It’s never actually been fully established that actor/author, Dirk Bogarde, was gay. But when you read the links below all evidence points toward that direction. The reason why I became curious had more to do with reading a bio of Noel Coward and Marlene Dietrich, by Michael Menzies, and reviewing it earlier this week. Coward was also supposedly gay, and Dietrich was allegedly bisexual. And this made me think about a bio I read a while ago about Merv Griffin and how I tended to wonder about whether or not the information was all true. According to the Griffin bio, all of Hollywood was gay. And the more I read the more I’m starting to wonder about whether or not that bio is actually telling the complete truth.
Of course some of what’s linked to now about Bogarde is hearsay. But many of the facts are just too solid not to be true. The one solid fact that remains to be true is that men in those days did not admit to being attracted to other men. It wasn’t done, and for some serious reasons I get into below.
Dirk Bogarde’s Art of Decadence:
By the ’60s, Bogarde had had enough of being screamed at by adoring girls, and he began exercising a strong discrimination about the roles he took — at his point, Bogarde seems to have selected films on the basis that they actually said something. He flouted taboos by making “Victim” in 1961, in which he played a public figure being blackmailed for homosexuality.
(Bogarde himself was gay but denied it during most of his career; though he wrote of his early sexual relationships with women and his passionate love for Judy Garland, he never wrote about the love of his life, his manager and partner Anthony Forwood, whom he was with for more than 50 years.)
This is fascinating; I’m going to make a point of seeing this film. If he played a public figure being blackmailed for homosexuality, I have to wonder how much of this was the real Dirk Bogarde flipping the bird to the world for all the years he had to remain in the closet. I would imagine he’d reached his own personal saturation point by then. And he was tired of pretending.
Sexy Self-Image that Revved Up Dirk Bogarde:
Bogarde, says Fraser, indicated to him that the physical side of his homosexual affair with his long-term companion, Tony Forwood, had ceased but that he dared not take casual lovers for fear of publicity. Then the top British romantic screen star of the post-war era gave the younger actor a demonstration of the substitute he had found to turn him on: high-revving a static Harley-Davidson motorcycle in his loft while gazing at a poster of himself clad in crotch-hugging leather trousers as a Spanish bandit in the 1961 film The Singer Not the Song. “It looked like a Narcissus fantasy come to life,” Fraser said yesterday.
How much of this is true I don’t know. It’s not something I would have repeated in a biography had I been writing one on Bogarde. And I’m sure it’s not something Bogarde would have approved even if he’d been out of the closet. There are some places you just don’t go. This is one of them. What he did to get turned on was his own business. It’s interesting how these things always come out after the person is dead.
Dirk Bogarde Web Site:
DirkBogarde.co.uk is the official website of the Dirk Bogarde Estate. The site is a tribute to the actor, writer and artist, and is a non-profit-making endeavour.
It is widely known that Dirk destroyed a large part of his archive, but during his life he carefully deposited his annotated film scripts with the BFI and his literary manuscripts with Boston University. This website aims to gather together what remained and to point the way to the relevant collections, to give the uninitiated a reasonable understanding of Dirk’s important role in the Arts and to offer a glimpse of his world on and off camera.
This web site is not going to get into anything about Bogarde being gay, or anything deeper than what he would have told the press fifty years ago himself. But there are some fascinating photos and some interesting things to read.
Dirk Bogarde Wiki:
Bogarde was a lifelong bachelor and, during his life, was assumed to be homosexual. Bogarde’s most serious friendship with a woman was with the French actress Capucine. For many years he shared his homes, first in Amersham and then in France, with his manager Anthony Forwood (a former husband of actress Glynis Johns and the father of their only child, actor Gareth Forwood (dec.)), but repeatedly denied that their relationship was anything but platonic. Such denials were understandable, mainly given that homosexual acts were illegal during most of his career, subject to imprisonment and against the conditions for termination specified in Rank Studio contracts with its actors, thus potentially putting his career as a major actor at jeopardy, which few actors of the time would risk.
As usual, wiki seems to be on top of it. Just by reading the beginning of the paragraph above you’ll see how this mimics the lives of so many other male Hollywood stars of the 20th Century. And, more important, the fact that “homosexual acts” were illegal sheds a new light on why so many remained deeply closeted. There’s also the career risk. In those days no one watched films with fags or homos unless they were laughing at them. To a certain extent, this still rings true today.
So whether or not Dirk Bogarde was actually gay remains to be seen, and it’s always going to be a mystery. Just like with so many other well known actors of his time…and actresses. I would also guess there was a certain amount of bitterness with which he both lived and died.
Although I took a beating from a few book reviewers with “TheVirgin Billionaire,” when I decided to parody Truman Capote’s “Breakfast at Tiffany’s,” as a gay erotic romance, I don’t have any regrets about doing it. I never kept it a secret; I told the truth from day one. What I did with that hetero story, by turning it into a gay story as parody with a sense of humor, isn’t anything different than other writers have been doing for years with storylines like Pygmalion. And, Capote was also gay, but never actually came out with it openly. All you had to do was meet him once and it was obvious, so they say. And I’m sure that when he was writing “Breakfast at Tiffany’s” he didn’t have any choices. He couldn’t write gay fiction back then. He wouldn’t have had a career if he had.
And I could never stop wondering about how wonderful “Breakfast at Tiffany’s” might have been if there had been two gay characters falling in love instead of a straight couple. And that’s because I’m gay, and that’s what resonates with me. And sometimes we all like to flip the bird a little, with a smile.