with Glenda Jackson, on set The Patricia Neal Story (1981)

Although his first professional engagement after returning form the war was in a BBC production of Patrick Hamilton’s Rope, Dirk largely eschewed, and frequently derided, television. Nevertheless one of his finest performances in any medium was for the small screen – as Roald Dahl in The Patricia Neal Story. And it was a BBC production, The Vision, which offered some work with a fine cast after circumstances compelled him to leave his beloved Provence.

Surprisingly, given his input on the scripts for many of his feature films, Dirk wrote only one full-length screenplay, an adaptation for Yorkshire Television of Graham Greene’s May We Borrow Your Husband? One of Dirk’s six novels was filmed: Voices in the Garden, a Franco-British production for TF1 and the BBC, with a script by Lee Langley and directed by Pierre Boutron.

Rope (1947)

The role of a neurotic young murderer in Patrick Hamilton’s thriller was a foretaste of what would come for Dirk, billed for the first time under his new name. The cast rehearsed for two weeks, then performed the play ‘live’ for the cameras twice within three days. The producer, Stephen Harrison, wrote afterwards of Dirk: ‘I think he has possibilities.’

Power Without Glory

Power Without Glory (1947)

A re-staging for the small screen of Michael Clayton Hutton’s play, with Dirk reprising the role of Cliff.

The Cast of Helvig Delbo (1947)

A pioneering ‘drama-documentary’ about the betrayal of Allied airmen in Denmark by a woman member of the Resistance.

Little Moon of Alban (Hallmark Hall of Fame, 1964)

In this cruel-twist-of-fate drama, Dirk plays Lt Kenneth Boyd who kills a girl’s gunman boyfriend in post-WW1 Ireland. The grieving Brigit joins a unit of nursing nuns and winds up caring for the wounded Boyd.

The Epic That Never Was (1965)

At his home in Surrey Dirk narrated this documentary about Alexander Korda’s ill-fated attempt to film I, Claudius with Josef von Sternberg directing Charles Laughton.

Blithe Spirit (Hallmark Hall of Fame, 1966)

Dirk as Charles Condomine leads a stellar cast, including Rosemary Harris, Ruth Gordon and Rachel Roberts, in a revival of Noël Coward’s witty comedy, broadcast 21 years after David Lean’s film.

Upon This Rock (1973)

In this historical documentary, filmed at St Peter’s in the Vatican, Dirk ‘plays’ Bonnie Prince Charlie and, with Ralph Richardson as King James II of Scotland, reads the correspondence between father and son.

The Patricia Neal Story (1981)

The inspiring story of Patricia Neal (Glenda Jackson) and her fight to overcome the devastating effects of a stroke. She succeeds with the ‘tough love’ of her husband Roald Dahl, played superbly by Dirk.

with Glenda Jackson in The Patricia Neal Story
Dirk and Glenda Jackson, The Patricia Neal Story (1981)

Schindler (1983)

Another narration by Dirk – this time a documentary about the factory owner and ‘minor god of rescue’ Oskar Schindler, who saved more than a thousand Jews from the death camps.

May We Borrow Your Husband? (1986)

Le plus grand musée (1985)

A Franco-Japanese documentary with echoes of Lord (Kenneth) Clark’s ‘Civilisation’, in which several prominent actors took turns to explain the history of the treasures in the Louvre. Working with Charlotte Rampling, Dirk took responsibility for Greek sculpture in the Mediterranean basin and ‘The Golden Age of Flemish Art’.

May We Borrow Your Husband? (1986)

In his own adaptation of the Graham Greene short story, Dirk plays William Harris, a writer who during his stay at a hotel in Nice becomes a spectator to the entrapment of a young bridegroom on his honeymoon by two homosexuals staying at the same hotel. He consoles the naïve bride Poopy (Charlotte Attenborough).

The Vision (1987)

Dirk plays James Marriner, a washed-up presenter tempted by a sorely-needed paycheck to work for an ultra-conservative religious TV network with sinister global motives. With Lee Remick, Eileen Atkins and a young Helena Bonham Carter.

Red, White and True (1995)

Dirk narrated this documentary marking the 125th anniversary of the British Red Cross.


+ Television

The dates are those of the first transmission in the country of origin.

1947 - Rope (BBC) - as Charles Granillo, Power Without Glory (BBC) – Cliff

1964 - Little Moon of Alban (NBC, Hallmark Hall of Fame) – Lt Kenneth Boyd

1965 - The Epic That Never Was (BBC) – Narrator

1966 - Blithe Spirit (NBC, Hallmark Hall of Fame) – Charles Condomine

1973 - Upon This Rock (NBC) – Reader (as Bonnie Prince Charlie)

1981 - The Patricia Neal Story (CBS) – Roald Dahl

1983 - Schindler (Thames) – Narrator

1985 - Le plus grand musée (TF1) – Co-presenter

1986 - May We Borrow Your Husband? (Yorkshire) – William (Also screenwriter)

1988 - The Vision (BBC) – James Marriner

1995 - Red, White and True (BBC) - Narrator