Why Dirk Bogarde was a truly dangerous film star

From heartthrob to icon of edginess, the actor had an extraordinary career. On the centenary of his birth, Sophie Monks Kaufman wonders if we will see so daring a leading man again.

By Sophie Monks Kaufman | BBC

Many actors have undergone transformations, from Olivia Colman morphing from a British sitcom mainstay into a serious actress of international repute, to Robert DeNiro trading method-actor intensity for jovial fare like Meet The Fockers – but no-one has made quite such a provocative career turn as Dirk Bogarde.

The British actor had two distinct phases: from 1948 he lit up screens as a dashing matinee idol, and then, from 1961, he chose roles that challenged received morality and that pushed the scope of cinema. All the while, he stayed alive to the world beyond his forcefield, as revealed by the entertaining letters he wrote to everyone from collaborators to random penpals.

As we approach the centenary of his birth this weekend, it’s interesting to reflect on a unique star whose legacy is a clarion call to pursue creative freedom. By the time he became an actor he had experienced enough of the heaviness of life to take fame lightly. In other words: he didn’t believe his own hype, even though there sure was a lot of it not to believe.

The crowd-pleasing early days

“Presenting Britain’s most popular star” shouts the trailer to the 1958 Charles Dickens adaptation A Tale of Two Cities, cutting to a figure who is every inch the romantic gentleman with a cravat, top hat and furrowed brow: “Dirk Bogarde as Sydney Carton”. Continue reading

New on DVD: The Night Porter

By Graham Fuller | the Arts Desk

The Night Porter depicts the consuming sadomasochistic love affair of an SS officer, Max (Dirk Bogarde), and the Catholic woman, Lucia (Charlotte Rampling), whom he both tortures and protects when she is a teenage concentration camp inmate, and who becomes his partner in a protracted liebestod when they meet by chance in Vienna 12 years after the war’s end. Think of it as the anti-Casablanca.

in 1957, Max is the eponymous hotel employee, ashamed of appearing in daylight, and Lucia is the decorous wife of a famous American conductor. They are drawn together again by mutual desire and guilt, but she is emotionally stronger now than he is, and serene in the notion that their story can only end one way.

Their love may have begun with a monstrous male gaze – posing as a white-coated camp doctor, Max filmed Lucia in close-up as she shuffled with other naked female prisoners toward “the showers” – but by the end it manifests purity and tenderness. That doesn’t mitigate Lucia having warmed to her role as Max’s rescued Nazi slut or Max having smirkingly gifted her, Salome-like, the head of her camp bully during the notorious cabaret sequence. Yet director Liliana Cavani does hint at joint redemption in their final act.

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