Gay History - March 28, 1921: #BOTD Actor Dirk Bogarde

Gay History – March 28, 1921: #BOTD Actor Dirk Bogarde

Actor Dirk Bogarde (March 28, 1921- May 8, 1999) was born Derek Jules Gaspard Ulric Niven van den Bogaerde, but his friends and fans just called him Dirk. Throughout his career, Bogarde appeared in more than 60 films and was known for his captivating performances and charming and sometimes intense screen presence.

Bogarde who became one of Britain’s top matinee idols in the 1950s. In the 1960s decided to do away with his heart-throb image with more challenging and greatest roles, including that of the closeted Melville Farr in 1961’s Victim, who resolves to break up an extortion racket that targets gay men. Time magazine, in its review of Victim, called it “a plea for perversion.” “Everybody in the picture who disapproves of homosexuals proves to be an ass, a dolt or a sadist,” Time fumed. “Nowhere does the film suggest that homosexuality is a serious (but often curable) neurosis that attacks the biological basis of life itself.”

But it was Bogarde’s work with director Joseph Losey that really cemented his reputation as a serious actor. In 1961, Bogarde starred in Losey’s film “The Servant,” which was a critical success and received several award nominations. The film explored themes of class, power, and sexuality and Bogarde’s portrayal of the manipulative manservant was both subtle and mesmerizing.  Bogarde also took on the gay lead in the 1971 art house film Death in Venice. Warner Brothers tried to drop the distribution of Death in Venice because they feared it would be banned for obscenity, but relented after Queen Elizabeth II and Princess Anne attended the London premiere.

It was brave for a popular actor to take on gay roles, especially in the 1960s and 1970s and it was doubly brave for Bogarde because he never officially came out although his sexuality was often the subject of rumors. He became an advocate for gay rights and was outspoken about his support for decriminalizing homosexuality. He remained dedicated to his lifelong partner, Anthony Forwood, whose 1988 death after a long struggle with Parkinson’s disease and liver cancer led Bogarde to become an advocate for assisted suicide. Bogarde, by then had quit acting and turned to writing, publishing seven memiors and several novels. Bogarde didn’t come out in any of his memoirs, although he did talk about caring for Forwood. 

Dirk Bogarde was knighted in 1992, suffered a debilitating stroke in 1996, and died of a heart attack in 1999. It wasn’t until 2004, upon the publication of an authorized biography, that his brother, Gareth van den Bogarde, finally acknowledged publicly that Dirk was gay.

Dirk Bogarde was a talented and brave actor who left an indelible mark on the film industry. He was known for his nuanced performances and his ability to convey complex emotions on screen. His portrayal of characters who were both flawed and compelling. Bogarde’s legacy continues to be celebrated by fans of classic cinema, and his influence can be seen in the work of many contemporary actors

Read more about the movie “Victim” and watch the FULL MOVIE HERE

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