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An eagerly awaited paperback ...
on 22 August 2005
I'm delighted that John Coldstream's biography of Dirk Bogarde is now out in paperback, which means that more readers will have access to this compelling story of one of the finest actors of the 20th century. And, to my own pleasure, the paperback makes it easy to read in bed or carry in a pack, removing all worry about damaging my cherished hardback version.
Without reserve, I can say that this is one of the best biographies I have read in years and certainly the finest that will ever be written on Dirk Bogarde. From the minute one picks up this book, as beautiful in paperback as in hardback, one knows that it is not the usual star biography filled with gossip, written merely to pump up a star's image or to make a quick profit. Coldstream's engrossing look at the public and private lives of this icon of British film is impossible to put down. The first page quickly turns into 200 pages.
Coldstream has the rare perspective of friend and one who worked with Bogarde, which brings a special understanding and appreciation of the private Bogarde to this biography. Yet, unlike writers who set out to prove theories, Coldstream's balanced, extensively researched approach is the ultimate tribute to Bogarde. The reward for readers is a compelling view, written with candour, insight, and affection.
Given unlimited access by Bogarde's family to private papers, photos, and rare home movies, Coldstream unfolds a life that holds us spellbound. He illuminates the early influences on Bogarde, his military years, journey from matinee idol to serious actor, second career as a writer, and knighthood in 1992, giving us behind-the-scenes looks at some of the biggest names and players in British film and Hollywood.
We are privy to Bogarde's thoughts on the Rank and Hollywood Studio systems, on acting, the rigours of filming, and his unaccredited revisions of inadequate scripts. We hear his usual candid, often affectionate comments on the famous people who graced his beautiful homes on any given weekend: Ingrid Bergman, Ava Gardner, Judy Garland, Charlotte Rampling; directors Cukor, Losey, and Visconti, to name a few. Bogarde knew them all. Equally fascinating are their thoughts on him, the private man and actor, in the countless interviews Coldstream conducted across the globe and the extensive papers and first-hand sources he examined in the course of his research.
But Coldstream gives us more than the glitter of Bogarde's career in film. There is Bogarde at his beloved farm in Provence, the stray pets he sheltered, his natural talent for writing and the evolution of his 15 best sellers and later years writing for the Daily Telegraph, to the dark days when illness overcame his partner Forwood and then stalked Bogarde. Coldstream does not shy away from addressing questions readers have had about the elusive Bogarde, no easy image to capture. A continuing question has been whether his 40-year relationship with agent and companion Tony Forward was a homosexual one, something Bogarde denied to his death in 1999. To Coldstream's great credit, he does not speculate but lays out what he finds and leaves it to the reader to make up his mind on this and other aspects that continue to swirl around this fascinating man.
The paperback version has retained the elegance of the hardback edition and its extensive chapter-by-chapter sources, appendices, and comprehensive index, including the wonderful endpaper drawing of Bogarde by Richard Cole, all of which reveal the taste and intelligence behind this effort. There are some 130 photos many never published, including Bogarde's own drawings. An added perk is a new cover photo of a younger, ever handsome Bogarde in his late 30s at the top of his game as reigning matinee idol, a throne he eagerly abdicated for more complex roles. A perfect choice, the photo reveals Bogarde's discerning intellect and inner discontent, which drove him to make such daring, independent career choices.
Coldstream has truly captured the spirit of Bogarde, the actor, writer and man, as well as the caustic wit yet kind and loyal friend. Few books leave one with the satisfaction of having spent time and money well. This is one of them.