Friday, 29 March 2013

A favourite rediscovered

A week ago I headed reluctantly into town, no choice really, shopping to be done and my library books were due back that day.

Having made a careful list I went first to the library, queued for ages to hand my books back and  shot off in the freezing wind to get round the remainder as quickly as possible.

It was only on the bus on my way home that I realised I had forgotten to get any books out.

Kicking myself I headed upstairs to my collection of biographies and auto biographies to see what might fill the gap.  Looking at a shelf I seldom 'see', I grabbed one of my collection of the late Dirk Bogarde's dozen or so efforts.

Entitled "For the time being", it is a book in two parts, the first dealing with some aspects of his 'movie' career, the second consisting of letters he wrote - many book reviews - for the Guardian and Telegraph in the 2nd part of his remarkable career.

As a young actor I found him pretty but boring, mainly taking light weight roles in third-rate films, and had more or less written him off until, suddenly, in the middle of his life he began to emerge as a good actor in such films as "Victim", "The Servant", "The Night Porter", and then on to his major triumphs, "Death in Venice" and "Daddy Nostalgie".

He had, in the middle of this latter period begun to write.  His first truly excellent story about his childhood "A Postillion Struck by Lightning" was immediately successful and went into several editions.

This was followed by a series of autobiographies interspersed with a few (not very good) novels.

He was at the same time, being interviewed on TV by a variety of probing, speculating interviewers who were obviously digging for a specific revelation, which with charm and humour he adroitly evaded.

Among some of the very most fascinating and gripping of his stories, touched on in interview, but elaborated on in depth in some of his books, were the terrible eye-witness descriptions of his entry into the horrors of Bergen-Belsen as a young British army officer in 1945.

Profoundly shocked and distressed he was never  quite able to verbalise these stories in interview, but they had a deep and lasting affect on his way of looking at life.

"For the Time Being" touches on this period only briefly but the writing is stark and graphic and it is here that we see a very different Bogarde from the urbane and cynical one we see elsewhere. 

He was awarded an honorary doctorate of letters at Stirling University in about 1985/6 and went on to give a series of lecture/talks/concerts, some of them after his first serious stroke and made a huge impression in this further extension of his notable repertoire.

Until I picked up this book and re-read it for the first time for many years I had forgotten just what a hugely talented man this was.

He was a lot less 'pretty' in old age but far far more interesting.

I will attempt to put a photo of him in later years below.  (no guarantees).

Hoorah.  Did it!


  1. That's what I call serendipity, Ray. Thanks for this interesting post. I well remember his books being published and well-requested in my time as a librarian, but it's ages since I read any of them. Time to rediscover him for myself, perhaps.

  2. I'm glad I'm not the only one who remembers him Perpetua.
    He was one of those people whose latent talents took time to reveal themselves. Multi-talented, he acted,wrote, painted and drew, all rather well,but the acting and the writing just kept getting better.
    It is such a pity he became so ill at theend of his life, his unwritten books would have been worth waiting for.

  3. Not sure how I missed this post, since I have you in my list of blogs I like to visit...having always thought of Dirk Bogarde as just another "pretty face" I'll have to see if I can find some of the later movies he acted in and some of the books he wrote. Particularly interested in "For the Time Being"...during WWII my husband was with one of the US Army Divisions that liberated Dachau...the memories of what he saw stayed with him for the remainder of his life.

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