Dirk Bogarde

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Sir Dirk Bogarde
Dirk Bogarde Hallmark Hall of Fame.JPG
Publicity portrait, 1964
BornDerek Jules Gaspard Ulric Niven van den Bogaerde
(1921-03-28)28 March 1921
West Hampstead, London, England
Died8 May 1999(1999-05-08) (aged 78)
Chelsea, London, England
OccupationActor, novelist
Years active1939–90
dirkbogarde.co.uk (Dirk Bogarde Estate)
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Sir Dirk Bogarde
Dirk Bogarde Hallmark Hall of Fame.JPG
Publicity portrait, 1964
BornDerek Jules Gaspard Ulric Niven van den Bogaerde
(1921-03-28)28 March 1921
West Hampstead, London, England
Died8 May 1999(1999-05-08) (aged 78)
Chelsea, London, England
OccupationActor, novelist
Years active1939–90
dirkbogarde.co.uk (Dirk Bogarde Estate)

Sir Dirk Bogarde (28 March 1921 – 8 May 1999) was an English actor and writer.

Initially a matinée idol in such films as Doctor in the House (1954) and other Rank Organisation pictures, Bogarde later acted in art-house films such as Death in Venice (1971). In a second career, Bogarde wrote seven best-selling volumes of memoirs, six novels and a volume of collected journalism, mainly from his articles in The Daily Telegraph. He is the great-uncle of UK singer Birdy.

Early years[edit]

Bogarde was the elder of two sons born to Ulric van den Bogaerde (1892 - 1972) and Margaret Niven (1898 - 1980). He had a younger sister, Elizabeth.

Ulric, was born in Perry Barr, Birmingham, of Flemish ancestry. He was Art Editor of The Times. Margaret Niven was Scottish, from Glasgow, and was a former actress.

Dirk Bogarde was born Derek Jules Gaspard Ulric Niven van den Bogaerde in a nursing home at 12 Hemstal Road,[1] West Hampstead, London. He was baptised on 30 October at St. Mary's Church, Kilburn.[1]

His brother, Gareth Ulric Van Den Bogaerde, was born in July 1933, in Hendon.[2]

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 over three years, returning at the end of 1937.[3]


He attended University College School,[4] and the former Allan Glen's School in Glasgow (a time he described in his autobiography as unhappy, although others have disputed his account).[5] He later studied at the Chelsea College of Art and Design. He began his acting career on stage in 1939, shortly before the start of World War II.

War service[edit]

Bogarde served in the Second World War, being commissioned into the Queen's Royal Regiment in 1943. He reached the rank of captain and 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 unit interpreting aerial photo-reconnaissance information, before moving to Normandy with Canadian forces. Bogarde claimed to have been 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. As John Carey has summed up with regard to John Coldstream's authorised biography however, "it is virtually impossible that he (Bogarde) saw Belsen or any other camp. Things he overheard or read seem to have entered his imagination and been mistaken for lived experience."[6] Coldstream's analysis seems to conclude that this was indeed the case.[7] Nonetheless, the horror and revulsion at the cruelty and inhumanity that he claimed to have witnessed still left him with a deep-seated hostility towards Germany; in the late-1980s he wrote that he would disembark from a lift rather than ride with a German of his generation.[8] Nevertheless, three of his more memorable film roles were as Germans, one of them as a former SS officer in The Night Porter (1974).[9]

Bogarde was most vocal, towards the end of his life, on the issue of voluntary euthanasia, of which he became a staunch proponent after witnessing the protracted death of his lifelong partner and manager Anthony Forwood (the former husband of actress Glynis Johns) in 1988. He gave an interview to John Hofsess, London executive director of the Voluntary Euthanasia Society:

My views were formulated as a 24-year-old officer in Normandy ... On one occasion the jeep ahead hit a mine ... Next thing I knew, there was this chap in the long grass beside me. A bloody bundle, shrapnel-ripped, legless, one arm only. The one arm reached out to me, white eyeballs wide, unseeing, in the bloody mask that had been a face. A gurgling voice said, "Help. Kill me." With shaking hands I reached for my small pouch to load my revolver ... I had to look for my bullets—by which time somebody else had already taken care of him. I heard the shot. I still remember that gurgling sound. A voice pleading for death ....

During the war I saw more wounded men being "taken care of" than I saw being rescued. Because sometimes you were too far from a dressing station, sometimes you couldn't get them out. And they were pumping blood or whatever; they were in such a wreck, the only thing to do was to shoot them. And they were, so don't think they weren't. That hardens you: You get used to the fact that it can happen. And that it is the only sensible thing to do.


His London West End theatre-acting debut was in 1939, with the stage name 'Derek Bogaerde', in J. B. Priestley's play Cornelius. After the war, Bogarde's agent renamed him "Dirk Bogarde" and his good looks helped him begin a career as a film actor. He was contracted to The Rank Organisation under the wing of the prolific independent film producer Betty Box, who produced most of his early films and was instrumental in creating his matinée idol image.[10]


During the 1950s, Bogarde came to prominence playing a hoodlum who shoots and kills a police constable inThe Blue Lamp (1950) co-starring Jack Warner and Bernard Lee; a handsome artist who comes to the rescue of Jean Simmons during the World's Fair in Paris in So Long at the Fair, a film noir thriller; an accidental murderer who befriends a young boy played by Jon Whiteley in Hunted (aka The Stranger in Between) (1952); in Appointment in London (1953) as a young wing commander in Bomber Command who, against orders, opts to fly his 90th mission with his men in a major air offensive against the Germans; an unjustly imprisoned man who regains hope in clearing his name when he learns his sweetheart, Mai Zetterling, is still alive in Desperate Moment (1953).

In Doctor in the House (1954), Bogarde starred as a medical student in a film that made him one of the most popular British stars of the 1950s. The film co-starred Kenneth More and Donald Sinden, with James Robertson Justice as their crabby mentor. The first film was initiated by Betty Box, who picked up a copy of the book at Crewe during a long rail journey, and saw its possibility as a film. But Box and Ralph Thomas had a job convincing Rank executives that people would go to a film about doctors, and that Bogarde, who up to then had played spivs and World War Two heroes, had sex appeal and could play light comedy. They got a low budget, and were only allowed to use available Rank contract artists. The film was the first of a very successful series (Doctor).

In The Sleeping Tiger (1954), Bogarde played a neurotic criminal with co-star Alexis Smith, and Bogarde's first film for American expatriate director Joseph Losey; Doctor at Sea (1955), co-starring Brigitte Bardot in one of her first film roles; as a returning colonial who fights the Mau-Mau with Virginia McKenna and Donald Sinden in Simba (1955);Cast a Dark Shadow (1955), as a man who marries women for money and then murders them; The Spanish Gardener (1956), co-starring Michael Hordern, Jon Whiteley, and Cyril Cusack; Doctor at Large (1957), again with Donald Sinden, another entry in the Doctor film series, co-starring later Bond-girl Shirley Eaton; the Powell and Pressburger production Ill Met by Moonlight (1957) co-starring Marius Goring as the German General Kreipe, kidnapped on Crete by Patrick "Paddy" Leigh Fermor (Bogarde) and W. Stanley Moss (David Oxley) and a fellow band of Cretan resistance fighters based on W. Stanley Moss' real-life account, (Ill Met by Moonlight), of the WW2 abduction; A Tale of Two Cities (1958), a faithful retelling of Charles Dickens' classic; as a flight lieutenant in the Far East who falls in love with a beautiful Japanese teacher Yoko Tani in The Wind Cannot Read (1958);The Doctor's Dilemma (1959), based on a play by George Bernard Shaw and co-starring Leslie Caron and Robert Morley; and Libel (1959), playing three separate roles and co-starring Olivia de Havilland.

Later roles[edit]

After leaving the Rank Organisation in the early 1960s, Bogarde abandoned his heartthrob image for more challenging parts. He starred in the film Victim (1961), playing a London barrister who fights the blackmailers of a young man with whom he has had a deeply emotional and loving relationship. The young man commits suicide after being arrested for embezzlement, rather than ruin his beloved's career. In exposing the ring of extortionists, Bogarde's character risks his reputation and marriage in order to see that justice is done. Victim was the first mainstream British film to portray the humiliation gay people were exposed to via discriminatory law, and as a victimized minority; consequently it had some effect upon a contemporary Sexual Offences Act 1967 change in English punitive prosecution of consensual same-sex affectional expression.

Other later roles included decadent valet Hugo Barrett in The Servant (1963), which garnered him a BAFTA Award, directed by Joseph Losey and written by Harold Pinter;The Mind Benders (1963), a film ahead of its times in which Bogarde plays an Oxford professor conducting sensory deprivation experiments at Oxford University(precursor to Altered States (1980)); the anti-war film King & Country (1964), playing an army lawyer reluctantly defending deserter Tom Courtenay, directed by Joseph Losey; a television broadcaster-writer Robert Gold in Darling (1965), for which Bogarde won a second BAFTA Award, directed by John Schlesinger; Stephen, a bored Oxford University professor, in Losey's Accident, (1967) also written by Pinter; Our Mother's House (1967), an off-beat film-noir and British entry at the Venice Film Festival, directed by Jack Clayton, in which Bogarde plays a ne'er-do-well father who descends upon "his" seven children on the death of their mother; German industrialist Frederick Bruckmann in Luchino Visconti's La Caduta degli dei, The Damned (1969) co-starring Ingrid Thulin; as ex-Nazi, Max Aldorfer, in the chilling and controversial Il Portiere di notte (aka The Night Porter) (1974), co-starring Charlotte Rampling, directed by Liliana Cavani; and most notably, as Gustav von Aschenbach in Morte a Venezia, Death in Venice (1971), also directed by Visconti; as Claude, the lawyer son of a dying, drunken writer (John Gielgud) in the well-received, multi-dimensional French film Providence (1977), directed by Alain Resnais; as industrialist Hermann Hermann who descends into madness in Despair (1978) directed by Rainer Werner Fassbinder; and as Daddy in Bertrand Tavernier's Daddy Nostalgie, (akaThese Foolish Things) (1991), co-starring Jane Birkin as his daughter, Bogarde's final film role.

In some of his other roles during the 1960s and 1970s, Bogarde played opposite renowned stars, yet several of the films were of uneven quality, due to demands or limitations set by the studio or their scripts: The Angel Wore Red (1960), playing an unfrocked priest who falls in love with cabaret entertainer Ava Gardner during the Spanish Civil War; Song Without End (1960), as Hungarian composer and virtuoso pianist Franz Liszt, a flawed film made under the initial direction of Charles Vidor (who died during shooting), and completed by Bogarde's friend George Cukor, the actor's only disappointing foray into Hollywood; the campy The Singer Not the Song (1961), as a Mexican bandit co-starring John Mills as a priest; H.M.S. Defiant (aka Damn the Defiant!) (1962), playing sadistic Lieutenant Scott-Padget, co-starring Sir Alec Guinness; I Could Go On Singing (1963), co-starring Judy Garland in her final screen role; Hot Enough for June, (aka "Agent 8¾") (1964), a James Bond-type spy spoof co-starring Robert Morley; Modesty Blaise (1966), a campy spy send-up playing archvillain Gabriel opposite Monica Vitti and Terence Stamp and directed by Joseph Losey; The Fixer (1968), based on Bernard Malamud's novel, co-starring Alan Bates;Sebastian (1968), as Sebastian, a mathematician working on code decryption, who falls in love with Susannah York, a decrypter in the all-female decoding office he heads for British Intelligence, also co-starring Sir John Gielgud, and Lilli Palmer, co-produced by Michael Powell; Oh! What a Lovely War (1969), co-starring Sir John Gielgud and Sir Laurence Olivier and directed by Richard Attenborough; Justine (1969), directed by George Cukor;Le Serpent (1973), co-starring Henry Fonda and Yul Brynner; A Bridge Too Far (1977), in a controversial performance as Lieutenant General Frederick "Boy" Browning, also starring Sean Connery and an all-star cast and again directed by Richard Attenborough.

Bogarde claimed he had known General Browning from his time on Field Marshal Montgomery's staff during the war and took issue with the largely negative portrayal of the General that he played in the 1977 film A Bridge Too Far. General "Boy" Browning's widow, the author Daphne du Maurier, ferociously attacked his characterization and "the resultant establishment fallout, much of it homophobic, wrongly convinced [Bogarde] that the newly ennobled Sir Richard [Attenborough] had deliberately contrived to scupper his own chance of a knighthood."[11]

In 1977, Bogarde embarked on his second career as an author. Starting with a first volume A Postillion Struck by Lightning (an allusion to the phrase My postillion has been struck by lightning), he wrote a series of 15 best-selling memoirs, novels, essays, reviews, poetry, and collected journalism. As a writer Bogarde displayed a witty, elegant, highly literate and thoughtful style.

Missed roles[edit]

While under contract with the Rank Organisation, Bogarde was set to play the role of T.E. Lawrence in a proposed film Lawrence to be directed by Anthony Asquith.[12] On the eve of production, after one year of preparation by Bogarde and Asquith, the film was scrapped without full explanation to the dismay of Bogarde and Asquith. The abrupt scrapping of Lawrence, a role long researched and keenly anticipated by Bogarde, was among his greatest screen disappointments.[10] Bogarde was also reportedly considered for the title role in MGM's Doctor Zhivago(1965).[citation needed] Earlier, he declined Louis Jourdan's role as Gaston in MGM's Gigi (1958).[citation needed]

In 1961, Bogarde was offered the chance to play Hamlet at the recently founded Chichester Festival Theatre by artistic director Sir Laurence Olivier, but had to decline due to film commitments.[13] Bogarde later said that he regretted declining Olivier's offer and with it the chance to "really learn my craft".[14]

Personal life[edit]

Bogarde with Jane Birkin, co-star in Daddy Nostalgie at the 1990 Cannes Film Festival

Bogarde was a lifelong bachelor.[15] Bogarde's most serious friendship with a woman was with the French actress Capucine.[citation needed]

For many years he shared his homes, first in Amersham and then in France, with his manager Anthony Forwood, the former husband of actress Glynis Johns and the father of their only child, actor Gareth Forwood (deceased). Bogarde repeatedly denied that their relationship was anything but 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. [16] It was 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.[17] 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..."[18]


Bogarde suffered a minor stroke in November 1987, at a time when his partner, Anthony 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.[19] Bogarde was paralyzed 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 the day before he died with his friend Lauren Bacall. Bogarde died in London from a heart attack on 8 May 1999, age 78. His ashes were scattered at his former estate in Grasse, Southern France.[20]

Honours and awards[edit]

Bogarde was nominated six times as Best Actor by BAFTA, winning twice, for The Servant in 1963, and for Darling in 1965. He also received the London Film Critics Circle Lifetime Award in 1991. He made a total of 63 films between 1939 and 1991. In 1983, he received a Special Award for service to the Cinema at the Cannes Festival. Awarded the British Film Institute Fellowship in 1987, the following year in 1988, Bogarde was honoured with the first BAFTA Tribute Award for an outstanding contribution to cinema in 1988.

Bogarde was honoured by Queen Elizabeth II as a Knight Bachelor in the United Kingdom in 1992, awarded the Commandeur de l'Ordre des Arts et des Lettres by the French government in 1990, an honorary Doctorate of Literature on 4 July 1985 by St. Andrews University in Scotland and an honorary Doctorate of Letters in 1993 by the University of Sussex in England.

In 1984, Bogarde served as president of the jury at the Cannes Film Festival. He was the first Briton to serve in this capacity.


Titles preceded by an asterisk (*) are films made for television.

1939Come on George!Extra (uncredited)
1947Dancing with CrimePoliceman
1948Esther WatersWilliam Latch
Once a Jolly SwagmanBill Fox
1949Boys in BrownAlfie Rawlins
QuartetGeorge Bland (segment "The Alien Corn")
Dear Mr. ProhackCharles Prohack
1950The Woman in QuestionR.W. (Bob) Baker
The Blue LampTom Riley
BlackmailedStephen Mundy
So Long at the FairGeorge Hathaway
1952Appointment in LondonWing Commander Tim Mason
HuntedChris Lloyd
Penny PrincessTony Craig
The Gentle GunmanMatt Sullivan
1954They Who DareLt. Graham
The Sea Shall Not Have ThemFlight Sgt. MacKay
For Better, for WorseTony Howard
Doctor in the HouseDr Simon SparrowBogarde's first film with director Ralph Thomas
The Sleeping TigerFrank ClemmonsBogarde's first film with director Joseph Losey
1955SimbaAlan Howard
Doctor at SeaDr Simon Sparrow
1956The Spanish GardenerJose
1957Cast a Dark ShadowEdward "Teddy" Bare
Ill Met by MoonlightMaj. Patrick Leigh Fermor aka Philedem
Doctor at LargeDr Simon Sparrow
Campbell's KingdomBruce Campbell
1958A Tale of Two CitiesSydney Carton
The Wind Cannot ReadFlight Lt Michael Quinn
The Doctor's DilemmaLouis Dubedat
1959LibelSir Mark Sebastian Loddon/Frank Welney/Number Fifteen
1960Song Without EndFranz LisztNominated — Golden Globe Award for Best Actor – Motion Picture Musical or Comedy
The Angel Wore RedArturo Carrera
1961VictimMelville FarrNominated — BAFTA Award for Best Actor in a Leading Role
The Singer Not the SongAnacleto
1962We Joined the NavyCameo appearance (Dr. Simon Sparrow)
H.M.S. Defiant1st Lt. Scott-Padget
The Password Is CourageSergeant Major Charles Coward
1963The Mind BendersDr. Henry Longman
I Could Go On SingingDavid Donne
The ServantHugo BarrettBAFTA Award for Best Actor in a Leading Role
Doctor in DistressDr Simon Sparrow
1964King & CountryCapt. Hargreaves
Hot Enough for JuneNicholas Whistler
The High Bright SunMajor McGuire
1965DarlingRobert GoldBAFTA Award for Best Actor in a Leading Role
1966Modesty BlaiseGabriel
*Blithe SpiritCharles Condomine
1967AccidentStephenNominated — BAFTA Award for Best Actor in a Leading Role
Our Mother's HouseCharlie HookNominated — BAFTA Award for Best Actor in a Leading Role
The FixerBibikov
1969La Caduta degli dei (The Damned)Frederick Bruckmann
Oh! What a Lovely WarStephen
1970*Upon This RockBonnie Prince Charlie
1971Morte a Venezia (Death in Venice)Gustav von AschenbachNominated — BAFTA Award for Best Actor in a Leading Role
1973Night Flight from MoscowPhilip Boyle
1974Il Portiere di notte (The Night Porter)Maximilian Theo Aldorfer
1975Permission to KillAlan Curtis
1977A Bridge Too FarLt. Gen. Frederick 'Boy' Browning
ProvidenceClaude Langham
1978DespairHermann Hermann
1981*The Patricia Neal StoryRoald Dahl
1986*May We Borrow Your Husband?William Harris
1988*The VisionJames Marriner
1990Daddy NostalgiaDaddy

British box office ranking[edit]

For several years British film exhibitors voted Bogarde one of the most popular local stars at the box office:[21]

Other works[edit]

Autobiographies and memoirs[edit]





  1. ^ a b Coldstream 2004, p. 24.
  2. ^ http://www.telegraph.co.uk/culture/books/3623221/Dirk-could-be-cruel-but-I-know-why.html
  3. ^ http://www.telegraph.co.uk/culture/books/3623221/Dirk-could-be-cruel-but-I-know-why.html
  4. ^ "Dirk Bogarde". Soylent Communications, 2013. Retrieved: 22 September 2013.
  5. ^ Boztas, Senay. "Bogarde's Schooldays 'Make-Believe'." Sunday Herald via FindArticles, 3 October 2004. Retrieved: 18 November 2010.
  6. ^ Carey, John. "Ever, Dirk: The Bogarde Letters selected and edited by John Coldstream". The Sunday Times, 10 August 2008, p. 2.
  7. ^ Coldstream 2004 pp. 20–21.
  8. ^ Bogarde, Dirk. "Out of the Shadows of Hell". For the Time Being. London: Penguin, 1988.
  9. ^ "The Night Porter (1974)". IMDb. Retrieved: 22 September 2013.
  10. ^ a b Morley 1999, pp. 8–9.
  11. ^ Hawkins and Attenborough 2009, pp. 152–153.
  12. ^ Brownlow, Kevin. David Lean: A Biography. New York: St. Martin's Press, 1996. p. 407
  13. ^ Coldstream, John 2004, pp. 361–362.
  14. ^ Bogarde 1988, p. 169.
  15. ^ Stimpson, Mansel."Review of Dirk Bogarde: The Authorised Biography, by John Coldstream." The Pink Triangle Trust, 2004. Retrieved: 22 September 2013.
  16. ^ Kressler, Noah B. "Using the Morals Clause in Talent Agreements: A Historical, Legal, and Practical Guide." Columbia Journal of Law & the Arts, Vol. 29, 13 December 2005. Retrieved: 22 September 2013.
  17. ^ Coldstream 2004[page needed]
  18. ^ Ezard, John."Sexy self-image that revved up Dirk Bogarde."The Guardian, 2 October 2004.
  19. ^ "Sir Dirk reveals `living will' wishes after stroke." The Free Library. Retrieved: 22 September 2013.
  20. ^ "Obituary: Sir Dirk Bogarde." This is announcements. Retrieved: 22 September 2013.
  21. ^ Shipman 1972, pp. 56–59.
  22. ^ "John Wayne Heads Box-Office Poll." The Mercury (Hobart, Tasmania: 1860 - 1954) via National Library of Australia, 31 December 1954, p. 6. Retrieved: 9 July 2012.
  23. ^ "The Dam Busters", The Times [London, England] 29 December 1955, p. 12 via The Times Digital Archive, 11 July 2012.
  24. ^ "News in Brief." The Times [London, England] 27 December 1957, p. 9 via The Times Digital Archive. Retrieved: 11 July 2012.
  25. ^ "Mr. Guinness Heads Film Poll". The Times[London, England], 2 January 1959, p. 4 via The Times Digital Archive, 11 July 2012.
  26. ^ "Year of Profitable British Films". The Times [London, England], 1 January 1960, p. 13 viaThe Times Digital Archive, 11 July 2012.
  27. ^ "Most Popular Films of 1963". The Times [London, England] 3 January 1964, p. 4 via The Times Digital Archive, 11 July 2012.


Archival Resources[edit]

External links[edit]

Awards and achievements
Preceded by
Peter O'Toole
for Lawrence of Arabia
BAFTA Award for Best Actor in a Leading Role
for The Servant
Succeeded by
Richard Attenborough
for Guns at Batasi & Séance on a Wet Afternoon
Preceded by
Richard Attenborough
for Guns at Batasi & Seance on a Wet Afternoon
BAFTA Award for Best Actor in a Leading Role
for Darling
Succeeded by
Richard Burton
for The Spy Who Came in from the Cold & Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf?