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on 23 May 2016
Dirk Bogarde went to the same school I did, albeit years before I did. He wrote about his schooldays in one of his books, saying he had not enjoyed it or the city much. I later read that people who were his contemporaries at school and knew him well enough to comment, did not recognise his comments and this book was cited, so I thought I'd get a second-hand one on Amazon, which I did. It's a big book, physically [see pic] as well as in the number of pages, so don't fall asleep reading it lying down! The school bit would not have been enough, on it's own, to justify the purchase, but Bogarde was always one of my favourite actors. I forgive him Doctor in the House and the overly-melodramatic The Singer Not The Song for gloriously well-acted films like Victim, The Servant, Death in Venice and his cameo role in Oh What A Lovely War. Bogarde's early life and acting career make a complex story in its own right and I recommend the book to anyone interested in him. His own autobiographies are good too, in the way that David Niven's were - hugely entertaining and some of it may even be true. This is a dispassionate, but sympathetic balance to those.
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on 21 January 2016
I haven't thought about Dirk Bogarde for many years, but his name came up in a conversation recently and I decided it might be interesting to check out what had happened to him. I read the Amazon reviews of this book and ordered a very good second-hand version. I was surprised about the thickness of the volume, but I have gradually read it all and have found it fascinating. I had no idea that Dirk was such a complex character. Tony needed to be patient. I was full of admiration for his discreet presence and the amazing number of roles he took on for Dirk. The War Years were not so interesting for me, but I enjoyed everything else - especially the time he and Tony were in France. The famous visitors who called on them there were mentioned briefly and I would have liked more detail, but it was a good reminder of actors and actresses who are now no longer on the scene - either through old age or death. I have never read any of his books and I now feel encouraged to do so. John Coldsteam's book has helped me to decide which ones I would want to buy and has even pointed one out which was written by his nephew, Rupert in 2002 about the tragic disappearance of his wife, so that is another helpful aspect. All in all a very worthwhile read.
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on 25 March 2015
Excellent book about the complex enigma called Dirk Bogarde. Well written, deeply researched - an interesting insight into a famous man's life, his fears, his successes. Also read The Bogarde Letters which gives a deeper understanding of the inner man himself. A traditionally bound (ie superior) hardback book which will last.
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on 9 January 2015
Read three times so far. An absorbing biography, well written and worth getting if you want a flavour of this fascinating man and powerful actor. Highly recommended.
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on 7 July 2017
A very interesting book to add to my collection of film star biographies.
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on 11 June 2017
Stupendous.
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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.
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This is a review of the original hardback edition of 2004.

One immediately has reservations when it comes to `authorised' biographies: how much we are told is true and how much has been left out? But with John Coldstream's biography of Dirk Bogarde, I think we are on safe ground, if only because the general demeanour of the narrative is not by any means uncritical of its subject. In his introduction, Coldstream recognises that "Dirk was a writer whose entire oeuvre became a fiction, thanks in large part to his hyperactive imagination and his fantasies", that Bogarde sought to cover his tracks through chaff, camouflage, and a scorched-earth policy.

The prologue opens with Bogarde's quiet, painless, and sudden death in his flat in Cadogan Gardens and how his nurse of two years sensed Bogarde urge her not to try and resuscitate him. It is quite an odd and moving passage. What follows is then a chronological account of Bogarde's careers as actor and writer, for he is as detailed about Bogarde's later writing career as about his acting, although alas on both there are no detailed critiques provided. We learn how in his late teens Bogarde was taught art by a then little-known Graham Sutherland, and how he chatted about acting to a completely unknown Peter Ustinov. Tony Forwood does not appear until the start of chapter four, and even then, only offering to manage Bogarde. Forwood then disappears as Bogarde goes off to war

Coldstream's account, however, is in two parts, 'Derek' and then 'Dirk', denoting a decisive break around 1946 in Bogarde's outlook and persona. This was when he was demobilised at the ripe age of twenty-five. Coldstream notes how Bogarde wrote on a book's endpaper `Derk, Dirk, Derek' as if deciding what name would look better up in lights. It's at this point too that Forwood re-appears and never leaves.

As regards Bogarde's relationship with Tony Forwood, "In later years, at home and only in front of the most deeply trusted, Dirk would sometimes address Tony as `wifey'. It meant little: he had nicknames for everyone. It simply testified to the affection between them." Is Coldstream playing Dirk's game on his behalf here? It seems, if we are to believe Coldstream ambiguous account, that there never was a physical side to Bogarde's and Forwood's relationship. Even Gore Vidal called their relationship `un marriage blanc'

Throughout the biography, Coldstream concisely addresses most of Bogarde's films, although one would perhaps have wished for a more detailed analysis of some. But there is much insight on the major turning points in Bogarde's career. In the film `Victim', Bogarde himself reworked the controversial script, inserting the words "I stopped seeing him [Boy Barrett] because I wanted him." Coldstream pinpoints this as "the moment when the matinee idol donned a new cloak of seriousness; when `Peter Pan' grew up; when `Dorian Gray' allowed us with him to take a peep into the attic."

The book comes with endnotes and acknowledgements to all those who agreed to contribute. Useful appendices include details of his plays, films, TV appearances, his choice of `Desert Island Disc' records, and also quotations from others about Bogarde. A large number of well-chosen photographic plates adorn the book throughout.
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on 8 November 2004
This is a most absorbing book of one of the greatest British Film actors. I found it absolutely fascinating to discover so much about Bogarde and from such excellent recorded sources. The author lays bare much of the gossip surrounding him and it adds to his mystique and attractiveness. john Coldstream clearly found the topic interesting and, fortunately, found the good and the bad and wrote about both. An excellent read.
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on 3 January 2013
Briefly, the best biography available and likely to be definitive for quite a while.
VERY exhaustive detail. In fact, any new character mentioned receives a long write-up.
I wouldn't say everything is thrown in including the kitchen sink, but slightly 'overwritten' in terms of
background details of subsidiary characters.
I had to take a slightly unusual approach to reading it.
Each night in bed, I started at the beginning and worked my way through, and then jumped to the mid-way section so I was reading two sections at a time. The beginning is pretty detailed and exhaustive and I couldn't bring myself to wade through it exclusively every night without some of the adult film-career details.
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