Dedications: My four late friends Rory, Stan, Bryan, Jeff - shine on you crazy diamonds, they would have blogged too. Then theres Garry from Brisbane, Franco in Milan, Mike now in S.F. / my '60s-'80s gang: Ned & Joseph in Ireland; in England: Frank, Des, Guy, Clive, Joe & Joe, Ian, Ivan, Nick, David, Les, Stewart, the 3 Michaels / Catriona, Sally, Monica, Jean, Ella, Anne, Candie / and now: Daryl in N.Y., Jerry, John, Colin, Martin and Donal.

Thursday, 23 April 2015

Dirk pleads: stop calling me a 'film' star!

An interesting feature by Dirk Bogarde in the January 1957 issue of "Films and Filming" - penned in 1956, where the popular actor writes on acting .... Here are some highlights:

Dirk Bogarde, who has gained international recognition for his performances in THE DOCTOR series, explains in this article why he prefers to be known as an actor.

"Last year I was acclaimed in this country as the most popular film star in Great Britain. Naturally I was very proud and rather flattered. Also I was amused at the phrase – film star. This is one of the most misused phrased by the press and public alike.
I consider that there are only about 40 genuine film stars in the whole world, most of whom are in America or on the Continent. It is difficult to define the word “star” – but I would have said that stars are the people with the extrovert personalities and the sparkling quality that puts the glamour, the glitter and the “stardust” into a very tough work-a-day job. All of these people are highly talented and highly accomplished performers. They are the ones who, if you like, put the show into business. They are also larger than life in every possible way.
The rest of us – and I include myself – are what I would choose to call star film actors. We are the people who manage to hold a strong position at the box office, but who have also been trained in the craft of acting. People who have studied their job for several years and who can claim, after 10 or 12 films, to be sound knowledgeable technicians.
The term “film star” is applied in the press to a small child of five who is bullied or cajoled into giving some sort of performance with the aid of distraught adult actors, a patient director and an expert cutter. It also applies to a large collie dog commonly known as Lassie.
The film star tag can be a serious handicap during an actor’s essential excursions into the theatre. Even being known as a film actor is difficult. In a stage play one’s fellow players sometimes feel resentful because they assume the film actor’s name is being used to boost the box-office takings. This is possibly true, sometimes. The critics of course delight in referring to “brave Mr Bogarde unwisely attempts the stage” or “Mr Bogarde sacrifices the safety of the studio and the luxury of retaking bad performances to challenge the immediacy of the cold, hostile footlights”.
It is conveniently forgotten that I have spent more time in the theatre than in films. I started my career in repertory  at the age of 16, boiling the glue, stretching the canvas and generally getting pushed around. I played, I suppose, in repertory and the small theatres around London in probably 40 or 50 plays and during the past 10 years I have appeared in over 10 plays, 4 of which have had reasonable runs in the West End of London.
I openly confess, and I do this with humility, that I dislike the boredom of the theatre. I find the repetitious presentation of one single creation madly monotonous after the studio routine, where practically every day has some little moment which has the equivalent excitement and panic of a first night.
However I maintain theatre is an essential experience which every actor in films must have at first. If he does not seek it, he is stunting his own talent. The theatre teaches an actor practically all the basic essentials of a film actor’s job and, most important it gives him confidence and shows him how to project himself.
Certainly the theatre presents the finest, if not the only way of learning the highly difficult art of comedy, since audience reaction is imperative in developing and cultivating style, pace and, most essential, timing. This brings me back to the cinema and THE DOCTOR films, the third of which I have just completed. I know these are not great works of art, but they are enormous fun to make and have vast family audience appeal. They are entertaining, which, after all, is the essence of my job. If it were not for Dr Sparrow I probably would not be where I am today. For that, and the foresight of producer Betty Box, who practically forced me to play in the first of the series, I shall be forever grateful.
Today in the cinema I am fortunate enough to pursue exactly the kind of acting pattern I want. It has taken me 9 years to achieve this. I can now contrast comedy, such as DOCTOR IN THE HOUSE (a form of high comedy) with off-beat dramas like CAST A DARK SHADOW or THE SEA SHALL NOT HAVE THEM (in which I played whimpering, neurotic young men).
It is essential to play as many varied roles as possible. This keeps an actor’s audience-interest alive. A leading actor who specialises in one part only or one character only seems to me to be strapping himself into an artistic strait-jacket. This also applies to the unfortunate stage actor who has to play one part every night of his life for three years.
I have been a so-called popular film actor for 10 years. Normally that is a long run. I may be living on borrowed time. I may have to seek wider fields – Hollywood, if the right script turns up and if it satisfies me and my bosses.
We have not enough writers who write for films. The good novelist and the good playwright is not necessarily a good film writer. In all my career, I can honestly claim that there have been only a handful of scripts with which I have not been forced to “muck about” a bit. I cannot use the phrase “rewrite” because that is far too pompous and indeed is not what I do; but I do spend many hours rewriting dialogue to make it possible for me to say. Film dialogue which looks good on paper is often difficult to speak; and that film dialogue which looks awful in print, is often wonderful to play. This has been borne out again and again. I suggest that some script writers should read their scripts alound to themselves. Doubtless they will point out that the actor is the one paid to do that.
It is because I am inordinately proud of, and passionately believe in, our film industry, that I make what are meant to be constructive comments."

We tend to forget that Bogarde did a lot of stage work initially, and had to give it up when the "fans" began to spoil the performances as they had turned up to see their "Idol of the Odeons" - though he certainly did enough fan stuff for them with all the posed stills and fan magazines, as per the selection here, and his record album ! No wonder he wanted to be taken seriously by the likes of Losey and Visconti etc. 
Good too to get a repeat of Dirk's various television interviews in the BBC Talking Pictures series, which I had recorded last year and lost on the hard disk, along with several others. I wrote about this at the time - Bogarde label - so hopefully they will also repeat the Bette Davis and Jame Mason programmes, where I am visible in the audience, all of 40+ years ago ...
How time moves on: Interesting to see James Fox - Dirk's co-star in THE SERVANT, 1963, left, and now in his 70s, is appearing on stage with another of his actor sons, Jack (another son Laurence is a busy television detective here) in a new play DEAR LUPIN, which is touring at the moment before playing in the West End. I saw James two years ago now at that special screening of the Losey classic to launch its Blu-ray release, it was fascinating to see it on the big screen again, along with co-stars Sarah Miles and Wendy Craig. As I had seen Dirk and Losey at separate events in 1970, I just couldn't miss this. 

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