He was an English actor and writer. Initially a matinée idol in films such as Doctor in the House (1954) for the Rank Organization, he later acted in art-house films. In a second career, he wrote seven best-selling volumes of memoirs, six novels and a volume of collected journalism, mainly from articles in The Daily Telegraph.

Bogarde came to prominence in films including The Blue Lamp in the early 1950s, before starring in the successful Doctor film series (1954–63). He twice won the BAFTA Award for Best Actor in a Leading Role; for The Servant (1963) and Darling (1965). His other notable film roles included Victim (1961), Accident (1967), The Damned (1969), Death in Venice (1971), The Night Porter (1974), A Bridge Too Far (1977) and Despair (1978). He was appointed a Commander of the Order of Arts and Letters in 1990 and a Knight Bachelor in 1992.

Bogarde w
as born Derek Jules Gaspard Ulric Niven van den Bogaerde in Perry Barr, Birmingham. Conditions in the family home in North London became cramped and Bogarde was moved to Glasgow to stay with relatives of his mother. He stayed there for more than 3 years, returning at the end of 1937.

He attended University College School, and the former Allan Glen's High School of Science in Glasgow, a time he described in his autobiography as an unhappy one. From 1937 to 1938 he studied at the Chelsea School of Art. He began his acting career on stage in 1939, shortly before the start of the Second World War, with his first on-screen appearance being as an uncredited extra in the George Formby comedy, Come On George! (1939).

During the war, Derek "Pip" Bogaerde served in the British Army, initially with the Royal Corps of Signals before in 1943 being commissioned at the age of 22 into the Queen's Royal Regiment (West Surrey) as a second lieutenant. He served in both the European and Pacific theatres, principally as an intelligence officer. Taylor Downing's book Spies in the Sky tells of his work with a specialist Army unit that accompanied air force units for the interpreting of aerial photo-reconnaissance information, after D-Day moving to Normandy with RCAF units which by July 1944 were located at the "B.8" airfield at Sommervieu, near Bayeux. As an "Air Photographic Interpreter" with the rank of captain, and subsequently major, he was later with the headquarters of the Second Army where he selected ground targets in France, Holland, and Germany, for the Second Tactical Air Force (2TAF) and RAF Bomber Command to attack.

Dirk in Eindhoven, c.1945
Bogarde was one of the first Allied officers in April 1945 to reach the Bergen-Belsen concentration camp in Germany, an experience that had the most profound effect on him and about which he found it difficult to speak for many years afterward.

For many years Bogarde shared his homes, first in Amersham, Buckinghamshire, then in France, with his partner Anthony Forwood, who was the former husband of actress Glynis Johns and the father of their only child, actor Gareth Forwood. Bogarde repeatedly denied that their relationship was anything other than platonic. Such denials were understandable, mainly because male homosexual acts were criminal during most of his career, and could lead to prosecution and imprisonment. Rank Studio contracts included morality clauses, which provided for termination of the contract in the event of 'immoral' conduct on the part of the actor. This would have included same-sex relationships, thus potentially putting the actor's career in jeopardy.

It is possible that Bogarde's refusal to enter into a marriage of convenience was a major reason for his failure to become a star in Hollywood, together with the critical and commercial failure of Song Without End. His friend Helena Bonham Carter believed Bogarde would not have been able to come out during later life, since this might have demonstrated that he had been forced to camouflage his sexual orientation during his film career. The actor John Fraser, however, said that "Dirk's life with Forwood had been so respectable, their love for each other so profound and so enduring, it would have been a glorious day for the pursuit of understanding and the promotion of tolerance if he had screwed up the courage..."

Bogarde suffered a minor stroke in November 1987, at a time when his partner, Forwood, was dying of liver cancer and Parkinson's disease. In September 1996, he underwent angioplasty to unblock arteries leading to his heart and suffered a massive stroke following the operation. Bogarde was paralysed on one side of his body, which affected his speech and left him in a wheelchair. He managed, however, to complete a final volume of his autobiography, which covered the stroke and its effects as well as an edition of his collected journalism, mainly for The Daily Telegraph. He spent some time with his friend Lauren Bacall the day before he died. Bogarde died at his home in London from a heart attack on May 8, 1999, age 78.


Raybeard said...

Now this is a sphinx-like (= riddle) celebrity figure if ever there was one!
I've read the first four volumes of his auto-biography, and though they are very readable indeed I was always puzzled by his ability to recall in incredible detail what were purported to be word-for-word conversations he'd had decades previously - and not only that, he seemed able to remember things like the decor of rooms he visited just the once - colour of carpets, wallpaper, furniture, what was lying on a desk, books on the shelves etc. Of course, it's much more likely that, rather than having had a photographic memory (in colour!) - which he didn't elsewhere claim to have - he was imagining the details and putting them down from his mind as if to lend veracity to his recollection. I suppose a lot of people writing their life stories do much the same thing.

Better than his own writing was the 'authorised' biography by John Coldstream (700 pages) which I read only last year. It shows him in all lights, including severely unflattering ones - as much as being generous and warm-hearted, he could be irritating, silly and just plain damn rude! His lifetime utter loathing for his contemporary John Mills remains a mystery to this day as to what lay at the bottom of that one. (They acted together in 'The Singer Not the Song').

During his latter years on our long-running 'Desert Island Discs' radio programme he was asked about his relationship with Forwood and he became most indignant when it was put to him that some have suggested that they were in a relationship. He found the idea "offensive" (at least I think that was the word he used. If not it was certainly on those lines of outright denial). We all know - and many knew even while he was still young - that he was a lifetime closet queen.
To repeat an old chestnut, the story is told of once when Noel Coward was walking in London with another gay 'friend' (the impresario Binkie Beaumont?), they were coming up out of the underground to be greeted by a large poster of a new film release proclaiming 'MICHAEL REDGRAVE - DIRK BOGARDE - "THE SEA SHALL NOT HAVE THEM!" Coward looks up, rubs his chin thoughtfully - and says "I don't see why not. Everybody else has!"

No one can deny that the film 'Victim' had a huge impact, becoming really apparent only in the years that followed. It must have taken enormous bravery to have agreed to take on that part.

Few male screen stars could eat up the screen the way Bogarde could. However, he'd have been mortified in his lifetime if he'd known that there was no way he could taken his 'secret' with him to the grave.

Raybeard said...

I've just remembered the word that D.B. used when reacting to the suggestion that he and Foreman were in a relationship. It wasn't 'offensive', it was 'hurtful'. Not quite as hard-edged as first said, but same ball-park area.

BlogMarkBlog said...

Thanks so much for these comments Raybeard! You are a fountain of information! I appreciate it.