The Curious Arc of Dirk Bogarde’s Star
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Published in: May-June 2024 issue.


DIRK BOGARDE (1921–1999) was a British film actor of the postwar era who was a major star in Europe and even made inroads into the American dream machine. His first Hollywood film was the underwhelming Song without End: The Story of Franz Liszt (1960). The film’s director dropped dead of a heart attack during production, and the final release flopped. Bogarde went back to Europe and never again attempted to court Hollywood, whose obsession with money and profit he found a fatal turn-off. Also, he found the Continent more congenial to his lifestyle as a gay man at a time when homosexuality was illegal in the UK and could get you blacklisted in Hollywood.

            At that time—the late 1950s and early ’60s—sleaze was starting to sell, and gay rumors were finding their way into print in the ever-expanding tabloid press. Certainly the Anglo-American media would have wasted no time blowing the cover on Bogarde and his relationship with live-in “manager” Tony Forwood, with whom he would live until his death in 1988. In 1968, Bogarde and Tony set up house in a rural village in the South of France, where they were safe from the media glare, in a country free of the Protestant prejudices Bogarde so vocally loathed.

            Bogarde had been an intelligence agent during World War II, and was present at the liberation of Bergen-Belsen. Upon returning to England after the war, Bogarde set about getting his acting act together and appeared in a string of rather banal comedies that, for whatever they lacked in substance, made Bogarde one of the biggest stars in England. He was said to be “the Idol of the Odeons,” and developed a huge following of young female fans and, one suspects, a few male ones, too.

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Erik Lewis is a writer, voyager, and interviewer whose blog is at


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