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The blog of author Dennis Cooper

Dirk Bogarde Stepladder *

* (restored)

 

‘Dirk Bogarde was the biggest British star of fifties cinema: a heart-throb whose protestations of being a “serious actor” was seen as just another pretty boy’s whinge. He made several films which stretched his range but it was with Victim that he really broke out of his straightjacket. In it he played a married homosexual fearful of blackmail. The Servant consolidated his position as a great actor and got him a BFA award. He got a second one for Darling. By now he was in demand by great European directors. He worked with Resnais, Fassbinder and Visconti for whom he did The Damned and Death in Venice (which contains possibly his greatest performance). As his career ran out of steam he began a remarkable series of autobiographies and then moved into writing novels. He had lived in Provence since the seventies, only returning to England to live fulltime when Forwood needed medical treatment during his final illness. He continued to live in England after his longtime lover Anthony Forwood’s death for the last ten years of his life. After his death his body was buried in Provence. As an actor he was never easy to like. There was reserve about him that bordered on contempt and yet, in the right role, he could suggest limitless suffering behind his austere facade.’ — Britishpictures.com

 

17 films and 16 missives


from ‘Cast a Dark Shadow’ (1955)

 

‘Dirk Bogarde digressed from his usual lightweight image to portray a smarmy murderer in Cast a Dark Shadow. He kills his first wife (Mona Washbourne), hoping to claim her inheritance. Surprise! The inheritance is a myth. Thus Bogarde sets his sights on barkeeper Margaret Lockwood, whom he knows to be heavily insured. But Lockwood is possessed of a naturally suspicious nature, making Bogarde’s second murder plot a bit more delicate than his first. Cast a Dark Shadow is a too-literal adaptation of Janet Green’s stage play Murder Mistaken.’ — Hal Erickson, All Movie Guide

‘Cinema is just a form of masturbation. Sexual relief for disappointed people. Women write and say, “I let my husband do it because I think it`s you lying on top of me”. The local police were always having to come and remove girls from their nesting places under the bushes by my home. Like an orphan girl who twice escaped from a home at Birmingham. We only discovered her because she used the potting shed as a lavatory which seemed to indicate an alien presence. I 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?’ — Dirk Bogarde

 


‘Doctor at Sea’ (1955)

 

‘I’ve got a good left profile and a very bad right profile. I was the Loretta Young of my day. I was only ever photographed on the left-hand profile. But I simply love the camera and it loves me. But the amount of concentration you have to use to feed the camera is so enormous that you’re absolutely ragged at the end of a day after doing something simple – like a look.’ — Dirk Bogarde

 


from ‘Libel’ (1959)

 

‘Everyone wants to get into movies, but there aren’t any movies left.’ — Dirk Bogarde

 


from ‘Song Without End’ (1960)

 

‘In 1959, Bogarde went to Hollywood to play Franz Liszt in Song Without End (1960) and to appear in Nunnally Johnson’s Spanish Civil War drama The Angel Wore Red (1960) with Ava Gardner. Both were big-budgeted films, but hampered by poor scripts, and after both films failed, Bogarde avoided Hollywood from then on. He was reportedly quite smitten with his French Song Without End co-star Capucine, and wanted to marry her. Capucine, who suffered from bi-polar disorder, was bisexual with an admitted preference for women. The relationship did not lead to marriage, but did result in a long-term friendship. It apparently was his only serious relationship with a woman.’ — Imdb

‘The kind of acting I used to do no longer exists because your prime consideration is the budget, running time, the cost – and whether they’ll understand it in Milwaukee.’ — Dirk Bogarde

 


‘Victim’ (1961)

 

‘For Victim, Dirk Bogarde, Britain’s revered matinee idol, risked his career to portray Melville Farr, a closeted gay lawyer at a time when homosexual acts were a crime. When his former lover Jack (Peter McEnery) is blackmailed, Farr — who is married — agrees to investigate. The case is complicated by his fear of exposure and a sudden mysterious death.’ — Phase9

‘It is extraordinary, in this over-permissive age, to believe that this modest film could ever have been considered courageous, daring or dangerous to make. It was, in its time, all three.’ — Dirk Bogarde

 


from ‘HMS Defiant’ (1962)

 

‘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 …That hardens you: You get used to the fact that it can happen. And that it is the only sensible thing to do.’ — Dirk Bogarde

 


from ‘The Servant’ (1963)

 

from a letter to Joseph Losey: ‘Of course you WOULD be distressed by the vicious reviews of ‘The Servant’, your baby and mine … Well, I loved it… and approved it, and was terribly pleased to get the coverage…. things on which you did not comment.. like us both trying to work for English Films and make them go… seem to have passed over your huge head…. the fact that I did NOT say you were pissed out of your mind, and disgusting, the night I walked off the set… and took ALL the blame; you choose to ignore… correctly, I suppose…. If one thinks one is God one must behave as God… but I dont, honestly, see how we could work together again….. we have said all there is to say as actor-director…… and you decided, a while ago, to take another path my dear.. the one with the lolly and the lushness…. I have kept to my rather wobbley one; it has been a bit of a wrench… but, after all, I had the lush one before Our Time, with Rank, I suppose…. so now it is refreshing to be free…. and to choose. It is frightning like shit…. but it is honour regained.’ — Dirk Bogarde

 


from “I Could Go On Singing’ (1963)

 

This is the infamous “Hospital Scene” from the film I Could Go On Singing starring Judy Garland and Dirk Bogarde. The scene is a tour de force of acting skill from Garland, proving that not only was she one of our greatest singers, she was one of the finest actresses of her time. The scene is one continuous take as the director saw the raw emotion behind Garland’s performance and did not want to interrupt it. You can actually see the key lighting around Garland’s eyes move and try to reposition several times as she performs this scene.

‘It was said of me recently that I suffered from an Obsessional Privacy. I can only suppose it must be true. It’s a very good thing that the camera can photograph thought. It’s so much better than a paragraph of sweet polemic.’ — Dirk Bogarde

 


from ‘Hot Enough for June’ (1964)

 

‘The earliest of the Bond spoofs and still one of the best, this bright comedy has a reluctant Bogarde drafted into service in the British Secret Service for a dangerous mission in Soviet occupied Czechoslovakia, where he finds himself seduced, pursued, and never quite sure what he is doing there.’ — David Vineyard, Mystery File

 


from ‘Modesty Blaise’ (1966)

 

‘In Modesty Blaise, Gabriel (Dirk Bogarde) is an effete master criminal who’s successfully convinced Interpol of his death. His headquarters are on a private Mediterranean island, in an abandoned monastery equipped with electronic equipment and adorned with modern art. His first lieutenant is a fussy accountant, McWhirter (Clive Revill, in another role) and the place is well-stocked with gourmet food and hunky henchmen. Modesty Blaise came at the height of Joseph Losey’s intense, moody string of dramatic hits in the ’60s. A light comedy SuperSpy thriller without aspirations to deeper meanings, it garnered a lot of anticipation. What would the director of the sexy sofa scene in The Servant do with sexy Antonioni star Monica Vitti? When the film was shown at Cannes, it was booed, and from then on the question was, ‘Why did you make Modesty Blaise?” It was if they were saying, “Why did you bother doing subject matter for which you were totally inappropriate?”‘ — DVD Savant

 


from ‘Sebastian’ (1968)

 

‘Sebastian (Dirk Bogarde) is an undisciplined mathematics genius who works in the ‘cipher bureau’ of the British government. While cracking enemy codes, Sebastian finds time to romance co-worker Susannah York. The film dwells upon Sebastian’s rather lax morals (even by 1968 standards), culminating in his refusal to commit himself to York once he’s rendered her pregnant, and, frankly, this aspect of the story is more fascinating than the main espionage plotline.’ — Movies&television;

‘I don’t lose my temper often; about once every twenty years perhaps, and when I do, it is normally with my fellow actors, the majority of whom are dreadfully dull and boring and eccentric and full of something called valium.’ — Dirk Bogarde

 


‘The Damned’ trailer (1969)

 

‘We went to the Cannes Film Festival for ‘The Damned’ premiere. Cannes is my idea of hell. You see all the people you thought were dead and all the people who deserve to be dead. After a while, you start to think you might be dead, too. People were so surprised by my interest in being in The Damned. They wondered why I made the turn in my career that I did, working with Visconti, Resnais, Tavernier, Fassbinder after all the matinee idol nonsense. But I decided at a certain point that I`ll only work with new people. If you stick with your contemporaries, you’re dead.’ — Dirk Bogarde

 


from ‘Death in Venice’ (1971)

 

from a letter to Joseph Losey: ‘And remember about Death in Venice …. I know that you have long wanted to make it. You told me until I was blue in the face…. but you never asked me to do it…. or offered me the chance, or remotely thought that I even could! Visconti, in May last year, did…. I was amazed and thrilled to my marrow…. he gave no reasons, except to say, in a rather grudging way, that I was ‘like a dead pheasant… hanging by the neck, and almost ready to drop.’ the reference being, I hope, that I was RIPE. And also, that I do look like Mahler, and that I was ‘one of the most perfect actors in the world today on the screen.’ — Dirk Bogarde

 


from ‘The Night Porter’ (1973; 4:14)

 

‘By the early 1970s, Bogarde, who was himself gay, had appeared in a series of dark and sexually explicit films which explored subjects as diverse as homosexual lust and the rise of the Nazis. The actor’s letters, which were published in 2006, reveal, however, that he was tired of such subjects. In 1975, he wrote: “I simply will not engage in any more films where people piss into chamber pots, bugger little boys in railway lavatories or indulge in threesome sex situations. I am not shocked by any of this. God knows. But bored rigid. I HATE the work now. Honestly … during my fifth simulated orgasm on the film with [Liliana] Cavani in The Night Porter I suddenly wondered what the hell I was doing at 53 with my back on the floor, my flies undone, being straddled by beloved Miss Charlotte Rampling.”— The Telegraph

 


from ‘Providence’ (1977)

 

‘In 1978, Bogarde wrote a letter to his friend and regular correspondent Dilys Powell, a well known film critic of the era, about working with Sir John Gielgud on Providence, the first English-language film by Alain Resnais, the French director. “Actually John Gielgud and I were fully hard put to understand much of what we said! ‘Can’t understand a word dear!’ he used to cry…’It really doesn’t make sense Alain… I’ll say it, but I haven’t the foggiest notion of what it means.’ Mind you, he claims that he doesn’t understand half of Shakespeare.”— The Telegraph

 


‘A Bridge Too Far’ trailer (1977)

 

‘Bogarde and Attenborough are known to have fallen out over their collaboration on the 1977 war epic, A Bridge Too Far. But the frequency and viciousness with which he attacks Attenborough will surprise many. In a letter dated September 27, 1988, Bogarde tells the film critic Dilys Powell that he is dreading an approaching Bafta celebration where he is to be honoured by “that idiot Attenborough“. A month later, Bogarde rejoices in the fact that he managed to keep “Sir R.A. off stage” for the entire course of the evening. In 1989, Bogarde apologised to Powell for staying away from an event being held in her honour, but explains that he was afraid of meeting “Attenborough and all that beaming falsity“.’ — The Telegraph

 


from ‘Despair’ (1978)

 

‘Rainier Werner Fassbinder’s Despair is primarily a star vehicle rather than a Fassbinder, Ballhaus or Nabakov film. Bogarde takes over the film displacing the director, making the film flowing, believable, charming, unpretentious, but in so doing looses all of the crazed innocence present the earlier films. In a sense Despair could be grouped with other Dirk Bogarde films about the Third Reich, such as Visconti’s The Damned or Cavani’s The Night Porter. For Bogarde had become typecast in the mid-70s as a German bourgeois or industrialist suffering or being made to suffer at the time of the beginning of the Third Reich. Bogarde´s performance is the film. He makes wealth believable, emotions palpable, sexuality intriguing, even heterosexuality for Bogarde was not heterosexual. In other words he takes a Faßbinder film and forges it into an entirely convincing filmic experience. But it may also be true that Dirk Bogarde was the wrong actor for Fassbinder.’ — Paul Murphy, Perameter Magazine

‘I was very good in Despair … This is not conceit, merely a statement of fact. Had to appear at nasty Cannes Festival … I do detest Americans and Australians … but it is luvvly to know one is ADORED. Tote’s tests are costing me a fortune … I fear we’ll have to move back to London. It will feel like an amputation … But as long as its not Kentish Town.’ — Dirk Bogarde

 

 

1979: ‘I have decided to give the Movies a rest. I DETEST the work … and most of the time I detest the people. The fact that I have been chosen by Alain Resnais, or Visconti, or Fassbinder helps tremendously … but really, when all is said and done, it is what my Father always said, ‘No job for a man.’ — Dirk Bogarde

 

 

*

p.s. Hey. ** _Black_Acrylic, Hi, Ben. That Cuddly Toys video is cool. I didn’t know it/them. Thanks, bud. ** David Ehrenstein, Hi. Yeah, the extreme hype around Jobriath was somebody’s really bad idea. I remember reading all the press about how he was going to have a million dollar-plus stage act with a giant animatronic King Kong and holograms and so on and so forth. I saw what I think was his first concert at the Troubadour, and, inevitably, as interesting and odd as he was, you couldn’t help but feel like … that’s it?! I love ‘Velvet Goldmine’ too. My fave Todd Haynes film. Well, it and ‘Superstar’. ** Sypha, Hi. I’ll get to it for sure. And sooner than later. Judging things that one has no or very minimal understanding of and making vehement public pronouncements about them is the new black. Almost makes one long for the days when people just said ‘groovy’ about everything. Almost. As usual, you feel you aren’t busy writing and meanwhile you’re busier writing than most writers out there. But that works for you, and that’s the only thing that matters. ** Steve Erickson, I like Brett Smiley. There’s a tad amount of guilty pleasure there, but still. He was another Jobriath thing on a smaller scale. As or more interesting as/than his fey pretty gay boy persona and tunes is the transparency of Andre Loog Oldham’s huge infatuation with him, to the point where Oldham really seemed to believe Brett Smiley could be a giant star. I would start with the Chinn/Chapman era of Suzi Quatro for sure. Her stuff outride that perimeter can be a bit standard fare. I pretty much agree with everything you said about online political discussion. ‘Bad faith’ is an excellent way to corral it, I think. Great that the Q&A went so well, and wonderful news about his new film. Yes, do not underestimate the value of your support for his work with that series. I think you shared your Penny Lane review the other day? No, no, excuse me, that was the interview. (Insufficient coffee). Anyway … Everyone, If you haven’t read Steve Erickson’s review of Penny Lane’s new documentary ‘Hail Satan?’, you can and even maybe should, and doing so only requires a light tap on these words. ** Corey Heiferman, Big luck re: your test today if you need extra-added luck at all, though it sounds like you don’t. But still, one can’t overdose on luck as far as I know. So take mine. Please. Yes, I do hope we’ll have better luck than Wilde did in that instance. Nice. That’s the Israeli Eurovision entry? Wow. He looks like an escort/slave. I don’t think I’ve ever heard Hebrew — assuming that’s Hebrew? — being utilised by a mouth employed in singing an emo-ish power ballad before. That was interesting. It sounds so textural that way. Thanks. Good luck winning Eurovision with that entry, though. Wow. ** liquoredgoat, Hi, man. I chose a fair number of fairly obscure Glam acts and deliberately avoided the obvious one unless it was obvious but loveable to me. I haven’t read ‘Pisces’ yet, no. Thank you for the alert. I like her work. And … I can’t remember if I’ve read that Megan Boyle. I think so? I’ll have to go check. Let me know what you think or either or both. ** Misanthrope, Hey. My guess is that Suede was fully aware of the Sweet cross-reference and working it a bit for the knowing. If someone in my FB feed becomes too obnoxious to me, I channel my ‘you’re an idiot’ comment into unfollowing them. But even then only after repeated, relentless obnoxiousness. I did just unfollow a person who literally does nothing but post worship of Bernie Sanders and vitriol against every other Democratic candidate but that was out of total boredom. Mark writing a love story, ha ha. But, hey, you never do know. I wouldn’t  hold the old breath though. Or not for too long. ** Right. I decided to restore this old informative and yet saucy Dirk Bogarde post today. Maybe you’ll understand why. In any case, see you tomorrow.

6 Comments

  1. Lovely Dirk Day! He has always been one of my very favorite actors. The amount of concentration he puts into every role is astonishing.

    Here’s ALL of “Providence” which is one of my very favorite films of all-time.

    And here is Modesty Blaise</A. in which he gives the gayest performance in the history of the cinema.

    No mentioned today, Bertrand Tavernier's "Daddy Nostalgie" in which Bogarde plays Jane Birkin's dear but neglectful father. Iconographically the notion of Dirk and Birks as Dad and Daughter is perfect. Plus she gets to sing These Foolish Things on the soundtrack.

    Bogarde’s swan-song was a TV adaptation of the Graham Greene story “May We Borrow Your Husband?” which is a about a naïve young woman who marries a gay man who on their honeymoon is seduced by a sinister gay couple. Bogarde plays the Greene surrogate who advises the girl as best he can as she remains oblivious to the whole thing.

  2. One of my prized possessions is an album by Dirk, reciting classic pop songs from the 30s, etc. “The Servant” to me is a perfect film. And one of his memoirs I really like as well. The one where he focuses on his ‘film’ work. Oh, and then there is his letters/correspondence. He’s equally a writer as well as an actor. It’s nice that he is so-pro Fassbinder. Great blog today.

  3. It’s odd to me that Bogarde took the lead role in VICTIM and gave other explicitly or coded gay performances while remaining publicly closeted his whole life. If you read between the lines of the way he talked about his manager, it’s easy to figure out that they were lovers, but I guess that was a much different generation.

    Here’s my review of JUST DON’T THINK I’LL SCREAM: http://nymag.com/intelligencer/2019/04/ilhan-omar-and-civility.html

    I have a new idea for a film. It would be built on the idea I had for a found footage doc based on disturbing videos I watched on YouTube and Instagram; in fact, it’d be about my inability to make that film. Once I began pursuing that idea, it became rather masochistic. If you enter “suicide prank” and “torture porn” into YouTube, you can’t really claim any moral high ground if the videos that pop up disturb you. So I want to continue the found footage idea but write another monologue, except that this one would be completely autobiographical. It would also go into the way that conspiracy theories and an interest in UFOs and the paranormal used to seem harmless and fun – or even a laudable form of critical thinking at times – in the early days of the Internet, but now they seem to be pushed in very dark direction aimed at empowering right-wing politics, thanks in large part to social media algorithms.

  4. I’ve been a fan of The Servant since I first saw it back in my art school days, but I was always unaware of DB’s story behind the scenes. There’s a bunch of his films that will have to be added to my DVD rental list pronto.

    My driving lessons are still continuing and I must say today’s went particularly well. That MS-affected weakness in my left arm has been less of an issue of late, something that’s maybe due to the exercises I’ve been doing. The university gym has set me up with a keep fit programme and given me a bunch of equipment, which is paying dividends and I’m grateful for it.

    Something that made me smile today is this clip of Icelandic schoolkids singing the Hatari Eurovision song. My fave YouTube comment is “The blue refusenik on the far left is my spirit animal.”

  5. Derek McCormack

    April 19, 2019 at 1:35 am

    Hi, dear Dennis! Good God, that Bogarde/Garland scene. I’m gobsmacked. I came here to say hi and to say that The Guitarist was fucking great — so fab and funny. Thanks for sharing it. Love to you and le tout Paris!

  6. Corey Heiferman

    April 19, 2019 at 2:27 am

    Wow this is so juicy. And as usual almost all new to me. David, thank you for finding all of Modesty Blaise on YouTube. I hope it’s still there on 4/20.

    Unfortunately the video I linked to is 25 years old and is not this year’s Eurovision entry. He is singing in Hebrew. He’s now in his 40’s so he judges potential contestants rather than competing himself.

    I started writing in this comment box about Israel’s Eurovision history and my hot takes thereon, but it’s expanding to guest post size. It would be great to time the post with the contest, which runs May 14th-18th. In a first sketch I see it having three components:

    1. Performances I consider highlights over the course of Israel’s history at Eurovision (1973-present)
    2. Material related to this year’s contest and the last two times Israel hosted (1979 and 1999)
    3. “Outtakes” of songs I wish Israel had sent to Eurovision.

    The exam was rough. I wasn’t prepared for the time pressure. I hadn’t taken a standardized test in over 10 years. I approached this is a trial run anyway since I have two more chances in July and September. Still, I can’t be sure I totally flopped until the scores come in, and a setback taken well can be an excellent motivator.

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