"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 ...
"During the war I saw more wounded men being 'taken care of' than I saw being rescued. Because sometimes you were too far from a dressing station, sometimes you couldn't get them out. And they were pumping blood or whatever; they were in such a wreck, the only thing to do was to shoot them. And they were, so don't think they weren't. That hardens you: You get used to the fact that it can happen. And that it is the only sensible thing to do."
During the 1950s, he also starred as a murderer who befriends a young boy in Hunted (aka The Stranger in Between) (1952); Appointment in London (1953) as a young airman in Bomber Command who, against orders, joins a major offensive against the Germans; The Sea Shall Not Have Them (1954), playing a flight sergeant trapped in a dinghy with Sir Michael Redgrave; The Sleeping Tiger (1954), playing a neurotic criminal with co-star Alexis Smith in fine form, and Bogarde's first film for American expatriate director Joseph Losey; Doctor at Sea (1955), co-starring Brigitte Bardot in one of her first film roles; Cast a Dark Shadow (1955), as a man who marries women for money and then kills them; The Spanish Gardener (1956), co-starring Cyril Cusack and Bernard Lee; Doctor at Large (1957), another entry in the "Doctor series", co-starring Shirley Eaton; A Tale of Two Cities (1958), a faithful retelling of Charles Dickens' classic; The Doctor's Dilemma (1959), by George Bernard Shaw and co-starring Leslie Caron and Robert Morley, not a part of the "Doctor series"; and Libel (1959), playing three separate roles and co-starring Olivia de Havilland. Bogarde quickly became a matinee idol and was Britain's number one box office draw of the 1950s, gaining the title of "The Matinee Idol of the Odeon."
After 1960, Bogarde abandoned his heart-throb image for more challenging parts, such as barrister Melville Farr in Victim (1961); decadent valet Hugo Barrett in The Servant (1963) (directed by Joseph Losey); television reporter Robert Gold in Darling (1965); Stephen, a bored Oxford University professor, in Accident (1967); German industrialist Frederick Bruckman in Luchino Visconti's The Damned (1969); the ex-Nazi, Max, in the chilling and controversial The Night Porter (1974) directed by Liliana Cavani; and, most notably, as Gustav von Aschenbach in Death in Venice (1971) also directed by Luchino Visconti, now probably his best-remembered role.
In some of his other roles during the 1960s and 1970s, Bogarde played opposite renowned stars, yet some of the films were of uneven quality. Some of these movies included The Angel Wore Red (1960), playing an unfrocked priest who falls in love with cabaret entertainer Ava Gardner during the Spanish Civil War; Song Without End (1960), playing Hungarian composer and virtuoso pianist Franz Liszt, a film made under the direction of American director George Cukor in Bogarde's only foray into Hollywood; The Singer Not the Song (1961), as a Mexican bandit and co-starring Sir John Mills as a priest; HMS Defiant (aka Damn the Defiant!) (1962), playing sadistic Lieutenant Scott-Padget, in which Bogarde practically steals the movie from his co-star Sir Alec Guinness; I Could Go On Singing (1963), co-starring Judy Garland in her final screen role; The Mind Benders (1963), an off-beat film where Bogarde plays an Oxford professor conducting sensory deprivation experiments at Oxford University (precursor to Altered States (1980)); Hot Enough For June, (aka Agent 8 3/4) (1964), a James Bond-type spy spoof; King And Country (1964), playing an army lawyer reluctantly defending deserter Tom Courtenay; Modesty Blaise (1966), a camp spy send-up playing archvillain Gabriel; Our Mother's House (1967), an off-beat film playing an estranged father of seven children, directed by Jack Clayton; The Fixer (1968), based on Bernard Malamud's novel, co-starring Alan Bates; Sebastian (1968), playing a former Oxford professor heading the all-female decoding office of British Intelligence, co-starring Sir John Gielgud, Susannah York, and Lilli Palmer; Oh! What A Lovely War (1969), co-starring Sir John Gielgud, Sir Laurence Olivier and directed by Sir Richard Attenborough; Justine (1969), directed by George Cukor; Le Serpent (1973), co-starring Henry Fonda and Yul Brynner; A Bridge Too Far (1977), in a rather controversial performance as Lieutenant General Frederick "Boy" Browning; Providence (1977), co-starring Sir John Gielgud; Despair (1978); and Daddy Nostalgie (1991) co-starring Jane Birkin as his daughter, Bogarde's final film role.
While a contract performer at the Rank Organisation, Bogarde was considered for a screen version of Lawrence Of Arabia, to be directed by Anthony Asquith. The role of Lawrence eventually went to Peter O'Toole and was directed by David Lean. Not getting the role of Lawrence of Arabia was Bogarde's greatest screen disappointment. Bogarde was also reportedly considered for the title role in MGM's Doctor Zhivago (1965). Earlier, he declined Louis Jourdan's role as Gaston in MGM's Gigi (1958).. Also, according to John Coldstream's biography Bogarde was offered a stage role at The Chichester Festival Theatre by Sir Laurence Olivier, but regetably had to decline due to film commitments.
Bogarde was nominated six times as Best Actor by the British Academy of Film and Television Arts (BAFTA), winning twice, for The Servant in 1963, and for Darling in 1965. He also received the London Film Critics Circle Lifetime Award in 1991. He made a total of 63 films between 1939 and 1991.
Bogarde was a life-long bachelor and, during his life, was reported to be homosexual. Bogarde's most serious friendship with a woman was with the bisexual French actress Capucine. For many years he shared his homes, first in Amersham, England, then in France with his manager Anthony Forwood (a former husband of the actress Glynis Johns and the father of her only child, actor Gareth Forwood), but repeatedly denied that their relationship was anything other than friendship. These denials were understandable, mainly given that homosexual acts were illegal during most of his career, and also given his following among female admirers which he was loath to jeopardise. His brother Gareth Van den Bogaerde confirmed in a 2004 interview that Bogarde was engaging in homosexual sex at a time when such acts were illegal, and also that his long-term relationship with Tony Forwood was more than simply that of a manager and friend.
Many people believed Bogarde's refusal to enter into a marriage of convenience in order to cover up his homosexuality was a major reason for his failure to become a star in Hollywood, together with the critical and commercial failure of Song Without End. His friend Helena Bonham Carter believed Bogarde could never come out as gay in later life, after his movie stardom had ended, because he would not have been able to deal with the fact that he had been forced to live a lie during his career.
Bogarde starred in the landmark 1961 film Victim, playing a prominent homosexual barrister in London who fights the blackmailers of a young man with whom he had an emotional relationship. The young man commits suicide after being arrested for embezzlement, rather than ruining the attorney's reputation. In the process of exposing the ring of extortionists, Bogarde's character puts at risk his successful legal career and marriage in order to see that justice is served. Victim was the first mainstream British film to treat the subject of homosexuality seriously and the film helped lead to the changing of the law.
As Britain's leading box-office star of the 1950s, Bogarde displayed enormous personal courage in appearing in such a controversial film as Victim, which could have destroyed his career at that time. However, his performance opened a path to more challenging roles that gained him respect as one of the leading actors in the intellectual ("art house") film genre. Bogarde's decision to appear in Victim appears even more daring today, given that many contemporary film stars are afraid to portray a serious gay character because of the perceived public reaction and effect on their career that such a role could have.
Despite the stereotyping his performance in Victim could have brought him, during his career Bogarde portrayed heterosexual single or married men in the majority of his films, with the exception of his roles in Victim, The Servant, Modesty Blaise, and Death in Venice, although even those roles could be considered as being more bisexual than homosexual in nature.
Bogarde's controversial film choices later in his career led him to have something of a cult following. The singer Morrissey was a fan and, according to Charlotte Rampling, Bogarde was approached in 1990 by Madonna to appear in her video for Justify My Love, citing The Night Porter as an inspiration. Bogarde declined the offer.
In 1984, Bogarde served as president of the jury at the Cannes Film Festival. He was the first Briton ever to serve in that capacity, and this represented an immense honor for Bogarde. He was knighted in 1992 for services to acting, and was the recipient of several honorary doctorates, including from St Andrews and Sussex universities.
Formerly a heavy smoker, Bogarde suffered a minor stroke in November 1987 while Anthony Forwood was dying of liver cancer and Parkinson's disease. Never afraid of voicing his opinion, after witnessing Forwood's protracted death he became active in promoting voluntary euthanasia for terminally ill patients in Britain and toured the UK giving lectures and answering questions from live audiences on the subject. It was a cause, he stated, that had been important to him since the war, during which he had witnessed severely injured men pleading to be put out of their misery.
In September 1996, he underwent angioplasty to widen arteries leading to his heart and suffered a pulmonary embolism following this operation. For the final three years of his life Bogarde was paralyzed on one side of his body, which affected his speech. He managed, however, to complete a final volume of autobiography, which covered the stroke and its effect on him. He spent some time the day before he died with his good friend Lauren Bacall. Sir Dirk Bogarde died in London from a heart attack on May 8, 1999, aged 78. His ashes were scattered at his former beloved estate of "Le Haut Clermont" in Grasse, Southern France.
|Come on George!||1939||Extra (uncredited)|
|Dancing with Crime||1947||Policeman|
|Esther Waters||1948||William Latch|
|Boys in Brown||1949||Alfie Rawlins|
|Quartet||1949||George Bland (segment "The Alien Corn")|
|Once a Jolly Swagman||1948||Bill Fox|
|Dear Mr. Prohack||1949||Charles Prohack|
|The Woman in Question||1950||R.W. (Bob) Baker|
|The Blue Lamp||1950||Tom Riley|
|So Long at the Fair||1950||George Hathaway|
|Appointment in London||1952||Wing Commander Tim Mason|
|Penny Princess||1952||Tony Craig|
|The Gentle Gunman||1952||Matt Sullivan|
|They Who Dare||1953||Lt. Graham|
|The Sea Shall Not Have Them||1954||Flight Sgt. MacKay|
|For Better, for Worse||1954||Tony Howard|
|Doctor in the House||1954||Dr Simon Sparrow|
|The Sleeping Tiger||1954||Frank Clemmons|
|Doctor at Sea||1955||Dr. Simon Sparrow|
|The Spanish Gardener||1956||Jose|
|Cast a Dark Shadow||1957||Edward "Teddy" Bare|
|Ill Met by Moonlight||1957||Maj. Patrick Leigh Fermor aka Philedem|
|Doctor at Large||1957||Dr. Simon Sparrow|
|Campbell's Kingdom||1957||Bruce Campbell|
|A Tale of Two Cities||1958||Sydney Carton|
|The Wind Cannot Read||1958||Flight Lt. Michael Quinn|
|The Doctor's Dilemma||1958||Louis Dubedat|
|Libel||1959||Sir Mark Sebastian Loddon/Frank Welney/Number Fifteen|
|Song Without End||1960||Franz Liszt|
|The Angel Wore Red||1960||Arturo Carrera|
|We Joined the Navy||1962||Cameo appearance (Dr. Simon Sparrow)|
|The Singer Not the Song||1961||Anacleto|
|H.M.S. Defiant||1962||1st Lt. Scott-Padget|
|The Password is Courage||1962||Sgt. Maj. Charles Coward|
|The Mind Benders||1963||Dr. Henry Longman|
|I Could Go On Singing||1963||David Donne|
|The Servant||1963||Hugo Barrett|
|Doctor in Distress||1963||Dr. Simon Sparrow|
|King & Country||1964||Capt. Hargreaves|
|Hot Enough for June||1964||Nicholas Whistler|
|The High Bright Sun||1964||Maj. McGuire|
|*Blithe Spirit||1966||Charles Condomine|
|Our Mother's House||1967||Charlie Hook|
|La Caduta degli dei (The Damned)||1969||Frederick Bruckmann|
|Oh! What a Lovely War||1969||Stephen|
|*Upon This Rock||1970||Bonnie Prince Charlie|
|Morte a Venezia (Death in Venice)||1971||Gustav von Aschenbach|
|Night Flight from Moscow||1973||Philip Boyle|
|Il Portiere di notte (The Night Porter)||1974||Maximilian Theo Aldorfer|
|Permission to Kill||1975||Alan Curtis|
|A Bridge Too Far||1977||Lt. Gen. Frederick 'Boy' Browning|
|*The Patricia Neal Story||1981||Roald Dahl|
|*May We Borrow Your Husband?||1986||William Harris|
|The Vision||1988||James Marriner|