Monday, March 28, 2011
Dirk Bogarde (28 March 1921 – 8 May 1999)
Sir Dirk Bogarde (28 March 1921 – 8 May 1999) was an English actor and novelist. Initially a matinee idol in such films as Doctor in the House (1954) and other Rank Organisation pictures, Bogarde later acted in art-house films like Death in Venice (1971). He also wrote several volumes of autobiography.
Bogarde served in World War II, being commissioned into the Queen's Royal Regiment in 1943. He reached the rank of major and served in both the European and Pacific theatres, principally as an intelligence officer. He 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.
The horror and revulsion at the cruelty and inhumanity that he claimed to have witnessed 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. Nevertheless, three of his more memorable film roles were as Germans, one of them as a former SS officer in The Night Porter.
His London West End theatre-acting debut was in 1939, with stage name "Derek Bogaerde" in J. B. Priestley's play Cornelius. After the war his agent renamed him "Dirk Bogarde." Bogarde quickly became a matinee idol and was Britain's number one box office draw of the 1950s, gaining the title of "The Matinee Idol of the Odeon". 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.
Bogarde was nominated six times as Best Actor by the British Academy of Film and Television Arts (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.
Bogarde was a life-long bachelor and, during his life, was reported to be homosexual. Bogarde's most serious friendship with a woman was with the bisexual French actress Capucine. For many years he shared his homes, first in Amersham, England, then in France with his manager Anthony Forwood (a former husband of the actress Glynis Johns and the father of her only child, actor Gareth Forwood), but repeatedly denied that their relationship was anything but platonic. Such denials were understandable, mainly given that homosexual acts were illegal during most of his career, and also considering his appeal to women, which he was loath to jeopardise. His brother Gareth Van den Bogaerde in a 2004 interview with Jan Moir stated that Bogarde was engaging in homosexual sex at a time when such activity was illegal; and also claimed that the relationship with Forwood went beyond that of a manager and friend.
He was a shareholder in Pressdram Ltd, the company that owned the satirical magazine Private Eye. Upon his death his shares passed on to (his brother)Brock van der Bogaerde.
Formerly a heavy smoker, 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. Never afraid of voicing his opinion, Bogarde, having witnessed Forwood's protracted illness and death, became active in promoting voluntary euthanasia for terminally ill patients in Britain, and toured the UK giving lectures and answering questions from audiences on the subject. It was a cause, he stated, that had been important to him since the war, when he had seen severely injured men pleading to be executed.
In September 1996, he underwent angioplasty to unblock arteries leading to his heart and suffered a pulmonary embolism following the operation. 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 autobiography, which covered the stroke and its effects. 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, aged 78. His ashes were scattered at his former estate of "Le Haut Clermont" in Grasse, Southern France.