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Sir Dirk Bogarde (28 March 1921 – 8 May 1999) was a British actor and novelist. Initially a matinee star 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.

Early years

Bogarde was born Derek Jules Gaspard Ulric Niven van den Bogaerde in a nursing home at 12 Hemstal Road, West Hampsteadmarker, London, of mixed Flemish, Dutchmarker and Scottish ancestry, and baptised on 30 October at St. Mary's Church, Kilburn. His father, Ulric van den Bogaerde (born in Perry Barr, Birmingham), was the art editor of The Times and his mother Margaret Niven was a former actress. He attended the former Allan Glen's Schoolmarker in Glasgow (a time he described in his autobiography as unhappy, although others have disputed his account) and later studied at the Chelsea College of Art & Designmarker.

War service

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-Belsenmarker 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." Coldstream's analysis seems to conclude that this was indeed the case. 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 an elevator rather than ride with a German. Nevertheless, three of his more memorable film roles were as Germans, one of them as a former SSmarker officer in The Night Porter.

He 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 partner and manager Anthony Forwood 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.

Film career

His London West End 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", and his good looks helped him begin a career as a film actor, contracted to The Rank Organisation.Morley, Sheridan (1999). Dirk Bogarde: Rank Outsider. Second Edition. London: Bloomsbury. ISBN 0747546983

During the 1950s, Bogarde came to prominence playing a hoodlum who shoots and kills a Police Constable in The Blue Lamp (1950) co-starring Jack Warner and Bernard Lee; by portraying a 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 airman in Bomber Command who, against orders, joins a major offensive against the Germans; The Sea Shall Not Have Them (1954), playing a flight sergeant trapped in a dinghy with Michael Redgrave; Doctor in the House (1954), as a medical student, in a film that made Bogarde one of the most popular British stars of the 1950s, and co-starring Kenneth More, Donald Sinden, and James Robertson Justice as their crabby mentor; The Sleeping Tiger (1954), playing 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; Cast a Dark Shadow (1955), as a man who marries women for money and then murders them; The Spanish Gardener (1956), co-starring Cyril Cusack, Jon Whiteley and Bernard Lee; Doctor at Large (1957), another entry in the "Doctor series", co-starring later Bond girl Shirley Eaton; A Tale of Two Cities (1958), a faithful retelling of Charles Dickens' classic; The Doctor's Dilemma (1959), based on a play by George Bernard Shaw and co-starring Leslie Caron and Robert Morley, (not a part of the "Doctor series"); and Libel (1959), playing two separate roles and co-starring Olivia de Havilland. 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".

After leaving the Rank Organisation in the early 1960s, Bogarde abandoned his heart-throb image for more challenging parts, such as barrister Melville Farr in Victim (1961), directed by Basil Dearden; decadent valet Hugo Barrett in The Servant (1963), directed by Joseph Losey and written by Harold Pinter; television reporter Robert Gold in Darling (1965), directed by John Schlesinger; Stephen, a bored Oxford University professor, in Losey's Accident, (1967) also written by Pinter; German industrialist Frederick Bruckman in Luchino Visconti's The Damned (1969); the ex-Nazi, Max Aldorfer, in the chilling and controversial The Night Porter (1974) directed by Liliana Cavani; and, most notably, as Gustav von Aschenbach in Death in Venice (1971) also directed by Visconti.

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. Some of these movies included 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), playing 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, in Bogarde'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, in which Bogarde practically steals the movie from his co-star Sir Alec Guinness; I Could Go On Singing (1963), co-starring Judy Garland in her final screen role; The Mind Benders (1963), an off-beat film where Bogarde plays an Oxford professor conducting sensory deprivation experiments at Oxford Universitymarker (precursor to Altered States (1980)); Hot Enough for June, (aka Agent 8 3/4) (1964), a James Bond-type spy spoof co-starring Robert Morley; King & Country (1964), playing an army lawyer reluctantly defending deserter Tom Courtenay; Modesty Blaise (1966), a campy spy send-up playing archvillain Gabriel opposite Monica Vitti and Terence Stamp; Our Mother's House (1967), an off-beat film playing an estranged father of seven children, directed by Jack Clayton; The Fixer (1968), based on Bernard Malamud's novel, co-starring Alan Bates; Sebastian (1968), playing a former Oxford professor heading the all-female decoding office of British Intelligence, co-starring Sir John Gielgud, Susannah York, and Lilli Palmer; 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 rather controversial performance as Lieutenant General Frederick "Boy" Browning, also starring Sean Connery and an all-star cast; Providence (1977), directed by Alain Resnais and co-starring Sir John Gielgud; Despair (1978) directed by Rainer Werner Fassbinder; and Daddy Nostalgie, (aka These Foolish Things) (1991) co-starring Jane Birkin as his daughter, Bogarde's final film role.

While a contract performer at the Rank Organisation, Bogarde was considered for a screen version of Lawrence Of Arabia, to be directed by Anthony Asquith. The role of Lawrence eventually went to Peter O'Toole and was directed by David Lean. Not getting the role of Lawrence of Arabia was Bogarde's greatest screen disappointment. Bogarde was also reportedly considered for the title role in MGM's Doctor Zhivago (1965). Earlier, he declined Louis Jourdan's role as Gaston in MGM's Gigi (1958). . Also, according to John Coldstream's biography Bogarde was offered a stage role at The Chichester Festival Theatremarker by Sir Laurence Olivier, but had to decline due to film commitments.

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.

Later career and private life

In 1977, Bogarde embarked on his second career as an author. Starting with a first volume A Postillion Struck by Lightning, he wrote a series of autobiographical volumes, novels and book reviews. As a writer Bogarde displayed a witty, elegant, highly literate and thoughtful style, though some find his use of words to be somewhat precious at times.

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 other than friendship. These denials were understandable, mainly given that homosexual acts were illegal during most of his career, and also given his following among female admirers which he was loath to jeopardise. His brother Gareth Van den Bogaerde confirmed in a 2004 interview with Jan Moir that Bogarde was engaging in homosexual sex at a time when such acts were illegal, and also that his long-term relationship with Tony Forwood was more than simply that of a manager and friend.

Many people believed Bogarde's refusal to enter into a marriage of convenience in order to cover up his homosexuality 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 could never come out as gay in later life, after his movie stardom had ended, because he would not have been able to deal with the fact that he had been forced to live a lie during his career.

Bogarde starred in the landmark 1961 film Victim, playing a prominent homosexual barrister in London who fights the blackmailers of a young man with whom he had an emotional relationship. The young man commits suicide after being arrested for embezzlement, rather than ruin the attorney's reputation. In the process of exposing the ring of extortionists, Bogarde's character puts at risk his successful legal career and marriage in order to see that justice is served. Victim was the first mainstream British film to treat the subject of homosexuality seriously and the film helped lead to a change in English law decriminalising homosexuality.

Bogarde's controversial film choices later in his career led him to have something of a cult following. The singer Morrissey was a fan and, according to Charlotte Rampling, Bogarde was approached in 1990 by Madonna to appear in her video for Justify My Love, citing The Night Porter as an inspiration. Bogarde declined the offer.

In 1984, Bogarde served as president of the jury at the Cannes Film Festivalmarker. He was the first Briton ever to serve in that capacity, and this was an immense honor for Bogarde. He was knighted in 1992 for services to acting, and was the recipient of honorary doctorates from several universities including St Andrewsmarker and Sussexmarker.

Formerly a heavy smoker, Bogarde suffered a minor stroke in November 1987 while Anthony Forwood was dying of liver cancer and Parkinson's disease. Never afraid of voicing his opinion, after witnessing Forwood's protracted death he became active in promoting voluntary euthanasia for terminally ill patients in Britain and toured the UK giving lectures and answering questions from live audiences on the subject. It was a cause, he stated, that had been important to him since the war, during which he had witnessed severely injured men pleading to be put out of their misery.

In September 1996, he underwent angioplasty to unblock arteries leading to his heart and suffered a pulmonary embolism following this operation. For the final three years of his life Bogarde was paralyzed on one side of his body, which affected his speech and left him wheelchair bound. He managed, however, to complete a final volume of autobiography, which covered the stroke and its effect on him. He spent some time the day before he died with his good 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.


Titles preceded by an asterisk (*) are films made for television.
Year Film Role Notes
1939 Come on George! Extra (uncredited)
1947 Dancing with Crime Policeman
1948 Esther Waters William Latch
Once a Jolly Swagman Bill Fox
1949 Boys in Brown Alfie Rawlins
Quartet George Bland (segment "The Alien Corn")
Dear Mr. Prohack Charles Prohack
1950 The Woman in Question R.W. (Bob) Baker
The Blue Lamp Tom Riley
Blackmailed Stephen Mundy
So Long at the Fair George Hathaway
1952 Appointment in London Wing Commander Tim Mason
Hunted Chris Lloyd
Penny Princess Tony Craig
The Gentle Gunman Matt Sullivan
1954 They Who Dare Lt. Graham
The Sea Shall Not Have Them Flight Sgt. MacKay
For Better, for Worse Tony Howard
Doctor in the House Dr Simon Sparrow
The Sleeping Tiger Frank Clemmons
1955 Simba Alan Howard
Doctor at Sea Dr. Simon Sparrow
1956 The Spanish Gardener Jose
1957 Cast a Dark Shadow Edward "Teddy" Bare
Ill Met by Moonlight Maj. Patrick Leigh Fermor aka Philedem
Doctor at Large Dr. Simon Sparrow
Campbell's Kingdom Bruce Campbell
1958 A Tale of Two Cities Sydney Carton
The Wind Cannot Read Flight Lt. Michael Quinn
The Doctor's Dilemma Louis Dubedat
1959 Libel Sir Mark Sebastian Loddon/Frank Welney/Number Fifteen
1960 Song Without End Franz Liszt Nominated — Golden Globe Award for Best Actor – Motion Picture Musical or Comedy
The Angel Wore Red Arturo Carrera
1961 Victim Melville Farr Nominated — BAFTA Award for Best Actor in a Leading Role
The Singer Not the Song Anacleto
1962 We Joined the Navy Cameo appearance (Dr. Simon Sparrow)
H.M.S. Defiant 1st Lt. Scott-Padget
The Password is Courage Sgt. Maj. Charles Coward
1963 The Mind Benders Dr. Henry Longman
I Could Go On Singing David Donne
The Servant Hugo Barrett BAFTA Award for Best Actor in a Leading Role
Doctor in Distress Dr. Simon Sparrow
1964 King & Country Capt. Hargreaves
Hot Enough for June Nicholas Whistler
The High Bright Sun Maj. McGuire
1965 Darling Robert Gold BAFTA Award for Best Actor in a Leading Role
1966 Modesty Blaise Gabriel
*Blithe Spirit Charles Condomine
1967 Accident Stephen Nominated — BAFTA Award for Best Actor in a Leading Role
Our Mother's House Charlie Hook Nominated — BAFTA Award for Best Actor in a Leading Role
1968 Sebastian Sebastian
The Fixer Bibikov
1969 La Caduta degli dei Frederick Bruckmann
Oh! What a Lovely War Stephen
Justine Pursewarden
1970 *Upon This Rock Bonnie Prince Charlie
1971 Morte a Venezia Gustav von Aschenbach Nominated — BAFTA Award for Best Actor in a Leading Role
1973 Night Flight from Moscow Philip Boyle
1974 Il Portiere di notte Maximilian Theo Aldorfer
1975 Permission to Kill Alan Curtis
1977 A Bridge Too Far Lt. Gen. Frederick 'Boy' Browning
Providence Claude Langham
1978 Despair Hermann Hermann
1981 *The Patricia Neal Story Roald Dahl
1986 *May We Borrow Your Husband? William Harris
1988 The Vision James Marriner
1990 Daddy Nostalgie Daddy

Other works

Autobiographies and memoirs

  • A Postillion Struck by Lightning, 1977
  • Snakes and Ladders, 1978
  • An Orderly Man, 1983
  • Backcloth, 1986
  • A Particular Friendship, 1989
  • Great Meadow, 1992
  • A Short Walk from Harrods, 1993
  • Cleared for Take-Off, 1995
  • For the Time Being: Collected Journalism, 1998
  • Dirk Bogarde: The Complete Autobiography (contains the first four autobiographies only)


  • A Gentle Occupation, 1980
  • Voices in the Garden, 1981
  • West of Sunset, 1984
  • Jericho, 1991
  • A Period of Adjustment, 1994
  • Closing Ranks, 1997



  • The Films of Dirk Bogarde by Margaret Hinxman & Susan d'Arcy, 1974
  • Dirk Bogarde: The Complete Career Illustrated with Robert Tanitch, 1988.
  • Dirk Bogarde, Rank Outsider, by Sheridan Morley, 1996.
  • Dirk Bogarde, The Authorised Biography, by John Coldstream, 2004.
  • Ever, Dirk: The Bogarde Letters, by John Coldstream, 2008.


  1. John Coldstream, Dirk Bogarde: The Authorised Biography, (London: Weidenfeld & Nicolson, 2004 (ISBN 0 297 60730 8)), p.24
  2. John Coldstream, Dirk Bogarde: The Authorised Biography, London: Weidenfeld & Nicolson, 2004 (ISBN 0 297 60730 8), p.24
  4. John Carey, "Ever, Dirk: The Bogarde Letters selected and edited by John Coldstream," The Sunday Times, 10 August 2008, p.2
  5. John Coldstream, Dirk Bogarde: The Authorised Biography, (London: Phoenix, 2005), pp.20-21.
  6. Dirk Bogarde, "Out of the Shadows of Hell," in: For the Time Being (London: Penguin, 1988)
  8. Review by Mansel Stimpson of Dirk Bogarde: The Authorised Biography, by John Coldstream
  9. Jan Moir Gareth Van den Bogaerde interview, The Telegraph, 2 September 2004
  10. Coldstream, John Dirk Bogarde: The Authorised Biography (2004)
  11. Interview, The Culture Show, BBC2, 17 June 2006
  12. Voluntary Euthanasia Society Interview

External links

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