Dirk Bogarde makes a TV ad for sunglasses in Rome, meets Luchino Visconti, 1968
01.13.2014
08:33 am

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Dirk Bogarde “coveted the dream” of making a change in his cinematic career. He longed for some “self-respect,” but that day in May, 1968, Bogarde was in Rome, earning his living, filming an advert for sunglasses on the city’s Spanish Steps.

This was not how he hoped his future career would progress. Though thankfully, as Bogarde later recalled in the second volume of autobiography, Snakes and Ladders, it didn’t last long and was less “shameful” than he had imagined.

I ran up and down the steps twenty or thirty times, inanely smiling, blacked-out by the sun-glasses which successfully concealed my face, mute, since I spoke no word, sweltering in a flannel suit and new shoes which slipped on the polished stone.

Of course, Bogarde did not know it then, but this advert would bring him into orbit of the director who would bring him his greatest artistic success.

Luchino Visconti was in Rome casting for a movie, which was partially inspired by Shakespeare’s Macbeth. Bogarde had read a first draft of the screenplay, but thought the central character of Freidrich Bruckmann “wet.” However, his partner and manager, Anthony Forwood arranged for Bogarde to meet with Visconti to discuss the project further. Though against the film, the actor followed Forwood’s advice.

On meeting in an hotel, over whisky and sodas, Bogarde was impressed with Visconti, and despite his original misgivings, agreed to take the role of Friedrich in the film, which became The Damned. It was from this first fortuitous meeting that Bogarde and Visconti went on to work with each other on Death in Venice.
 

Written by Paul Gallagher | Discussion
David Mercer: The socialist playwright behind ‘Morgan’ and ‘Providence’

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The playwright David Mercer was born in 1928, in a working class district of Wakefield, in the north of England. He was raised amid the poverty and hardship that bred the instinctual Socialism of his father and uncles, which they had learned from experience, and gathered from books by Wells, Shaw, Lenin and Marx. This was Mercer’s first taste of the politics, handed-down, father-to-son, which was to influence all of his writing.

He quit school at 14, and worked as an apprentice technician, before he signed-on for 4-years with the Royal Navy. He went on to study at King’s College, Newcastle, then married and moved to Paris, where he tried his hand as an artist, before deciding he was best suited at being a writer. He wrote long, rambling novels influenced by Wyndham-Lewis. The practice taught him he could writer, but his novels were too abstract and had no relation to how he truly felt. This taught him that he could write but was not a novelist, he therefore started writing plays.

His first Where the Difference Begins (1961) was originally intended for the stage, but was produced for television by the BBC. The play was a valediction to the old men of Socialism, the Keir Hardie inspired patriarchical socialism being left behind by the active Marxism of a younger generation. The play reflected the difference between his father’s beliefs and Mercer’s own—though Mercer was smart enough to be critical of his own ideals.

The play was successful and he followed it with A Climate of Fear (1962), which dealt with conscience under the threat of a possible nuclear war, and The Birth of a Private Man (1963), concerning the problems of maintaining strong political conscience within an affluent environment.

Mercer brought a naturalism to the theater of ideas—he discussed issues of Empire, politics and patriarchy in plays such as, The Governor’s Lady (1965) and After Haggerty (1970), while his television plays, The Parachute (1968), which starred fellow playwright John Osborne, and On The Eve of Publication (1969) with an incredible central performance by Leo McKern, and Shooting the Chandelier (1977) with Alun Armstrong and Edward Fox, which have shaped TV drama right through to present day (in particular the works of Stephen Poliakoff or David Hare), though David Mercer himself is all too often forgotten.

Though a Socialist, Mercer was never blinkered to the follies and mistakes of Socialism, Communism and the politics of the Left. He was aware that the aim of political revolution was often frustrated by the inherited conventions of society, and by the frailty of human emotion and mind. This was shown to it great effect in the film version of his play, Morgan: A Suitable Case for Treatment (1966), in which David Warner, had an obsessional relationship with Marxism, apes, and his ex-wife (Vanessa Redgrave), that led him to (literally) become a revolutionary “gorilla” determined to derail his ex-wife’s new relationship. 
 

 
With thanks to NellyM
 
More from David Mercer and the theater of politics, after the jump…
 

Written by Paul Gallagher | Discussion
Dirk Bogarde: A Life of Letters

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By 1968, Dirk Bogarde thought his film career was drawing to a close, as his days as a matinee idol were long over, and the offers of work had slowed. With his partner Tony Forwood, he moved to France, and started a second career as a writer. Bogarde proved to be an exceptional writer, producing 15 bestsellers, including volumes of autobiography and fiction. He was also a dedicated correspondent, penning letters to his many friends and fans. Bogarde’s letters are filled with gossip and back-biting, sketches and scintillating tales of his life.

This first letter was written when Bogarde had finished work on Richard Attenborough’s A Bridge Too Far, with Sean Connery, Ryan O’Neil and Michael Caine, and was also re-dubbing his voice on Alain Resnais Providence.

Though Bogarde was a prolific writer, he could not spell (ahem…rather like Nigel Molesworth), and the following is presented as was written.

To Bee Gilbert, Clermont, 13 September, 1976

Dearest Sno’

What a lovely long letter to cheer me up on my return, three days ago, from a hellish week of looping in Paris. I got there to find that I had to loop the entire fucking film… 200 loops. The sound engineers were dreadful (from Telly natch) and the birds, dogs and airoplanes which scattered across the locations screwd us up even more. Well… it is done now. Am home again for a couple of weeks before returning to Old Father Attenboroughs Disney-Arnhem. Which I dread. Ah well. It will make a bomb, with all those Stars how can it fail? Adored Sean C and worked very happily indeed with him… and made a surprising new mate in Ryan O’Neil who could not be nicer, jollier and brighter! That WAS a surprise. Tote says it was because he was so bloody respectful to me all the time… but I just liked the bloke. And he’s good too. And THAT was a surprise. Gene Hackman was a bit Methody and got cross if the camera operator was on the set while he was rehearsing… but was very pleasant to me and quite good, not more, when it came to the Acting.

Mike Cain pulled the Movie Star bit a bit much… the big cigar, black glasses and fat Cadillac… but he was pleasant if dull and has to have the ugliest voice in the business… and pop eyes. And that was a surprise too. I dont think I could go through it again for anything. Even the lolly. A woman from The New York Times ruefully mumbled that doing something as crappy for so much loot left ‘a kind of stain.’ I wonder if she was right. Holland was hell. Apart from the van Goghs, Rembrants and the Vermeers it is all a lot of crappy horror… We stayed in a ‘dainty’ little hotel in a wood where dinner started at 6.30pm and was off at 8.45. THAT went down like a cup of cold sick as you may imagine. Especially as the prices were identicle to the Lancaster in Paris! However we had three weeks there and flew back on a beastly Caravelle, which bounced all the way to Nice…

We have had, unlike you, a soaking summer… everything green and lush… while the great trees in the Luxumbourg Gardens are all dead. And now Tote is out mowing acres of white daisies and autumn crocus and I think I’d better go and help him… regretfully. I am so lazy and full of reaction… odd.

God bless you, pretty Sno… all love as ever for ever… as you know.

Sno.

YoR

Dirk.

Bogarde did not have worry too much about his cinematic career, as the 1970s saw him working with Luchino Visconti on Death in Venice, Liliana Cavani on The NIght Porter, with Rainer Werner Fassbinder on Despair and Bertrand Tavernier’s Daddy Nostalgie.

In 1983, Bogarde’s partner Tony Forwood was diagnosed with Parkinson’s and cancer, which led the couple to leave France for England in 1987. Not long after their arrival Bogarde suffered a stroke, and the following year Forwood died. Bogarde was devastated, only his writing kept him from suicide. He maintained his various correspondences, including one to Penelope Mortimer, whom he had written to since 1971.

In this letter from 1991, Bogarde responds to Mortimer’s gentle cajoling, and gives a portrait of his life after Forwood’s death.

To Penelope Mortimer, Cadogan Gardens, 24 September, 1991

Bloody hell, you are difficult. I TOLD you that you would find my letter nausiating, people like you, those who see everything in dusk-tones, would. I AM a sort of Pollyanna… and after years of just keeping away from people on account of millions came to me to watch my cavorting, living a secluded life in my small-holding I suddenly got shoved into FULL LIFE with no protection and in a Foreign Land.

After a time of, shall we say reflection?, I decided that having had one stroke and not much liking the effects, I could very well have another, had to live in filthy UK… had to live in London… where better to be than where I started off at 16 as a Student at Chelsea Poly? Parents had been students there too. And the Slade. I felt ‘right’ in the area. Coming to terms was difficult. To terms with walking quite unprotected in streets jammed with curious people.

‘I think it is. Look!’
‘You ask him. Go on. He cant bite you?’
‘Were you Dirk Bogarde?’
‘Left France, have you?’
‘I remember your face but not the name? Humphry someone… ‘

I ducked into my anorak and tried to walk, as I told you, only at dusk or just when shops had opened. Fewer people. No standing with curious, autograph hunting, housewives in lines at the Check Outs. Sainsbury’s, Tesco, Waitrose were soon abandoned. People followed one.

‘He’s buying tinned tomatos.’
‘Thinner than I imagined.’
‘Smaller.’
‘And balding… see?’
‘Pity. But after 50, you know… ‘
‘Could you sign this? Not for me, for my neice, grandmother, wife, son, sister, baby-sitter, cousin Agnes, Eileen, with two e’s please, Anne with an “e”...’

No one, ever, in France behaved like this. Not even in Paris… unless they were British. I felt, all the time, as if my cock was hanging out of my pants: I hunched my shoulders, wore a Purdy cap, scuttled (as far as I could scuttle with a wonky leg) and my doctor thought that it might be ‘obesessional’. Might it? I’d never had an obsession before, save for lizards, frogs, birds, and those kinds of things. So I decided to either go mad or face up to it. I faced up to it. Took off the cap… walk INTO the Check out… smile at everyone because they SMILE at me! Memory jogs them… of some time in which I must have figured in their private lives somewhere… at any age from 10 to 70. My films are always on TV on Sunday. I am counted as a friend. OK. I’ll settle for that. It is far better than hiding in this flat wondering what to do, how to die gracefully.

RAGE. Yes. You make the error of thinking that RAGE has to be manifest, that one shouts and screams with what you call ‘fury’. Balls. RAGE is sometimes inside. Heard of a Rage To Live?

You react to one puny sentence in my letter about 50 years and body-bags on a too small stair-case. But RAGE did’nt remotely come NEAR the thing. Acceptance, humility, fear of ‘what now’, relief that three years of almost unendurable suspense, of desperate distress physically, of loss but relief that it was over. Knowing is so much better, I promise you, than wondering: and hope is pretty hollow when it leaves.

No sense of injustice. Helplessness, yes. To a point. But one is forced by distress and need to rally. No fury. At all. Why? It happens; we are born to die. When Anna, the Night Nurse, and I tried to turn the patient [Tony Forwood] he said, and I could only hear by putting my head against his chest and ‘took’ the vibrations, ‘If you did this to a dog they’d arrest you’. Right. He was being ‘jokey’. But he was right. Which is why I am now the Vice President of VES… and sticking my neck out against Catholics and British Manners and Members of the BMA. IN public. But no Rage. I had the most wonderous 50 years of my life. So did my partner. WE both knew that we’d have to pay. And did. OK?

I have come to terms with my life, I only have an active 10 years reasonably left. Christ! Why waste them? I have just written to Radio Drama. TV [sic] and refused, politely, their kind offer to write a play, or a series, for them. I have quoted the things I watched for homework. ‘Tittmuss’, House of Elliot, Trainer and some dire thing, they adored, which starred my (once) deeply respected Tom Courtney. Impossible to believe any of them. Lowest-Common-Watcher. I’d rather stay with my Telegraph Readers. At least they write back intelligently. I’m off to do a bit of Auschwitch again: then there is RAGE. Then, my love.
Will that do? Hope that you are not vexed that I shoved R. Fox the Handle? It’s only a nudge of course. But he’s bright, clever, and very sharp. Also his track record is amazing, and his wife is to die [for,] she is so adorable, tough, beautiful and can act! Wow!

Love

D.

Dirk Bogarde‘s letters are collected in the volume Ever, Dirk, edited by his biographer John Coldstream.
 
Previously on Dangerous Minds

Dirk Bogarde: Never screened on TV interview from 1975


Dirk Bogarde: Still Cool


 
HT to the Telegraph
 

Written by Paul Gallagher | Discussion
Dirk Bogarde: Never screened on TV interview from 1975

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Bishopbriggs was where the trams from Glasgow ended. It was also where Dirk Bogarde spent his early teenage years, from 1934-37, living with a well-to-do uncle and aunt, while commuting to-and-from Allan Glen School in the city.

Glasgow shaped Bogarde, and though he hated his time there, he latter admitted, in his first volume of autobiography, A Postilion Struck by Lightning:

‘The three years in Scotland were, without doubt, the most important years of my early life. I could not, I know now, have done without them. My parents, intent on giving me a solid, tough scholastic education to prepare me for my Adult Life, had no possible conception that the education I would receive there would far outweigh anything a simple school could have provided.’

What Glasgow gave the young Bogarde, after his childhood idyll of Sussex, was “a crack on the backside which shot [him] into reality so fast [he] was almost unable to catch [his] breath for the pain and disillusions which were to follow.”

At Allan Glen’s School, Bogarde soon found himself “dumped in a lavatory pan by mindless classmates” because he spoke with “the accent of a Sassenach”. It was part of the cruelty that taught the young Bogarde to build a “carapace” against his peers. In his isolation he developed his skills as an artist and writer, and dreamt of escape.

Glasgow also offered Bogarde his first sexual experience with an older man - the dressed in beige Mr. Dodd, who he met whilst skipping classes at the Paramount Picture Palace - “the meeting place of all the Evil in Glasgow”.

Mr. Dodd seduced the young schoolboy with an ice lolly and a hand on the knee, during a performance of Boris Karloff’s The Mummy. Though Bogarde had seen the film 3 times before, he was keen to replicate Karloff’s performance, and so willingly returned to Mr Dodd’s apartment, where he was tightly trussed-up in bandages, all except his pubescent genitals, which thrust through the swaddling rags “as pink and vulnerable as a sugar mouse.” Mr. Dodd flipped Bogarde onto a bed, and tossed him off. Bogarde felt something terrible was going to happen, and offered up 3 or 4 “Hail Mary’s” in the hope of being rescued. Of course, he knew God’s help wouldn’t arrive, as he knew what would happen as Mr Dodd fiddled about.

When he left Glasgow, Bogarde was changed. He had developed the drive that would bring him success, and formed a personality that would keep the world twice-removed from the creative and sensitive young man he was at heart.

The following interview with this charming man was never broadcast on TV. Recorded in London for the release of the film Permission to Kill (aka The Executioner) in 1975, Bogarde discussed the movie, and his career with interviewer, Mark Caldwell.
 

 
Previously on Dangerous Minds

Dirk Bogarde Still Cool

 

Written by Paul Gallagher | Discussion
Dirk Bogarde still cool
03.29.2011
05:12 pm

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Dirk Bogarde

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Dirk Bogarde was cool. He had style. I knew that as soon as I saw him in one B&W ‘50’s movie, loafing around a beach, chatting to his bikini-clad co-star, wearing white trousers, white shirt, white socks and plimsolls. Who else could carry that off? Okay, Cary Grant could, but Grant would have added a cravat, and topped it off with a checked linen jacket.

It’s telling that Bogarde wore such clothes in a beach scene - surrounded by naked flesh cooking under a studio sun - he maintained a distance, an image, a decorum, an untouchability. He was actually hiding who he was, hiding behind his clothes; and that distance, rightly or wrongly, made him seem cool.

Bogarde started off in theater before making his impact as the cowardly killer of P.C. Dixon (Jack Warner) in The Blue Lamp.  Warner went on to become a stalwart of TV with Dixon of Dock Green, while Bogarde became the Rank Organization’s prime beefcake, the biggest British star of the 1950s, with a string of audience-pleasing movies. While these films brought fame and fortune, they sold short his very real talents as an actor.

This was to change, when in 1961, Bogarde made Victim, the highly controversial film that moved his career in a different, more intelligent, more worthy direction.

Victim dealt with the then-taboo subject of homosexuality, telling the story of a man who falls prey to a blackmail gang. It was the first film to use the word “homosexual” and caused considerable outrage amongst those angry letter writers of Tunbridge Wells, but it did help change opinions, and was a step in the right direction to Britain decriminalizing homosexuality in 1967.

Worried that Bogarde (who was himself gay) might lose some of his mass of adoring female admirers, Rank roped him into this promotional interview for Victim, where the actor talked about his career, his ambitions and hopes for the future. It’s a fairly candid interview for a man who, in his later years, fictionalized most of his life.

Dirk Bogarde would have been 90 this week, and for me, he’s still cool as fuck.
 

 

Written by Paul Gallagher | Discussion