Our next question should be: how can you forget Dirk Bogarde?
Yes, he was often touted as the British Rock Hudson. Both were homosexual men playing all manner of heart throbs in all manner of titles, from heavy dramatic films to comedies.
And both, of course, were handsome movie actors.
The similarities, however, stop about there. Whereas Hudson was never revered among the foremost actors of his generation, Bogarde was. (Among his many British honors, he was formally knighted in 1992. He also was the first British subject to be chosen as president of the Cannes Festival Jury.)
The son of a Flemish father and Scotch mother, Derek Niven van den Bogarde was born in London in 1921, and aspired initially to be a commercial artist. But the lure of the stage exerted its influence, and before World War II Bogarde took to the legitimate theater. After wartime service in the miltary — in Europe and the Pacific for which he was awarded several citations — his movie career began unceremoniously.
He managed to be in the right spot at the right time when Stewart Granger bowed out of 1948’s Esther Waters, and Bogarde took over the lead.
Rank was impressed, and Bogarde was signed to a long term contract which held the actor’s studio services to the next 14 years. In 1950 Bogarde’s chilling performance as a cop killer in The Blue Lamp substantially propelled his otherwise lethargic screen career to that point.
It was comedy, not drama that made the actor a household name in Britain. 1954’s Doctor In The House, with Bogarde playing Dr. Simon Sparrow, cemented the actor’s stardom. The picture was a huge smash, becoming one of Britain’s biggest box office hits ever. Bogarde was now a certified national heart throb.
By the early 1960’s Bogarde was treading lightly in Hollywood production, notably with two 1960 titles The Angel Wore Read — the subject of yesterday’s blog, with Ava Gardner — and The Song Without End, as composer Franz Liszt. And yes, he supported Judy Garland in 1963 in I Could Go On Singing.
After his Hollywood flirtations, Bogarde spent the rest of his career appearing in British and European productions. He worked with director Joseph Losey most notably in 1963’s The Servant…
… and with Italian director Liliana Cavani in 1973’s The Night Porter; and in two Luchino Visconti films, 1969’s The Damned and 1971’s Death in Venice (see below).
Bogarde died of a heart attack in London in 1999 at the age of 78. His longtime companion, Anthony Forwood, predeceased him by 11 years. The actor’s portrait by David Tindle hangs in London’s National Portrait Gallery when it’s not on loan to 10 Downing Street.