DIRK BOGARDE, English actor (d. 1999); Sir Derek Jules Gaspard Ulric Niven van den Bogaerde, better known by his stage name Dirk Bogarde, was an actor and author.
Bogarde’s most serious friendship with a woman was with the bisexual French actress Capucine. For many years he shared his homes, first in Amersham, England, then in France with his manager Anthony Forwood (a former husband of the actress Glynis Johns and the father of her only child, actor Gareth Forwood), but repeatedly denied that their relationship was anything other than friendship.
These denials were understandable, mainly given that homosexual acts were illegal during most of his career, and also given his following among female admirers which he was loath to jeopardize. His brother Gareth Van den Bogaerde confirmed in a 2004 interview that Bogarde was Gay at a time when such acts were illegal, and also that his long-term relationship with Tony Forwood was more than simply that of a manager and friend.
Bogarde starred in the landmark 1961 Victim, playing a prominent homosexual barrister in London who fights the blackmailers of a young man with whom he had an emotional relationship. The young man commits suicide after being arrested for embezzlement, rather than ruining the attorney’s reputation. In the process of exposing the ring of extortionists, Bogarde’s character puts at risk his successful legal career and marriage to see that justice is served.
Victim was the first mainstream British film to treat the subject of homosexuality seriously and the film helped lead to the changing of the law. Before agreeing to play this role, which argued for the decriminalization of homosexual acts, Bogarde had specialized in playing leading men in light comedies. “It was a tremendous departure, playing ‘my first queer,’” he wrote. “The fanatics who had been sending me 4,000 letters a week stopped overnight…not because I was playing a homosexual, but because I was playing a middle-age man.”