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Dirk Bogarde - BBC2 Documentary

One of the nation's favourite film stars and matinee idol of his day, Dirk Bogarde, died on 8 May 1999. He was born on 28 March 1921, the son of a half-Dutch father and an actress mother. His real name was Dirk Van Den Bogaerde On Boxing Day, 2001, there was a BBC2 Arena documentary about him showing home movies made by his lover Anthony Forwood (obviously bi-sexual as he was the husband of actress Gynis Johns with whom he had a son). The programme also featured an interview with his family and friends and takes a look at his work. The actor and writer was, as well as a closet gay, a difficult secretive control freak. He invited many friends - the "A" list stars of the time such as Elizabeth Taylor, Judy Garland, Jean Simmons and Gregory Peck to his homes in Buckinghamshire and Sussex. Bogarde burned his letters, scrapbooks and wartime diaries on a bonfire after he had moved to the South of France, yet he wrote seven volumes of an autobiography, making sure that he remained in control of all the information about his life. However, he guessed that people might think he was gay, but as he said, "it is up to them to come to the conclusion themselves". One of his earliest appearances in a film was as the young thug who murdered a policeman (Jack Warner - the nation's favourite policeman) in The Blue Lamp. He went on to be a rank glamour-boy in such films as the Doctor series (he was Dr. Simon Sparrow) and in one of them Doctor at Sea he starred with the young Brigitte Bardot, but even her charms were wasted on him. In a Hollywood film he played the composer and pianist Franz Liszt. Although he used a dummy keyboard in the film he actually learned to play the piano for the part, but a famous pianist played the actual music in the film. The film was called Song Without End and starred the beautiful Italian actress Cappucine and the French actress Genevieve Page. Bogarde lived with Forwood, whom he referred to as his "personal manager" or "companion". Forwood was also Bogarde's chauffeur, so he often referred to him as 'Forwood', probably to divert people from realising their real relationship! They were together for over 40 years. Bogarde said of Forwood, "(he is) a tremendously intelligent, controlling influence". Forwood made a unique record of their life together in 16mm film. The programme made clever use of this footage interweaving it with contributions from Bogarde's friends and family - now free to talk about him. Up until his death, they were all obliged to maintain his carefully cultivated image against a prying outside world. He was said to guard his private life like a rottweiler! ! Bogarde went on to play dark subversive roles, more demanding and giving him more credibility than his earlier films. Some of his later films include: Darling; A Tale of Two Cities (he played the role of Sidney Carton); The Servant; Death in Venice (about his suppressed admiration for a young boy); Victim (where he was a married judge who was who was also a homosexual, being blackmailed) and The Night Porter (also starring Charlotte Rampling and directed by Liliana Cavani - made during Bogarde's continental period while living in France). It has been said that he moved to France because he became in more demand by European directors and also to avoid Britain's crippling taxes. The Night Porter is set in 1957; Bogarde's a former SS officer in a concentration camp now keeping a low profile as a night porter in a small hotel in Vienna. A woman, who is married to a famous conductor, comes to the hotel. He famous husband turned out to be Bogarde's 'sex toy' - to use modern language - from the concentration camp. They again embark on a continuation of their 'affair' in the camp with a series of sex games, which mirror their earlier affair. In spite of this, a tragic ending for both of them, they did have a "kind of loving" - albeit of a different kind. Bogarde served in the 2nd World War with Air Photographic Intelligence. It was a very traumatic war; he visited Belsen just after it was liberated in 1945. Unfortunately, the diary he kept about this visit was destroyed, but all these events obviously contributed to his buttoned-up and sensitive personality. He said afterwards, "I realised I was looking at Dante's Inferno." His nephew, Brock, to whom he gave the home movies, has kept the family name of Van Den Bogaerde. Bogarde and Forwood lived in France from the early '70s until returning to Britain in 1987 when Forwood was seriously ill with cancer. He died six months later. Bogarde remained in London in a flat "it's just a short walk to Harrods", he said. Dirk was knighted in 1992; he died in 1999. At his request, there was no memorial service. In the year 2000, Brock took Bogarde's ashes to his former Provencal farm. He scattered his ashes in the place where Dirk had spent many happy years with the man who was clearly the love of his life - Tony Forwood. I leave you with the image of my favourite film staring Dirk Bogarde - Death in Venice directed by Luchino Visconti. I remember the dye from Bogarde's eyebrows and hair running down his face when he was sweating at the end of the film. I don't know why I love gay men, suppose they are intriguing to me. Bogarde was very sensual! I was in love with Dirk Bogarde, despite the fact that he was gay.

 

Verinha Ottoni.




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