Bloomsbury have recently released a number of Dirk’s books. They are currently available as an e-book and can soon be bought as a print on demand book.

The titles released are:
Closing Ranks,
Jericho,
West of Sunset,
Voices in the Garden,
A Period of Adjustment,
A Gentle Occupation.

Both The Authorised Biography and Ever, Dirk are now available for the Amazon Kindle.

Click the covers for more information:

The Biography Ever, Dirk
Bloomsbury are launching a new digital ebook (and print on demand) service with a whole raft of works from a variety of authors. Amongst them are Dirk’s works of fiction.

More information is available here.

As you may have seen from the new homescreen and from previous announcements the first part of the Dirk Bogarde season at the BFI gets underway very shortly.

The programme includes a selection of Dirk’s British films from the 1960’s, including Victim, The Servant and Our Mother’s House. There is also a screening of the BBC documentary made in 2001 – Arena: The Private Dirk Bogarde.

The season begins with Victim on the 3rd August.

For more details and to book tickets click here.

VCI are releasing Campbell’s Kingdom and Agent 8-3/4, aka Hot Enough For June this August.

As well as being available on DVD, they are also being released on Blu-Ray to deliver Dirk Bogarde in high definition.

Campbell's Kingdom Agent 8 3/4

Despair was shown at the 64th International Film Festival in Cannes – where Fassbinder’s version of the Nabokov novel received its first screening in 1978.

Recently restored under the supervision of the cinematographer Michael Ballhaus, the new print of Despair was included in the Cannes Classics section of the Festival. It is also expected to be part of the forthcoming season of Dirk’s films at BFI Southbank, and will shortly be available as a DVD.

Although he was unhappy with the director’s cut, Dirk took lasting pride in his performance as Hermann Hermann, the deeply troubled owner of a chocolate factory.

As announced recently, to coincide with the Dirk Bogarde film season BFI Publishing will release BFI Film Classics on Victim (1961) by John Coldstream and The Servant (1963) by Amy Sargeant.

Both books are available for pre-order.

To order Victim click here

To order The Servant click here
Despair was released on the 7th June through Olive Films.

It is available here

Also a remastered version of Libel was released by Warner Bros recently.

It is available through Amazon here

And finally Song Without End has also been released by Sony/Columbia Classics, however it is only available through Amazon in the US.

Click here

Monday 28th March was the 90th anniversary of Dirk’s birth.

Click here for further information.

RECENT DVD RELEASES

Once a Jolly Swagman
Esther Waters
So Long at the Fair
The Spanish Gardener
The Gentle Gunman
Simba
The Singer Not The Song

Basil Dearden’s London Underground was released by Criterion in the USA in January

Radio Times – Dec 8th 2001

The Private Dirk Bogarde: Part One

Handsome, charming and worshipped by women, Dirk Bogarde was Britain’s first screen idol. But, unlike today’s film stars, his private life remained a mystery. This Christmas, an Arena Special, made with the co-operation of family and friends, will look beyond his public persona. Nicholas Shakespeare, writer and narrator of the Arena film, tells how the truths that have emerged since Bogarde’s death in 1999 help to explain his greatest achievements as an actor

The heart-throb we never knew

Imagine a fine, early-summer afternoon in 1960, the lawn of a country house in the Home Counties. The scene comes to you through the lens of a home-movie camera. Whoever holds the camera is intimate with the world it records: the gleaming Rolls-Royce, the corgies on the terrace, the couple fooling around by the flower beds. One is the stunning French actress, Capucine. The other is her host, Dirk Bogarde. He walks up behind, laughingly kisses her on the head and strolls off, drawing on his cigarette.

The scene suggests to the innocent viewer that Bogarde, “the idol of the Odeons”, has, at 39, at last found love. The couple look like newlyweds.

It is hard to grasp just how famous Dirk Bogarde was in an era when television was in its infancy and people went to the pictures three times a week. There is no one in British cinema who was his equal: he was our first, and possibly last, screen idol. The success of the 1954 comedy Doctor in the House, in which Bogarde played the charming intern Simon Sparrow, was such that the film made back its money from the Leicester Square Odeon alone. A number of sequels included Doctor at Sea, in which Bogarde became the first British actor to play opposite the new French star, Brigitte Bardot. In the words of Gore Vidal, who met him at this time: “He was the heart-throb of all England. The whole public of an entire country knew who he was.”

According to his American agent, “Boaty” Boatwright, Beel House, near Amersham, became a stopping-off point for anyone visiting London from Hollywood. Those captured on the home movie include Judy Garland, Ava Gardner, Jean Simmons, Gregory Peck, Michael Wilding and Elizabeth Taylor. “I don’t go to the Caprice,” said Dirk. “The Caprice comes to me.” His younger brother Gareth observed how Dirk craved an aristocratic respectability: “There were butlers, lots of Georgian silver and vast tables, and everything was incredibly properly done.” On occasion, the trappings could go to his head. “There was a time when he suggested I really ought to call him ‘sir’.”

Bogarde’s fame and what he called his “little-boy-searching-for-God” looks had bought him this luxurious lifestyle, but it was attended by much inconvenient adulation. At Beel, he was driven to erect a huge mound, known as Bogarde’s Bastion, to protect himself from harassment by the neighbouring girls’ school. Every time he made a public appearance he had to put on special trousers, flies sewn up, so as not to be ransacked by admirers. His nephew Mark Goodings recalls how once, in Crowborough, while Bogarde queued for cigarettes, a woman stuck a hat pin into his side and took it out, tipped with a little bit of his blood: “Good God, he’s real.” As a contemporary magazine put it: “Ask any film fan between 15 and 20 whom she considers the most attractive man on the screen and she’s almost bound to say Dirk Bogarde.” And yet, unknown to his admiring public, this fantasy world was unravelling.

The home-movie camera leaves Capucine splashing in the swimming pool with Bogarde. It enters the house. On an antique table a stack of magazines includes the latest edition of Mirabelle, in which Bogarde’s life story is told in pictures under the heading: “Britain’s most eligible bachelor – will he ever find True Love?”

“‘I do my best to entertain the public, but I want to keep my private affairs to myself,’ he says firmly.”

The comic-book tells of heart break with a number of leading actresses, such as Jean Simmons. They suggest that somewhere beyond Bogarde’s Bastion the right woman waits. “‘One day,’ says Dirk, ‘I may open the door to a girl selling brushes, and … wham!’ Perhaps Britain’s most eligible bachelor will have found the future Mrs Bogarde.” Most telling is the caption on the page opposite: “And now let’s meet Rock Hudson, another star who has found heartbreak and love are seldom far apart … “

What no reader of Mirabelle can suspect is that there already exists a “Mrs Bogarde”: the person controlling the camera. His name is Tony Forwood. For the past 12 years Forwood, a former character actor once married to the actress Glynis Johns, has been Bogarde’s manager and companion. He is the one who chauffeurs him in the Rolls-Royce every morning on the 20-minute drive to Pinewood studios, the home of Rank. Between them they have constructed the public image of the matinée idol, a construct no less hollow than the fibreglass Rank gong.

Dirk does not despise the films he has made: “Anything I do, I do to the depths of my gut.” The problem is that after 13 years of playing “swoon bait” parts such as Dr Simon Sparrow, his career is at a standstill. By nature volatile and fiery, he wants nothing more than to wrench himself out of the Rank straitjacket and apply himself to more serious, intelligent work. “You’re not talking about some twit who came up through drama school and was being a luvvie,” says Michael York, who was to act in Bogarde’s favourite film, Accident. “No, this is someone with a pretty substantial emotional background.”

For the first time since his death in 1999, it is possible, with the co-operation of family and friends, to go behind the image that Bogarde presented to the public all his life. At a time when homosexuality was illegal, Bogarde had, with Tony’s support, built for himself a persona. It was skilfully done and, even in seven volumes of autobiography, he chose not to deconstruct it. Instead, he continued to promote a heterosexual image that never explained the nature of his relationship with Tony.

And yet the true story is crucial to an understanding of Bogarde’s achievement. Only by mining the tension that existed between his public image and excessively private life did Bogarde mature into the serious actor – and, later, author – of his ambition.

As a child he had learnt to create his own world. He likened this impulse to a hermit crab making a shell. Once formed, he could not tolerate a crack. When the television interviewer Russell Harty famously had a go in 1986, Dirk thwacked him aside: ‘I’m still in the shell and you haven’t cracked it yet, honey.”

Under the surface lay a lot of terror. In 1950, Dirk’s brother Gareth had lived with Dirk and Tony in London. “I remember Dirk ranting and shouting. Once he reduced me to tears. I asked Tony: ‘Why did he do this?’ and Tony said : ‘Have you ever seen anyone chew the carpet? Your brother will from time to time.'” Tony was one of very few able to rein him in. “Like a cat has a particular sofa arm to scratch and to tear,” says Gareth, “Tony was that. He absorbed a huge amount of Dirk’s fury.”

At the heart of Dirk’s fury, believes Gareth, lay his fear of being found out – and not just sexually. “Because the whole point was that it was a mystery. What you have with him is an immensely mercurial, brilliant character who, I believe, had no personality of his own. What he had was what part he chose to be for the day, rather like putting on a tie in the morning. What shall I take out of the cupboard today; what shall I be?’ And I think without being able to do that he was adrift. He had a horror of all the bits of the jigsaw coming together.”

The jigsaw began with his parents. Dirk’s father was a respectable, remote figure, the first art editor of The Times, where he hoped Dirk might one day join the staff. Ulric Van den Bogaerde was from a Belgian family. He had fought on the Somme and watched a friend disappear beside him in the mud, the shell leaving only a hand. Throughout Dirk’s childhood, his father was prone to suffering attacks of shell shock.

Dirk’s mother, Margaret Niven, was opposite in character, a Scottish extrovert who spoke in a gravelly Glaswegian accent. As a young woman she had acted on stage with her father, an alcoholic cartoonist. She bitterly resented that her theatrical career had ended with her marriage and drank to quell her bitterness, frequently disgracing herself in public. “When I was five,” says Gareth, “she would be sent away for two or three weeks because ‘her vocal cords were strained’. Actually, she went away to dry out.” Dirk’s desire never to be out of control himself – “In control is what I like to be” – came in reaction to his mother’s alcoholism. He could be vicious about her, but they were close. Dirk’s sister Elizabeth, or Lu, remembers their closeness as “ridiculous”, bordering on worship. “When my mother would go out to the theatre, he’d always have something under his pillow belonging to her, even if it was a shoe.” The intensity of the relationship worried Ulric.

Out of his desire to satisfy his parents – the insecure, drunken mother who never quite made it on stage and the aloof, desk-bound father who wished him to join The Times Dirk’s twin careers as actor and author were honed.

“When my mother would go out he’d always have something under his pillow belonging to her, even if it was a show”

Bogarde’s sister, Elizabeth

During the holidays, Ulric installed his wife out of harm’s way on the Sussex Downs. While he worked in London, she stayed with the children in a rented cottage near Alfriston. Left largely to himself, Dirk – or as he was christened, Derek – sought refuge in a tight nucleus formed by his sister and their nanny, Lally Searle.

After his family and Tony Forwood, Lally was the most influential figure in Dirk’s life. Under her supervision, he collected the milk from the neighbouring farm, cleared the night-soil buckets and treated the garden frogs as if they were friends “He’d sit and have long chats with them,” says Lally, who is now 90. “To him they weren’t an animal, they were a person. And he’d think up all sorts of little stories about what they were going to do.” A frog became his life – long mascot, a potent image of his fugitive spirit: camouflaged, slippery, hopping out of reach.

As a child he liked to act with Elizabeth. He hogged the female parts and then robbed or murdered her. “It was always something that ended up horribly,” recalls Lally. “Once I had a neighbour knocking on the window. ‘You ought to go down to see what that boy’s doing with Lu!'”

Lally was a precursor to Tony Forwood, a benign shoulder to lean on and to protect him from himself. Her brother was a policeman. She’d warn Dirk: “You behave like that and I’ll box your ears and give you to George.” Elizabeth says, “He needed her strictness in a peculiar way.”

Then, in July 1933, when he was 12, calamity: Gareth was born, Lally’s attention diverted and the nucleus shattered. Gareth’s birth provoked a jealous, cruel streak in Dirk. “He was quite horrid to me. I remember having my fingers shut in the sash of the window that he’d brought down on top of my fingernails and I screamed, and my mother said: ‘What on earth are you doing to that child? Why is he screaming?’ and Dirk was saying, ‘I’m just taking a thorn out of his finger with a needle.’ He was a great one for pulling off the wings of flies all his life.”

Their father watched Dirk’s unfriendliness towards Gareth with mounting concern. In 1934, he made the ill-judged decision to separate Dirk from both mother and brother and send him to school in Glasgow.

The three years Dirk spent billeted on his mother’s Scottish family he regarded as the most important period of his life. The dismal house in Bishopbriggs, a Glasgow suburb, could not be further removed from the idyllic cottage in Sussex for which he hankered. This is where his shell was formed. Much later,in his first volume of autobiography, he wrote an account of the childless couple, Uncle Murray and Aunt Sadie, who had replaced Lally in loco parentis. In a letter to a cousin who accused him of being “vengeful” in the autobiography, he summarised his hurt: “My life with them was far FAR worse than anything I wrote in my book. The scars that the time there, three years, burned into me never heal. But without those awful years of bigotry and loneliness I would never have got through life. Those years made me strong, determined to save myself and get away from all that was ‘dainty’, ‘false’, and ‘genteel’ and no need to put too fine a point on it, cruel. Uncle Murray was deadly cruel. He falsified my school reports, censored my letters home every week, watched me with curious intensity when I took my weekly bath…”

Family lore has it that one of his Scottish uncles seduced him. By the time he was called up for the army, it would appear that his sexuality was determined. “A war finds you out, I’m afraid,” he wrote in his autobiography. But just how much he never told. According to his brother and sister, he omitted from his accounts of arriving in liberated Belsen or serving as an aerial reconnaissance officer in Normandy a number of affairs with fellow officers, among them a hero of the D-Day run. In a will made on 30 May 1944, he leaves to Tony Jones, a lieutenant in the RNVR: “The picture in my room of the cloth tower in Ypres, and my silver ring from my left hand.” As Gareth says, “In the army he had a treasure trove of a way of life in which he could indulge and after the war that needed to be regulated.” Another Tony rescued him.

Dirk Bogarde and Tony Forwood had met at the start of the war. On 28 October 1940, Dirk was playing at Amersham rep in Grief Goes Over when Tony, who couldn’t get in to see Edison, the Man at the local cinema, went to the theatre instead. He worked as an agent for the West End management firm HM Tennant’s and, impressed by Dirk’s performance, gave him his card. Six years later, demobbed and looking for a job, Dirk knocked at Tony’s door in Chesham Mews and, as he tells it, a flu-ridden Tony dropped the key from an upstairs window. Within a year Dirk had made his first Rank film and Tony, now separated from his wife and young son, had moved into Dirk’s house in Chester Row. Forty years later they were still together. “I don’t think there was a night they were apart,” says Elizabeth.

Confusion surrounds their partnership. “I was aware that his relationship with Tony in the early days was a homosexual relationship,” says Gareth. But what began as a sexual affair probably developed into a commonsensical one. “Dirk called it a marriage blanc,” says Gore Vidal. “I assumed it was that. I’ve known a great many of those. If you’re wise, you do not have sex with friends.”

When in 1947 Dirk was signed up by Rank, it was Tony who took care of the business deals, signed cheques, cooked, drove. “He was the balance in Dirk’s life, without question of a doubt,” says his nephew Brock (the son of Gareth), who was to inherit Dirk’s estate. “He stopped the fear and the excess from boiling over. He smoothed the path. He helped Dirk in every way have a clear path to his craft.” He even thought up Dirk’s new name: Dirk Bogarde, who became famous not only for the Doctor films but for pictures such as The Spanish Gardener and A Tale of Two Cities – as well as for shooting Jack Warner (Dixon of Dock Green) in The Blue Lamp.

For Dirk, who could not happily live on his own, Tony operated as a sort of super-Lally; for Tony, who was never going to be successful as an actor, it meant being able vicariously to enjoy and manage a life of stardom without the pressure. Whatever it was, says the actress Jill Melford, it was a very good setup. Like everyone else, she called Tony “Tote”: “He was totally divine.”

But by 1960, the career they had contrived was faltering. Dirk’s latest film was the absurd The Singer Not the Song, in which, in an effort to revive his flagging status as a heart-throb, he minced about in black leather cowboy pants; a year before, he had starred in a serious cinema adaptation of Bernard Shaw’s Doctor’s Dilemma, a howling disappointment to his fans since it had nothing whatever to do with the Doctor films; Rank had also pulled the plug on a cherished project to star as Lawrence of Arabia, a part that was eventually played by the young Peter O’Toole. A return to the stage after a three-year absence had petered out unhappily at the Theatre Royal, Brighton, with illness and recurring stage fright. (“He would vomit in a bucket,” says Gareth.)

And recently, a bid to exchange Pinewood for Hollywood had resulted in another fiasco, Song Without End, in which Dirk played Franz Liszt opposite the striking but wooden Capucine. He tells readers in his autobiographies how he proposed marriage more than once to Capucine. On one occasion, in a scene described by his siblings as unlikely, his father then gets down on his knees and begs Capucine to do the decent thing. Exactly how much Dirk’s proposals were calculated to resuscitate his reputation as a screen lover, how much the outpouring of genuine emotion, is impossible to fathom. Perhaps Dirk himself didn’t know. The engagement never happened.

How much Dirk’s proposals to Capucine were calculated to resuscitate his reputation as a screen lover is impossible to fathom

It was in these circumstances that a script arrived about a married but secretly homosexual barrister that would chime directly with Dirk’s own predicament. After discussing it with Tony, he took a calculated gamble.

Victim came out in 1961 at a launch attended by Princess Margaret. It was the first time the word “homosexual” had been uttered in a British film. According to Sylvia Syms, who played his wife, he not only insisted on the celebrated speech in which he confesses his love for a young man: he wrote the lines. (“I stopped seeing him because I wanted him. Do you understand? Because I wanted him.”) Syms says, “He was adamant that it was important. He thought the rest of it was just pretending. He wanted to show the enormous pain that it caused.”

Dirk flourished again as an actor after Victim to become, in the opinion of Gore VidaL “one of the best film actors of our time”. Since 1947 he had avoided the very things that made him most interesting because they were allied to what might be perceived as a terrible truth. Now, on screen at least, he played his age and advanced towards his demons.

After Victim, he sought out Joseph Losey and, through Losey, Harold Pinter, to become part of the forefront of the New Wave of British cinema. Victim opened the gate to King and Country, in which Dirk drew on his shell-shocked father; The Servant, which, in the opinion of his co-star James Fox, strangely mirrored his own relationship with Tony; and Accident, in which, as his co-star Michael York observes, “The smooth glamorous Dirk gave way to the wild tormented Dirk, with booze on his breath, gravy on his tie.”

Dirk’s critical success cost him his lavish lifestyle. These were great movies, still taken seriously today, but not great crowd-pullers: “No one queued up to see Accident.” He and Tony, who liked to live well, needed to economise under the stringent tax laws of Harold Wilson’s Labour government. In March 1969, they felt forced to leave England. At Dover, Arnie Schulkes, who worked as his stand-in for 22 films, followed the Rolls-Royce on to the ferry in a Simca, carrying the Rolls’s two spare tyres and smuggling £2,500 in cash at a time when £50 was the limit for taking abroad.

As they motored towards Rome, where Dirk had grudgingly agreed to make an advertisement for Foster Grant sunglasses, he had little inkling that his best work lay ahead.

© Nicholas Shakespeare 2001

The BBC2 Arena Special, directed by Adam Low and narrated by by Nicholas Shakespeare, will be shown in two parts over the Christmas period

Next Week: The role he was meant to play.

Dirk’s portrayal of the composer Gustav von Aschenbach in Death in Venice was a revelation. It would transform “the idol of the Odeons” into a respected European cinema actor.