Bogarde’s Filmography Up Close
Here’s a short run down of the Dirk films I have seen and my reviews of them. Enjoy!
I am always eager to help other fans out with rare Dirk movies too.
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The 1950’s–The Idol of the Odeons
The Blue Lamp (1949) director- Basil Dearden. Bogarde gives an interesting performance in this, with some dramatic moments. He uses the lower-class British accent with good effect. His best scenes are with his hysterical girlfriend played by Peggy Evans. There are some moments of chilling cruelty that foretell future Bogarde villains. The film tries to portray Bogarde as the focus of evil and violence, yet the wooden personalities of the goody-two-shoe cops make them impossible to relate to. You find yourself cheering for slow-witted crooks. The climax of the movie is the pursuit of Bogarde in the crowded mayhem of a racetrack. This, also, was basically the first major crime film produced in Britain.
Once a Jolly Swagman (1948):director-Jack Lee. Dirk looks the young cad in this strange movie about motor-cycle racing in working class England. Dirk has not quite developed his persona at this young stage, but his good looks and charm are set to pave the way for him!
So Long at the Fair (1950):director-Terence Fisher and Anthony Thorne. A suprisingly morbid story which traces Jean Simmons’ search for her brother who disappears without a trace in a hotel during the Great Exhibition in Paris in 1889. Jean Simmons has some sweet scenes with Dirk, who looks just as pretty as she does. Dirk plays a young painter who turns sleuth to help the desperately frantic Ms Simmons discover the mystery behind her brothers disappearance.
The Woman in Question (1950):director- Anthony Asquith. Entertaining who-dunit film where Bogarde plays a young con-man with an artificial American accent. Interesting play on perspectives, as each story is told from another character’s point of view. Bogarde changes from aggressive to vulnerable. But his American accent is terribly unconvincing (which in the end is part of the story).
The Gentle Gunman (1952) :director-Basil Dearden . A classic ‘trench-coat’ role for Dirk, who plays the younger Irish brother of John Mills. Dirk’s character is drawn into attempting to plant a bomb for the Irish Resisitance in a subway, and later he helps arrange the escape of two captured Irish terrorists. John Mills, who would later act with Dirk in The Singer Not the Song, does a good job playing the upright, ‘reformed’ Irishman. Dirk’s accent is a bit unconvincing, but he does look splendid in his trenchcoat–running!
Hunted (1952): director-Charles Crichton. The best of the Bogarde-trenchcoat roles, where Dirk plays a criminal on the run who is forced to take a young boy who witnessed his crime, the talented Jon Whitely, along with him as he flees the police. He slowly develops affection for the boy, whom he finally sacrifices himself for at the end of the film. Bogarde bristles with abrupt violence and fiery magnetism in this. Even this early in his career Bogarde’s film persona seems to bring a new kind of danger to the British cinema. So much danger in fact that the entire British police force seems to be in pursuit of him!
Desperate Moment (1953): director- Compton Bennett One of Dirk’s best early 50’s roles. It takes place against the backdrop of a debilitated and ruin-tattered Berlin and Hamburg. Dirk plays a German resistance fighter who escapes from prison after the war as he was falsely accused of killing a British officer. Mai Zetterling plays his very clever and savvy girlfriend. Dirk looks great in many different uniforms and Euro-outfits (if you keep count like me). Dirk excudes exhaustion and feverish impatience as he tries to chase down the real killer. A stylish and moody post- war thriller with a great backdrop setting–quite worthy of Dirk’s matinee flair at the time!
Penny Princess (1953): director- Val Guest A frightfully cute comedy concerning a sassy New York shop girl who discovers she is actually the princess of a fictional European country called Lampidorra. Sounds bad, huh? It gets worse. The rest of the movie concerns Lampidorra’s attempt to market their special alcoholic cheese to the rest of Europe. Dirk plays a British cheese promoter himself, and falls for the new princess. But Dirk’s charm can’t even help eliminate the muck of this terribly “cheesy” love story. (Hey, this movie asks for cheese comparisons!) But it is interesting to watch Dirk interact with his very boisterous American co-star Yolande Donlan.
Appointment in London (1953): director- Philip Leacock. Standard British war film about Dirk as a wing commander of a bomber squad. Dirk has some good scenes in this where his inner fragility and weariness show through his officially stern exterior.
They Who Dare (1953): director- Lewis Milestone. Or “How Dare They”, as some reviews said when this movie came out. Another British war movie which takes place on the island of Rhodes as the British help the local rebels do–something! I lost track about halfway through of what the final mission was. They are intent on blowing up a German airstrip, and Dirk and the Greek rebels have a few mishaps along the way. Towards the end of the movie, Dirk and a very young Denholm Elliot swim to saftey aboard a Greek-run military boat. No great close-ups here, but you do get a very tan, dusty Dirk to look at!
Doctor in the House(1954): director-Ralph Thomas. Bogarde is humorous, shy, subtle and altogether spectacular as the everpatient Doctor Simon Sparrow. Instead of being pursued by the coppers, Bogarde is now a target for every female that passes his way. Doctor Sparrow innocently and bravely fends them off while trying to pass through medical school at the same time. Oddly enough, this out-of-character performance is what began Bogarde’s reign as matinee-idol of the British screen.
The Sleeping Tiger (1954): director-Joseph Losey. The very first Losey-Bogarde collaboration with some superb moments of intensity and sexual tension. The story is built around a psychologist who allows a criminal, Frank, to stay with him in his own home, with his own wife, to keep him under scientific observation. What the doctor doesn’t observe is his wife falling under the Bogarde spell. The psychologist slowly unravels Dirk’s underlying angst through lots of Freudian analysis, and Dirk eventually straightens out, but the wife, played by Alexis Smith, basically goes mad with passion and kills herself in the end. Thus, the sleeping tiger—the animal that lies dormant within us all. Bogarde plays his most convincing criminal to date, and sizzles with psychological turmoil and frustration. Alexis Smith is a great foil to Bogarde’s seductive rogue. Bogarde’s subtle but distinct change in the last part of the film is outstanding.
The Sea Shall not Have Them (1954): director-Lewis Gilbert. But if only the sea *would* have had them, that would have saved us from this interminable movie! Filmed almost entirely against a very noticeable bluescreen, this film barely keeps its head above the water (no pun intended). This is a story of a stranded band of English soldiers bobbing up and down in the English channel waiting to be rescued. Every scene with Bogarde takes place in a tiny dingy, and his whimpering Flight Sergeant routine is as stale as everything else about this movie. If only there was some good dialogue! A terrible waste, all except one appropriate Bogarde line –“Oh how I hate the sea!”
Simba (1955): director-Brian Hurst. This is a great film which stands on its own, with the added pleasure of a fascinating Bogarde performance. A very intense racial study in turbulent British Colonial Africa. Bogarde makes his appearance as the obligatory protagonist, yet is soon becomes clear that he is the underlying villain in the movie : he epitomizes racial hatred and superiority. The woman played by Virginia McKenna and the African doctor Karanja are the true heroes of the story, as they try to break the on-going chain of hatred. Bogarde is excellent at portraying inner suspicion and cold-hearted arrogance as the character Alan Howard.
Doctor at Sea (1955): director-Ralph Thomas. Only one word need be mentioned here–Bardot. She steals the show on this ship, and has a wonderful chemistry with Bogarde. The story has little importance but the performances reach beyond the cliche material. What I like most about this movie is the way Bogarde approaches Bardot. While every other male in the film is leering and salivating over this French sex-kitten, and Bogarde reacts exactly the opposite as everyone else. In each scene with Bardot he distinctly treats her with respect and dignity, and more importantly as a human being, not as an object. This intensifies Bogarde’s own sex appeal in the movie, an indeed is a characteristic that maintained itself throughout Bogarde’s career in film in his relationships with women on screen.
To Cast a Dark Shadow (1955): director-Lewis Gilbert. Bogarde uses a slight accent in this picture to develop the voracious and cunning seducer/money-hunter that pursues Maggie Lockwood for her fortune, and plots to kill his former wife’s sister. Bogarde is a perfect mix of charm and danger in this, and his explosive anger at the end of the movie foreshadows his performance in The Servant.
The Spanish Gardener (1956): director-Philip Leacock. The first of Bogarde’s tragic/sacrificial roles, in which he plays a character of almost saint-like gentleness and sympathy. Jose befriends the young Jon Whitely (the same child actor who starred in Hunted) and because of this he is basically crucified by the child’s father. Bogarde transforms the others in this film and is left alone in saint-like repose at the end. Needless to say Bogarde is superb, revealing a mildness and ethereal quality through his expressive eyes.
Ill Met by Moonlight (1956): director-Michael Powell and Emeric Pressburger. A competent war film which takes place during WWII on the island of Crete. Bogarde plays the officer in charge of the kidnapping of a German General. The film never reaches the intensity it should, and all the shots are all distant and filmed at night. There are moments when you can hardly see who is who! (I have one book that calls this movie Ill Lit by Moonlight). Not the kind of lingering closeup’s a fan desires, but a fun movie nonetheless.
Doctor at Large (1957): director-Ralph Thomas. Most likely the best of the Doctor movies. Bogarde seems to enjoy this one the most, with some especially comedic moments and funny dialogue. He gets many scenes Muriel Pavlow, who plays the struggling doctoral student Joy, and Shirley Eaton, the stunningly haughty blond who would later be seen in the James Bond flick Goldfinger.
A Tale of Two Cities (1958): director-Ralph Thomas. The epitome of Bogarde’s tragic roles. A spectacular take on the classic Dickens novel, with Bogarde as the perfect Sydney Carton–in my humble opinion, he puts Ronald Colman to shame! He injects the character with inner turmoil and longing, as well as spiritual resolve in his doomed hour. His platonic relationship with the innocent Lucie Manette is tormenting and touching to watch. And need I mention the romantic wardrobe? To see Bogarde in this is–the epitome of grace and eloquence–is to see him at the peak of his matinee idol splendor.
The Wind Cannot Read (1958): director-Ralph Thomas. A lushly filmed love/adventure story set in India during WWII. Dirk and another sexy British pin-up from the 50’s, the Scottish John Fraser (El Cid, Repulsion), are two young officers who go to school in India to learn Japanese in order to interrogate Japanese prisoners. Dirk falls for a young Japanese teacher, played by Yoko Tani. The romance is sweet and the scenery in India spectacular (including the Taj Mahal). One cannot help but imagine the young Dirk in Java and India during his real life military service. The best part of the movie is a suspenseful jungle ambush and capture that our heroic Dirk must endure. Monkeys, elephants, Indian temples, and a very tan Dirk in army fatigues amidst steamy jungle scenery…but be prepared for a tragic ending.
Doctor’s Dilemma (1959): director-Anthony Asquith. Bogarde plays a smaller role in this to Gigi’s lovely Leslie Caron, but his scenes are key nonetheless. His plays an artist whose decadent and hedonistic views are the subject of four doctor’s who are debating whether or not to cure him of tuberculosis. Bogarde is both funny and keen in this film, and dies a very dramatic, lingering death at the end.
Libel (1959): director-Anthony Asquith. Three Bogarde’s! A true Bogarde fest and perhaps the most interesting Bogarde performance of all time. Bogarde is able to pull off three completely separate characterizations in this film. Bogarde plays a quiet and dignified Sir Mark Loddon; the sneering, cunning Frank Welney; and the unrecognizable Number Fifteen. Wonderful closeups, the torment of memory loss, and a breathtaking courtroom scene are the highlights of this film.
The 1960’s-The International Star
Song Without End (1960): director- Charles Vidor and George Cukor. Bogarde looks great in this as the dashing Franz Liszt, but the plot lacks any iota of drama. I think it would have been better to focus on Liszt’s early days in Paris with Chopin and George Sand. Although Capucine as the Countess is quite lovely, Genevieve Page as the spurned wife seems much more sympathetic. One wonders why Liszt chases her all across Europe for her ice-queen haughtiness. There’s no real chemistry on screen between them (although in real life there seemed to be), and the dialogue is “lisztless”. But hey, he looks great! Bogarde plays the part with a certain degree of rock-star flair and vanity that makes him very fun to watch, and there are quite few good Bogarde temper-tantrums too. And the amazing fact that Bogarde learned how to play piano in a few weeks is hard to believe when you see him pounding with fury on the ivory keys of the Grand Piano.
The Singer not the Song (1960): director- Roy Baker. Bogarde plays the villainous Anacleto, an atheist Mexican bandit leader who becomes involved with the latest town priest, John Mills, and the woman who falls in love with the priest, the lovely Mylene Demongeot. This is my absolute favorite of all Dirk movies (although Dirk himself considered it to be above and beyond camp). Nevertheless, I cannot gush on enough about the splendor of Dirkness in this. First off, Dirk looks absolutely incredible in this. His fetish/Mexican bandit wear includes gorgeous (and quite infamous) black leather pants, impeccable white and black shirts, a braided bolero jacket and black leather boots. Dirk’s sullen demeanor and evil intentions are seductive to watch. He has never been quite so feline and alluring as he is in this. Even his voice has an unusually soft, velvety purr. His attitude towards the priest comes off as faintly erotic, as does his chemistry with Mylene Demongeot. The backdrop of the film is a gorgeous Mexican village which is almost spaghetti-western-like in its imagery. Good dialogue and interactions between the characters make this is still an unusual and absorbing film.
The Angel Wore Red (1960): director-Nunnally Johnson. A magnificent pairing of two dark beauties, the raven-haired Ava Gardner and the dark-eyed Bogarde. With the brutal Spanish Civil War as a background for this romantic story, Bogarde is convincing as the priest who loses his way, and Gardner is seductive as the cabaret woman he meets. Lovely closeups of these two, but the dialogue could have been better. There should be much more interaction between the characters, but Dirk and Ava make the most of what there is. This movie is also close to my heart for the mere fact that I love when Dirk plays Spaniards!
Victim (1961): director-Basil Dearden. A new decade for Bogarde,and a new kind of movie. He is alive with subtlety and acute inner anguish as the homosexual barrister Melville Farr who leads a personal crusade to find the blackmailers responsible for a former lover’s suicide. A great social commentary and a timeless, quiet, understated performance by Bogarde. This is a character that is both vulnerable and fearlessly resilient in his quest. Sylvia Syms is remarkable as the heartbroken but loyal wife who discovers her husband’s secret. This film caused quite a stir when it was initially released, and even today seems far ahead of its time in subject manner and honesty.
Damn the Defiant! (1962): director- Lewis Gilbert. A great entertaining drama on the sea with Bogarde at his utmost in sadism and cruelty as the ultra-arrogant Lt Scott-Padget. Alec Guinness’ incompetent but kind Captain seems weak in comparison to the voraciously energetic Bogarde, but the combative tension between the two of them is what drives the force of the movie. This is considered one the the most historically accurate movies about the press-gangs of the 1800’s and the power machinations amongst the British naval hierarchy. There are some fantastic Bogarde scenes in this where he uses his charm and fearsome severity to manipulate and terrify the members of the crew. Great costumes too! Bogarde, of course, is swooningly handsome in the British 1800’s naval uniform.
The Password is Courage(1962): director-Andrew Stone. A very entertaining war drama/comedy about a British POW, played by Dirk, who causes the Nazi’s several problems and mishaps during his tenure at various POW camps during WWII. The dialogue is quite snappy, and Dirk plays this character with great enthusiasm and fire. Many sequences are identical to scenes in the enormously successful Great Escape (but alas, no Steve McQueen), and even come off as a little more plausible. Dirk looks splendid and is alive with charismatic flash in this film–he even gets to wear a German officer’s uniform for a couple of scenes–and one can’t but help think of his future ultra-Nazi creation Max from The Night Porter!
I Could go on Singing (1963): director- Ronald Neame. Bogarde plays the reluctant former lover to Judy Garland’s neurotic waning singer in this film. They make a stunning duo in this and interact with some excellent dialogue written by Bogarde himself. Bogarde is particularly restrained and thoughtful in this. The final scene with Garland is striking in its realism, and perhaps the best one- on-one scene Bogarde ever did in his career. It was shot in one take, and both Bogarde and Garland are amazing in it. Sadly, the dialogue reflects what happened between them in real life. After this picture Bogarde and Garland slowly drifted apart, partly due to the stress created by Garland’s unstable behavior during the filming of the movie. (see also Judy in London Page for pictures from this film)
The Mindbenders (1963): director- Basil Dearden. A very interesting movie about the psychology of isolation and brainwashing. Dirk plays Dr Henry Longman who, in his quest to prove the innocence of a dead colleague who has been accused of treason, subjects himself to the same isolation experiment. He then himself becomes the subject of a brainwashing test by his own colleague, Michael Bryant, and a military investigator. Dirk is brainwashed to despise his wife, played by Mary Ure, whom he had once adored. Dirk has some good scenes in this with Michael Bryant and Mary Ure, whom he later abuses with shocking delight. Dirk goes from being a very adorable professor to a very vicious, degenerate husband. There is also an appearance by Wendy Craig as the local Oxford hussy. Wendy Craig works great with Dirk in this, and because of their acquaintance Dirk suggested her to Joseph Losey for the part of Susan, the icy girlfriend in The Servant. At the end of the film Dirk is returned to his senses by performing a very Dr. Sparrow-like delivery of his own wife’s baby.
Doctor in Distress(1963): director-Ralph Thomas. Speaking of Dr Sparrow, this is the Sixties version of Bogarde’s doctor with some great moments and a very, very different Bogarde. Instead of scampering away from the ladies, this time Dirk actually puts the moves on every gal he sees, including Samantha Eggar. Dirk has a kind of maliciously sadistic, pre-Barrett wit in this movie, and it actually helps create one of his best comic performances. The highlight, however, is his encounter with Mylene Demongeot, who played Locha to Dirk’s Anacleto in The Singer not the Song three years earlier. (If you haven’t noticed by now, Dirk seems to be a magnet for French women…Bardot, Caron, Capucine, Demongeot…) Mylene plays a quirky, kinky French amazon who ends up being more than Bogarde can handle.
The Servant (1963): director-Joseph Losey. Losey’s classic movie, and the centerpiece for the most unlikable character Bogarde ever portrayed on film. His Barrett is loathsome, heartless and frightening. James Fox plays the vulnerable aristocrat who falls helplessly into Bogarde’s web of evil. The homosexual tension between them is subtly intense. They quarrel over tea spills and house cleaning with ferocity, and then sit down for a souffle dinner, followed by a Mephistophelian chat by the fireplace. Bogarde is cruel like we’ve never seen before, and the hideousness of the decay he brings upon Fox leaves you stunned at the end of the movie. (see also The Servant’s Quarters )
King and Country (1964): director-Joseph Losey. Once again Bogarde plays the tragic figure, this time the officer in charge of defending the runaway solider Tom Courtney from a doomed military sentence. Bogarde comes to sympathize with the simple solider and his story, and challenges the entire way of military thinking in his passionate and humanitarian defense of Courtney. But the tragedy is that his plea is for no avail, as Courtney is condemned by military law to death. Bogarde is better than ever in this, and his weakened, shaky Captain Hargreaves shown after the announcement of Courtney’s doom is the most incredible bit of acting I have ever seen.
High Bright Sun (1965):director- Ralph Thomas. A very odd adventure tale which takes place in tumultuous Cyprus during the British occupation in the 1950’s. Dirk plays an ultra-colonialist Major McQuire who tries to police the Island against plotters and schemers who are Cypriot patriots and anti-British. He almost comes off as the villain in this while he arrogantly spits imperialist venom in everyone’s direction. Unfortunately he is not the villain–the villain is actually played by George Chakris as the Cypriot rebel. Dirk doesn’t get much to do here except a final shootout scene in his hotel room. His leading lady, the very pale Susan Strasberg, gets all the most suspenseful scenes.
Darling (1965): director- John Schlesinger. Julie Christie is the vain primadonna who abandons her love of Bogarde for the insidious, reptilian appeal of Laurence Harvey, the artifical embodiment of vanity. Bogarde is both sexy and vulnerable in this, and his chemistry with Christie great. They have some very impressive scenes together, including moments of spiteful bitterness and anger, and some of my favorite Bogarde lines ever. Because of their magnetism they deserve more screen time with one another, and apparently many scenes were edited out. The angst in this film revolves around the reasons for why Christie would abandon the adorably sensitive Bogarde for the creepy Lawrence Harvey. Eventually Christie is faced with heart-wrenching desolation at the end of the film as a result of her tragic decision.
Modesty Blaise(1966): director-Joseph Losey. A hilariously unfunny attempt at high-camp adventure, this film is terribly boring all except for Bogarde, who creates a deliciously supercilious villain named Gabriel. Wearing a white wig and delighting in sadistic cruelty, Bogarde seems to be the only person having any fun. It’s a shame his efforts are undermined by the surliness of Terence Stamp and the cluelessness of ltalian star Monica Vitti.
Accident (1967): director- Joseph Losey. Another classic Losey picture about pent-up sexual frustration with Bogarde as the very stifled, middle-aged Oxford don Stephen. It’s hard to figure out what exactly his problem is, but lust for a very spaced-out Jacqueline Sassard is the end result. Look for a very young Michael York in this picture too. Bogarde transcends his usual mannerisms in this picture, which harkens to his future Death in Venice transformation. He also uses a superb nervous stutter for the character of Stephen. There are some good moments in this, and his scenes with Stanley Baker are quite effective. The end rape of Sassard is also breathtaking in its cruelty and spite.
Our Mother’s House(1967) :director-Jack Clayton. Unusual, modern-gothic film about several children who, after their beloved mother dies, are left alone to live by themselves. Dirk appears halfway through the film as a very disreputable father with an accent like Michael Caine He quickly turns the house into his own arena of corruption and decay. Dirk has a few good scenes in this, but he hardly has time to charm the children before he starts becoming rather dastardly. One of the children, Diana, seems to be seduced more than the others by his presence, but she has only one scene with Dirk, which is the best scene of the movie. Unfortunately this faintly incestuous attraction is quietly avoided, but it could have been a very interesting twist to the plot.
Sebastian (1968):director-David Greene. If I was forced at gunpoint to choose my least-favorite Dirk film, this would have to be the one. Or perhaps I was not prepared (after enduring the tediously ‘hip’ credits and a frighteningly camp theme-song) for the dive into Austen-Powers, swinging Sixties hell that simply distracts ones senses to no end in this movie. Dirk comes through this thick Sixties haze faintly as a mathematical genius who helps to crack codes for the Intelligence Bureau. However, Dirk himself is distracted by his own genius, and it takes a new employee, played by Susannah York, who uses her persistance and charm, to crack his icy exterior. Not much else happens in this, except lots of kooky Sixties music, lots of hip Sixties chicks, and John Gielgud making an appearance here or there. Dirk is miles away in this. He himself described this movie as a “paralysing non-event’ —I’m afaid I have to agree with the man himself on this one.
The Fixer (1968): director-John Frankenheimer. But if only someone could “fix” this movie! Alan Bates gives a somnambulist performace in this, and the stretches of time between Dirk’s appearances feel like centuries. When he does appear to keep us awake, he himself seems so irritated by the whole affair that it is hard to concentrate on his acting! A very young David Warner is the only other sign of life.
Justine (1969): director-George Cukor. The premise of this movie is silly beyond belief, and the strange 1960’s-ish atmosphere makes it even harder to swallow. But from what I gather there is supposed to be some sort of Coptic Christian revolt in the works in Egypt, where the movie takes place. Anouk Aimee plays the dark female behind it all, and Michael York the innocent Englishman who falls for her. Only Bogarde livens this picture up with the witty and complex character of Pursewarden, who struggles with his guilty conscience about his incestuous relationship with his sister. His scenes with Ann Karina and Anouk Aimee are a delight, and he walks all over the helpless Michael York. But only his appearance in this film makes it worth seeing.
The Damned (1969): director- Luchino Visconti. Visconti’s vision of the decadent upper-class industrialists that led to the consolidation of the Nazi regime. Dirk seems a bit out of place in this picture as the only Englishman-cum-German in Visconti’s cast. There could have been more drama here, and Dirk only gets a few interesting bits of dialogue. Unfortunately the bulk of his performance was left on the cutting room floor. He is most effective with the frightfully teutonic Ingrid Thulin. The excellent cast also includes the svelte Charlotte Rampling would later star with Dirk in another Nazi-related picture The Night Porter. This is a beautifully filmed movie that truly delves into the dark psychosis of the power-hungry, amoral Nazi mentality, but not does really exhibit a stand-out Bogarde performance. Bravo also to the two sexy Helmut’s in this movie–Helmut Griem and Helmut Berger!
The 1970’s – The Bogarde Legend
Death in Venice (1970): director-Luchino Visconti. Visconti’s classic movie, a slow-moving vision of Thomas Mann’s short novel about an aging artists search for perfection and beauty. It is more akin to a silent movie, and it is heart-wrenching to watch Bogarde’s personification of the anguished von Aschenbach. Bogarde’s expressive, sad eyes have never been more effective than they are in this. This is the ultimate transformation Bogarde ever achieved on screen of totally embodying a certain character–the shaken and afflicted von Aschenbach. To me this is the least Bogarde-esque character Dirk ever played on screen. His self-assured persona is totally absent from the body of von Aschenbach, which is exactly what Visconti wished to achieve for his film. It is truly a startling and magnificent transformation.
The Serpent (1972): director- Henri Verneuil. Cheesy 1970’s spy-rubbish with one of the most hilarious announcer voice-overs I’ve ever heard in a film, giving the audience tips on what is happening in this dreadfully boring movie. But of course, Bogarde is great! He jumps into his albeit brief scenes with an evil delight. Unfortunately the opportunity was lost to show Bogarde acting with Yul Brynner. The two of them in confrontation would have been interesting.
The Night Porter (1973): director- Liliana Cavani. One of the most controversial and erotic films ever made, where Bogarde plays an ex-SS officer who runs into the beautiful daughter of an Austrian Socialist in Vienna. The woman, played exquisitely by Charolette Rampling, had developed a ‘relationship’ with Bogarde in a concentration camp during the war. This is one of Bogarde’s most sexual roles. He plays Max with force and radiating perversity. It’s amazing to watch his sadistic yet loving interactions with Rampling, who in turn is both vulnerable and tenacious herself. Kinky? I suppose so, but in a tasteful way. We certainly get to see Bogarde doing things he’s never done before on screen! Great dialogue plus flashback scenes of Bogarde in chic-Nazi fetish make this picture one of my favorites. But certainly not a film for the squeamish.
Permission to Kill (1975): director- Cyril Frankel. Bogarde in 70’s spy mode again, where he plays the duty-over-everything-else agent who tries to stop an exiled political leader from returning to his country. Ava Gardner acts with Bogarde for the second time since the 1960 movie The Angel Wore Red, and their dark-beauty chemistry is superb even years later. Their scenes together have the most substance, and Timothy Dalton gives an entertaining performance as well.
Providence (1976): director- Alain Resnais. What a bizarre movie this is, starting off with the overpowering flow of the Miklos Rozsa score and proceeding into strange dialogue, senseless flashbacks, and John Gielguld’s crude voiceovers. But the really strange thing is that it all works impressively well. Bogarde is more cunning, sharp-witted and vicious than I have ever seen him in the first half of this movie. The last 20 minutes focus on a pastoral, familial picnic where Bogarde does a 90 degree turnaround. Now he is the righteous, upright son who is quietly disgusted and shocked by his father’s behavior and still pained by the suicide of his mother years before. The vicious Bogarde we see at the beginning of the movie is merely John Gielguld’s mental projection. It’s all a bit confusing, so I recommend you rent this one and try to figure it out alone. It’s like watching someone else’s dream.
A Bridge too Far (1977): director- Richard Attenborough. A fairly good big-budget World War II movie where Dirk appears briefly as a general planning behind the lines. His scenes with Sean Connery are great to watch. They play off each other very well.
Despair (1978): director- Rainer Werner Fassbinder. Bogarde plays a Russian-expatriate chocolate-factory owner in pre-war Germany who adores his theatrical wife, yet slips into the most realistic and frightening decay of madness I have ever seen on film. His descent is subtle and confusing, and Bogarde almost transcends himself in this picture. It’s hypnotizing. The very last frame of him in this picture captures what Bogarde did for Film….he dared to step outside the bounds of conformity. Bravo Bogarde!
An Act of Love: the Patricia Neal Story(1981): A stunning performance by Dirk in this made-for-TV drama about the actress Patricia Neal and her recovery from a stroke. Dirk plays the dutiful husband and father with great care and perseverance who helps his wife battle the depression and ennui from her post-medical trauma. Glenda Jackson is superb as the woman who loses her ability to speak, to walk, and to function as an adult, and her daunting road to recovery is quite inspirational to see. Dirk looks amazing in this for a man of sixty, and he combines his gentle qualities with a very determined edge to create a very powerful screen presence in this.
The Vision(1988): A very good TV future drama about a behemoth TV channel which is looking to basically take over the world James Bond style. Lee Remick is superb in this, and comes off as one of the most threatening females to ever confront Dirk on the screen. Look for a young Helena Bonham Carter in this as well as Dirk’s daughter. Dirk is quietly convincing in this as the tricked and disillusioned Jim.
1990 – Finale
Daddy Nostalgia (1990): –director Bertrand Tavernier. If this is the very last movie Dirk ever appears in, it is definitely the jewel in the crown. A very subtle, sweet and quiet film about a daughter/ father relationship done in part French, part English, this movie is an incredible comeback for Dirk after more than a decade away from cinema. His character is charming and adorable, yet at the same time flawed by his selfishness and ignorance of his daughter’s childhood pain. The charisma he has in blossoming a new relationship with the lovely Jane Birkin, who plays his daughter, is magical to watch. His powerful screen presence is everpresent, and he looks amazing for his age (he even still has his characteristically dark hair–a familial Bogarde trait). A truly splendid grand finale for a spectacular film career.
Dirk Bogarde Biography
Dirk Bogarde was born on March 28th 1921 in Hampstead, England. He was of Dutch descent, his original name being Derek Van den Bogaerde. His mother was a former actress and his father was the editor of the newspaper The Times. Dirk had a sister named Elizabeth and later on his mother bore another son named Gareth. Lally, often mentioned by Dirk, was the beloved nurse of the Bogaerde children. Dirk began a career as a scenic designer and commerical artist but wanted to act instead. In the late 1930’s Dirk joined the army as an officer in Air Photographic Intelligence. His army carrier took him to places like Germany, India, Malaya and Java. (Dirk’s fiction book ‘A Gentle Occupation’ is a semi-biographical/fictional account of his experinces in Java) When he returned he immediately joined a small theatre group, and he was quickly noticed and given a few small parts in films, signing a contract with Rank.
In the late forties Dirk was in such movies as Ester Waters, Quartet, Boys in Brown. It wasn’t until Dirk appeared in Basil Dearden’s The Blue Lamp, where he portrayed a small-time crook, that Dirk really began to get noticed by the press. In the early fifties Dirk continued his film work in So Long at the Fair, The Woman in Question and the much lauded Hunted in 1952. More ‘trenchcoat’ -running roles followed in films like The Gentle Gunman and Desperate Moment. His breakthrough role ironically came in a comedy Doctor in the House, where he played the innocent Simon Sparrow. A range of roles continued to come his ways, from Losey’s Sleeping Tiger to Simba to Cast a Dark Shadow. The doctor roles kept coming as well in Doctor at Sea and Doctor at Large. At this time Dirk had become a home-grown matinee idol, with school-girls picketing his house, screaming audiences at his appearances, and fan mail galore. Being an eligible bachelor only lent more fervor to the craze. Dirk dealt with his fame with the utmost grace and aloofness, never letting it get to his head. Being Britain’s heartthrob lead him to such romantic roles in movies like A Tale of Two Cities, Libel, Doctor’s Dilemma, The Spanish Gardner and Hollywood’s Song without End.
By this time, circa 1960, Dirk was getting restless. He felt at his age he was outgrowing his pop-idol status. He began to search for more challenging and interesting roles, beginning with the magnificent Victim, which dealt with the controversial subject of homosexuality. Other roles like Damn the Defiant, The Singer not the Song, the Mind Benders, and I Could go on Singing followed, but Dirk continued his hunt for the appropriate collaborater. In 1963 he was paired with director Joseph Losey and it was a perfect match. Films with Losey in the 1960’s included The Servant, King and Country, Modesty Blaise and The Accident . These films and the movie Darling helped Dirk to gain actual critical acclaim, and he began to be known as one of Britains most talented actors. His matinee pop-idol tag was now an addendum to a much lauded acting career. In the later sixties Dirk would work with another well-known director, Luchino Visconti, on The Damned and Death in Venice.
In the seventies Dirk semi-retired in France but continued to choose interesting roles in films like The Night Porter, Providence, Permission to Kill and Despair in 1977. Dirk also began to write books, something he had longed to do throughout his career but had never found the time. Dirk would write several biographies and also many fiction books, even publishing a book of letters. Dirk has shown not only an incredible acting talent but also a vivid and moving talent as a writer. In the late 1980’s Dirk moved back to London to live a very private, quiet life. He also became actively involved in the Voluntary Euthanasia Society, a subject which Dirk felt very strongly about ( see the Voluntary Euthanasia Society of the UK Home Page and Dirk’s Views on Euthanasia ) In 1990 Dirk would act in his last film appearance in the French film Daddy Nostalgia.
Dirk Bogarde 1921-1999
SIR DIRK BOGARDE, the British film legend, died on May 8,1999 at the age of 78 after suffering a heart attack at his home in London. His ashes were scattered in France.
I can’t even begin to describe how saddened I am by Dirk’s death. I know he has gone to a better place, and that his suffering from the past few years has ended. But what a great loss to the world this is! Dirk has described in so many books to us countless thoughts and emotions he has had throughout his life. Now, in the final journey he has made, I wonder to myself how Dirk would have described it. I’m sure it would have been confronted with undaunted humor and optimism, and maybe a little bit of poetic sadness. I guess we will never know. But he has left behind so many wonderful movies, so many poignant books and stories, that I feel he will never really leave us. May he rest in peace. Please feel free to leave a message in his honor on the Main Page Guestbook.
‘Good night sweet prince…’
May 10 1999
BOOKS ABOUT DIRK BOGARDE
Autobiographies (some of these are also available on audio cassette ): Most of these are out of print or very hard to find in the USA, but apparently they are fairly easy to find in England. Dirk has a magical, humorous, detailed way of writing, and once you start one of his books it is very hard to put them down. He is an especially keen observer of people and distinct details, almost as if he has a photographic memory. He is refreshingly honest about his own life and the people he has met along the way.
“A Postilion Struck by Lightening” by Dirk Bogarde
“Snakes and Ladders” by Dirk Bogarde
“An Orderly Man” by Dirk Bogarde
“A Particular Friendship” by Dirk Bogarde
“Great Meadow” by Dirk Bogarde
“Backcloth” by Dirk Bogarde
“A Short walk from Harrods” by Dirk Bogarde
“Cleared for Take Off” by Dirk Bogarde
“For the Time Being” by Dirk Bogarde
“A Gentle Occupation” by Dirk Bogarde
“Jericho” by Dirk Bogarde
“West of Sunset” by Dirk Bogarde
“Voices in the Garden” by Dirk Bogarde
“Closing Ranks” by Dirk Bogarde
“Dirk Bogarde: Rank Outsider” by Sheridan Morley(1996)–amazing biography with great pics and good analysis of Bogarde’s influential and unusual career as a film star and British icon.
“Dirk Bogarde: the Complete Career Illustrated” by Robert Tanitch (1988)–a gorgeous collection of Dirk film stills with some well written film reviews and criticism, although some of the comments seem a little too biting. It is obvious this book is written by a critic, not a fan.
“The Cinema of Dirk Bogarde” by Margaret Hinkman and Susan d’Arcy(1974)–an extensive filmography and a great collection of pictures from each of Dirk’s films, plus some nice candids.
“Losey on Losey” by Tom Milne–Losey’s own commentary on his films, along with some good photos of Dirk from his various Losey projects.
“The Films of Joseph Losey” by James Palmer and Michael Riley–covers such Dirk films as The Servant, King and Country and the Accident with great in-depth analogies.
“Joseph Losey : A Revenge on Life” by David Caute–more personal information about Dirk in relation to Joseph Losey. Some very scathing Dirk quotes about the Burtons, Losey and other things in this!
Novels adapted to the Screen –some interesting reading for those that want a more in depth look at some of the characters Dirk has played on-screen.
“Death in Venice” by Thomas Mann
“A Tale of Two Cities” by Charles Dickens
“Justine” by Lawrence Durrell
“Despair” by Vladimir Nabakov
“The Singer not the Song” by Audrey E Lindop
“The Spanish Gardner” by A J Cronin
“The Accident” by Nicholas Mosley
The Bogarde Mystique
Decadent, handsome, brooding, alluring, seductive, charming, vunerable, explosive, intelligent, beautiful, subtle, distinctive…
What is the Bogarde Mystique? From my own point of view as a fan, Dirk Bogarde represents the essential qualities of the Classic Film Star. He is consummately eloquent in speech and impeccably elegant in manner. And yet underneath this refinement and grace lies a whirlpool of emotion and danger that simmers just beneath the surface, sometimes visible only through a flash of those large, emotional eyes. But the power, the latent explosiveness, is always there. He remains one of the most mysterious, exciting, dynamic and unusual actors to have ever graced the Silver Screen.
A BRIEF ANALYSIS OF BOGARDE’S CHARACTERS
Dirk’s movie personalities seem to tend towards two very different types of characters which I have listed below. Dirk has played many characters outside of these two categories, but these seem to emphasize his most well-known roles. I think what makes Dirk the most enticing of actors is his ability to weave both vunerable and sadistic characteristics into the character he is playing on screen (the most obvious would be perhaps Max from The Night Porter). The last thing in the world Bogarde would be is a one-dimensional actor. But the general categories below are the overriding quality that the character posseses, but as any fan of Dirk knows, he is able to layer his characters with many mysterious facets and levels of emotion. They are also some of my all-time favorite Bogarde parts. And as Dirk once wrote, “the camera actually photographs thought.” Dirk is among the most skilled actors at this, and whether the thought is clear or mysterious, Bogarde is always thinking on screen, and with such a radiant intelligence. And besides all this, Bogarde, to me, is above all the most handsome, elegant, seductive and charming man to have ever graced the screen. He is like no one else, and his mere screen presence sparkles with a touch of arrogance, danger, susceptibility, and prevading physical beauty that makes him mezmerizing to watch.
Many of Dirk’s characters display incorpreal and platonic characteristics that effect the viewer by invoking feelings of tragedy, empathy and deep emotion.
Jose/The Spanish Gardner
Sydney Carton/A Tale of Two Cities
Sir Mark Loddon/ Libel
Captain Hargreaves/King and Country
Arturo/ The Angel Wore Red
Max/The Night Porter
In contrast, further roles played by Dirk involve characters that display sullen cruelty, quiet sadism, and brooding resentment. Nonetheless, the audience is still seduced by them, perhaps because of their perverse complexity.
Tom Riley/ The Blue Lamp
Frank Clements/The Sleeping Tiger
Edward Beare/Cast a Dark Shadow
Anacleto/The Singer not the Song
Lt Scott-Padget/Damn the Defiant!
Max/The Night Porter
Dirk Trivia Questions
1)What pop band used Dirk’s name in the title of one of their albums? What was the name of the album and the year of it’s release? Adam and the Ants. 1979–album title “Dirk Wears White Sox”
2)What major historical figure was Dirk slated to play before the scheduled epic was canceled for financial reasons? (hint: another famous director would make the picture a few years later) Lawrence of Arabia. Movie was to be directed by Anthony Asquith.
3)Which nine actresses have appeared with Dirk in more than 1 film? Mylene Demongeot, Ava Gardner, Charlotte Rampling, Muriel Pavlov, Shirley Eaton, Barbara Murray, Wendy Craig, Elizabeth Sellars, Kay Walsh.
Thoughts about and by Bogarde
QUOTES ABOUT DIRK BOGARDE
“Dirk Bogarde’s astonishing performance in Visconti’s Death in Venice confirmed that he is a screen actor of great subtlety. His reign as an idol of teenage girls (top of the British box office in 1955 and 1957) was more puzzling at least to Bogarde himself. But Bogarde had the same attraction that many of today’s pop-stars have…. The slight build, the sensual mouth, the delicately raised left eyebrow, the sensitive, rather anguished face, was neither wholly masculine or feminine. The was a hint of delicious cruelty (he’s marvelous at playing villains) and at the same time motherable softness.” (Heartthrobs by Jack Tresidder)
“The Films starring Dirk Bogarde are an index to the changing iconography and attitudes toward men in the British Cinema…Bogarde’s image can be read as a series of attempts to find a new way of representing male sexuality…Bogarde seems always unhappy with the existing norms of masculinity. Where they embody restraint, he strives for excess. Where they remain calm in a crisis, he goes to pieces.”
“There is a notable shift in the group of actors who assume leading roles in the British cinema of these decades (1950’s)… Bogarde and Mason are noted for their erotic cruelty, nervousness, and defiance of existing norms. Their roles testify to society’s increasing concern with the loss of paternal authority and domestic harmony, the presence of generational and class conflict,and, above all, discontent with existing patterns of sexual behavior.”
“On the other hand, Dirk Bogarde, who was to attain stardom after this film (The Blue Lamp), introduced a male image that was to become increasingly popular and particularly associated with his own film persona for two decades: the neurotic and sexually threatening young male. ”
“A Dirk Bogarde picture is rarely a guarantee of a work of art, yet it has come to promise, certainly of late, a film of definite morbid interest…(Singer not the Song) is a strangely compelling film. This is mainly due to Bogarde himself, intelligent, quietly sardonic, his restraint verging on the hieratic, his hints of inner angoisse…his wardrobe (60 per cent black leather) a fetishist’s dream.”
” Cavani (director of the Night Porter)…incorporates sexual psychology into a rhapsodic view of human obsession tending towards mysticism…the contract of love entered upon by Bogarde and Rampling—psychotic, born of weakness rather than strength–is a contract of death. It awaits only their reunion to be completed…But, in the very midst of depravity, there is ecstasy and tenderness and the selflessness that is also found in ‘normal’ love.” (from Feminist Film Theory).
“Arguably, Bogarde had a lot more opportunities for quality work in London, were the costs of filmmaking were lower and the barrier for risk higher. Also, his rather feline and even androgynous persona might have stuck in studio bosses’ collective craw the way Burton’s more “butch”, hard-drinking one did not, though it’s worth noting that Bogarde’s personal qualities actually lent themselves well to his occasional crack at the strong, silent type (as in High, Bright Sun), although it was more of a strength of character than of Stanley Baker-type machismo. One of the ‘designs’ of Accident was to oppose the more contained, even concealed, force of Bogarde against the blustery and unsubtle stratagems of the Baker prototype: A leopard vs. a grizzly bear.” (commentary by D. McKee)
“…what really matters is willingness to live (indeed, thrive) onscreen in roles that demanded sexual ambiguity and/or hysterical emotion, even weakness–though Bogarde’s whipcrack screen presence made those weaknesses fascinating (which, of course, is what good acting is supposed to do). Interestingly, much of Bogarde’s matinee-idol status in Britain stemmed from these very qualities, and there’s an unquestionable fascination in seeing a Major Movie Star tell his female lead (as in Singer . . .) that he knows “what it’s like to love a man you can’t have”, let alone to immerse himself in something like Death in Venice. Even in fairly conventional studio fare, Bogarde was able to bring out various kinds of danger that sparked up his onscreen relationships.” (commentary by D. McKee)
QUOTES FROM DIRK BOGARDE
“The camera excited me by its apparent awareness of anything which I wished to impart to an audience mentally; it was my friend never my enemy, for some unexplained reason; there was a rapport between us which exhilarated me.” (from Snakes and Ladders by Dirk Bogarde).
“I could now be given a Country Background; rolling fields, sunsets, a man of the earth, brooding solitude in the sombre plough of the Home Counties. A kind of anaemic Heathcliff….” (from Snakes and Ladders by Dirk Bogarde).
“I suppose the greatest exit which we are called upon to make or which is wished upon us, is our birth; that clumsy, uncomfortable, messy, bewildering affair which brings us often breathless into the long corridor of life leading directly, sometimes indirectly, but always inevitably, to our final supreme Exit, death.” (from Snakes and Ladders by Dirk Bogarde).
“Isolation, even from choice as in my case, incubates self-centredness like a culture…Living in a tower, however secure it may feel, is hardly a social attribute…It was said of me recently that I suffered from an Obsessional Privacy. I can only suppose it must be true.” (from A Postillion Struck by Lightening by Dirk Bogarde).
“Walking. or perhaps I should say strutting, through the empty huts and wards…in my fine black-and-silver uniform and high-peaked cap with its Death’s Head insignia and cracking my boots with a thin silver-topped whip, I had no illusions at all that I was not the man I was supposed to be playing. I felt exactly right. I felt frightening; powerful; commanding.” (from An Orderly Man by Dirk Bogarde).
“I was sent off to Spain to play a Mexican bandit sheathed in black leather, riding a white horse, carrying a white cat, and belting everyone in sight with a silver-topped riding crop.” (from Snakes and Ladders by Dirk Bogarde).
“I don’t lose my temper often; about once every twenty years perhaps. But when I do, I am informed, it is a pretty spectacular business, not because I shout and rail or wave my arms about but because I am deadly cool, brutally accurate, and the hundred minor, or major, faults which I have noticed about my victims overs the years are suddenly, vividly, and with appalled dismay on their part, laid before their eyes…So, naturally, I am careful not to do it very often, and spend months, even years as I have said, holding firm. Storing up my bits of shrapnel. Not a very attractive part of my make-up, I agree.” (from An Orderly Man by Dirk Bogarde).
“I simply hated being a Film Star. For about ten years I was never able to be free. Couldn’t walk in a street, had mounted police at Stage Doors, hysterical women hiding in my wardrobes at theatres, one who wandered mournfully about the gardens at night wailing my name and who was in constant danger of being found floating face downwards in the lily pools until I let the dogs loose…had my flies ripped so often that eventually, in public, I had to have a side zip…can you imagine anything more humiliating than that? Anyway, apart from all that, I have an absolute horror of being ‘looked at’. An eye phobia or something. So I’m in quite the wrong profession obviously.” (from A Particular Friendship by Dirk Bogarde)
FAVORITE DIRK FILM QUOTES…
“Your idea of fidelity is not having more than one man in the bed at the same time.”
“Get out of the way, I’ll show you what I am. I’m a gentleman’s gentleman, and you’re no bloody gentleman!”
….from The Servant.
“God understands everything, and God forgives everything. So we can all do as we please.” ….from The Singer not the Song.
“Sane…insane…who’s to judge?”
…..from The Night Porter
“When in doubt attempt a little style–suprise them, keep them off balance. Establish your unpredictability.”
“I suffer, but I never complain.”
“Take your hands off me you mutinous filth!”
…from Damn the Defiant