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.

Tuesday, 8 March 2016

Dirk in 1971

I came across a fascinating long interview with Dirk Bogarde by Gordon Gow in the May 1971 200th issue of one of my favourite magazines "Films and Filming", about the time Dirk was promoting Visconti's DEATH IN VENICE. (As I have recounted here before, I met him about 6 months before this interview, at the London BFI in November 1970 where he gave a very entertaining lecture and Q&A session, and he autographed the programme for me afterwards when I managed to have a quick conversation with him). 
Dirk always gave good interview and this one is choice. I must quote some extracts .... as he talks about Marilyn Monroe, and various films of his like THE SPANISH GARDENER, THE SERVANT, ACCIDENT and DEATH IN VENICE. He talks a lot about Visconti here, and was particularly fond of SENSO

"Marilyn had this intangible wistfulness … in BUS STOP she was magical. Do you remember the scene where she gets her tatty old train ripped off her by a man at a cafĂ© table when she is doing her act? Do you remember her look of pain and rage and despair?

THE SPANISH GARDENER: “In those days they wouldn’t have anything to do with homosexuality. The whole premise of the original story was that a small boy, without any sexual knowledge, fell in love with the gardener because he had no love at all from his parents. He had no mother and a perfectly foul father. This sort of thing so often happens. The whole story tilted on the fact that the father became incurably jealous because he was sexually in love with the gardener. And of course that did not come through because then we were supposed to be making nice wholesome pictures. In the end nothing worked out, I wasn’t killed as the gardener was in the book. We made it all nice for the Odeon circuit. It was so absurd and shameful I did not go and see it, but the old aunties and uncles loved it." (In the book, a best-seller by A.J. Cronin, Jose the gardener is 19 - Bogarde was 35 at the time, and the character was not killed off as in the novel, as Rank created a false happy ending to send audiences home happy).   

He is not especially fond of his work in THE SERVANT. “It amuses me. It was enormous fun to do – it was no effort. It was entirely technical to act. Harold Pinter had written it so unfailingly that you couldn’t put a foot wrong in it. I was surrounded with only the very best people, and it was as easy as falling off a log. But THE SERVANT will be a classic film for all time. I know – whatever happens to me – I will be in the archives because of THE SERVANT. In its entirety of course, its an important film. Especially now we know all about LSD – surprise, surprise. Apparanty audiences didn’t now about LSD when the film was first shown, and none of the critics did either, and the whole ending is LSD – the boy is on a trip. I’ve seen it again in America recently and it stands up, and it is absolutely chilling in German – more than that, it’s a towering picture. But from my point of view it cost me very little emotionally, because I’m nothing to do with the man I played in THE SERVANT so it was easy to become a North country bastard called Barrett and his compulsion to dominate." Shame he was not asked about Gabriel, his high camp arch-villain in Losey's 1966 MODESTY BLAISE ... (one of my essential movies). Left: a MODESTY publicity shot.

He says though that ACCIDENT is the best film Losey and Bogarde did together. I was very aware of the emotions of the man in ACCIDENT and I was almost in a trance for about four months after I’d finished it. …. I put all the clothes and shoes that I wore for the character into a trunk and locked them up. I wore them later in JUSTINE and left them all behind me in Hollywood, so they may come up for sale in 20th Century Fox’s lot. I got rid of them, you see, because the man I had been in ACCIDENT was dead and I didn’t want his clothes  - locked them away as you would with the clothes of anybody who has died in a sudden car crash. JUSTINE was much later and Pursewarden was a different man." (I saw and reviewed ACCIDENT again recently, scroll down or over the page..).

"Aschenbach in DEATH IN VENICE is the ultimate loser. He’s a dying man, he goes to Venice for the last months of his life. After years of rigorous and strict belief that beauty is created by man, he suddenly finds at dinner one night that God, quite alone by Himself, all up there in Heaven, has created a piece of beauty sitting across the soup plate … a youth of such beauty that Aschenbach can’t believe it. … Before he dies he sees that God was right and man was wrong. That God is in fact the creator of beauty … I do believe there is a higher power, and I don’t know any other word for it but God. I think our future is formed: whether you go and play golf on the moon or get squashed by a truck on a French bypass. Its all shaped."

Bogarde now lives in his house in France, at Grasse, eschewing the crowded beaches below and settling for a hose-down in his back garden. He is waiting for Alain Resnais to give him the word to start work on a film about the Marquis de Sade, but money has been difficult to raise. “I’ve got a very pleasant place to live in now. Sufficient money to exist for the rest of my life if I’m very careful. I can manage … DEATH IN VENICE could well be the finish for me. I don’t want to go back to the things I did before – the DOCTORS and all that rubbish. If DEATH IN VENICE fails, I’ll stay with it as a failure. If it’s a success, and my performance in it has worked, then perhaps it’s the film I’ve always been wanting to make – and I might someday go and do another somewhere, but I’m not anxious." 

Of course that Resnais film did not happen - Dirk as the Marquis de Sade would have been interesting! - , but he and Resnais did the wonderful PROVIDENCE in 1977, and by then he had began his series of memoirs and novels as he became a best-selling writer. 
His later books like "A Short Walk From Harrods" recount his later French years and his and partner Tony Forwood's return to London due to ill-health - where he died in 1999 aged 78. Interesting too to read about the LSD in THE SERVANT, It did seem that Tony (James Fox) was drugged at the end, but I did not imagine it could have been LSD! (We certainly knew about LSD in 1968 when we were seeing The Doors and Jefferson Airplane in concert and the 2001 film on acid, but hardly early in the decade). 
It was interesting too seeing THE SERVANT again on the big screen a couple of year ago, as I have recounted previously, at the Curzon Soho, to tie in with its Blu-ray release, with co-stars Fox, Sarah Miles and Wendy Craig present, to discuss the film and their memories of working with Dirk and Losey, both of whom I had seen (separately) back in 1970 when I was a mere 24. Left: Bogarde at the BFI in 1970.
LOTS more Bogarde at the labels ....  


  1. An excellent article as always though it should have been retitled Drop That Name :) I watched THE SPANISH GARDENER again recently and was less impressed than what I remember. Dirk, of course, made for the most unlikely of Spaniards (and I should know!).

  2. You and your name-dropping fixation! If one is writing about someone then surely it is relevant or of interest to mention that one has met that person. Deal with it.

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