Lively, entertaining reviews of, and essays on, old and newer films and everything relating to them, written by professional author William Schoell.

Thursday, February 22, 2018


SNAKES AND LADDERS. Dirk Bogarde. 1978; Chatto and Windus.

By the time this book came out, Bogarde had already written one autobiography which only went up to age eighteen. I was more interested in this second volume, which covered his career as an actor. Bogarde begins with large sections on his military career, pretty much glosses over his role as Dr. Simon Sparrow in the "doctor" films, and goes into more detail on working with (exasperating) close friend Judy Garland on I Could Go On Singing. He also describes his working relationship with Luchino Visconti, who directed him in The Damned and Death in Venice. Bogarde relates how he decided to star in Victim, about a closeted married gay man being blackmailed, after virtually every other actor turned the role down. Ironically, Bogarde doesn't come out about his own sexuality, but if you read between the lines it is clear that he had a long-time partnership with his theatrical manager Anthony Forwood, who was briefly married to Glynis Johns; Bogarde never married. (Forwood was also an actor who appeared in such films as the British Black Widow.) Snakes and Ladders is very well-written by Bogarde himself, but I just wish there had been a lot more about individual pictures -- there's not one word about one of his best films, Libel, for instance -- his co-workers, on the set anecdotes, and the like. But then, Bogarde was not out to write a "typical" show biz memoir.  One suspects, however, that if he had been more forthright on his sexuality, the book would have had even more depth and resonance. The idea of his starring in Victim when he himself was closeted, is striking in its bravery.

Verdict: Not exactly "dishy," but a pretty good read. ***.


angelman66 said...

Interesting, Bill; I always thought of Bogarde as openly gay, but in those days I guess that meant living openly but oh so discreetly with another man and never, ever mentioning your private reporter ever asked him, I'm sure, just as they never asked President Kennedy about his extramarital affairs. Simply was not done in those days...except in the sleazy tabloids, and Bogarde was too elite an actor to be involved in all that rubbish, I guess.

William said...

Yes, it was the time period when reporters stayed away from embarrassing questions. I think some people figured he wouldn't have played the role in Victim if he himself were gay.