Tuesday, September 22, 2009

To Sir With Love...................

This is a love letter of sorts... Not to Sidney Pointer, but to Sir Dirk Bogarde.  Strangely, Dirk Bogarde never became a major star in the United States. I’m sure he was well known in the US in the ’50s and ’60s, but he wasn’t the superstar he was in Britain or the top star he was internationally.

Sir Dirk Bogarde, distinguished film actor and writer, was born Derek Jules Gaspard Ulric Niven van den Bogaerde on March 28, 1921, to Ulric van den Bogaerde, the art editor of "The Times" (London) newspaper, and actress Margaret Niven in the London suburb of Hampstead. He was one of three children, with sister Elizabeth and younger brother Gareth. His father was Flemish and his mother was of Scottish descent.

Educated at the Allen Glen's School in Glasgow, he also attended London's University College School before majoring in commercial art at Chelsea Polytechnic, where his teachers included Henry Moore. Though his father wanted his eldest son to follow him into the "Times" as an art critic and had groomed him for that role, Derek dropped out of his commercial art course and became a drama student, though his acting talent at that time was unpromising. In the 1930s he went to work as a commercial artist and a scene designer.

 He apprenticed as an actor with the Amersham Repertory Company, and made his acting debut in 1939 on a small London stage, the Q Theatre, in a role in which he delivered only one line.

The September 1939 invasion of Poland by Nazi Germany and the Soviet Union triggered World War II, and in 1940 Derek Bogarde joined the Queen's Royal Regiment as an officer. He served in the Air Photographic Intelligence Unit and eventually attained the rank of major. Nicknamed "Pippin" and "Pip" during the war, he was awarded seven medals in his five years of active duty. He wrote poems and painted during the war, and in 1943, a small magazine published one of his poems, "Steel Cathedrals," which subsequently was anthologized. His paintings of the war are part of the Imperial War Museum's collection.

After the war, he won a film contract from the Rank studios after World War II. After appearing for a decade mainly in light comedies in the early 60's, he began demonstrating his acting range in more serious films.  In 1984, he became President of the jury at the Cannes Film Festival, and 1992 he was knighted by The Queen of England. He spent his later years as a writer. He past away in 1999. Thank you Sir Dirk, for  providing me with joy filled hours of entertainment.  I got to know Sir Dirk better when TCM devoted a day to his films. Up until last month I had only seen Victim, Darling, Modesty Blaze and I Could Go on Singing. I read the summary for The Servant and was immediately curious.  Here  is the first review in a seris of three.

The Servant (1963)

Dirk Bogarde - Hugo Barrett
Sarah Miles - Vera

Wendy Craig - Susan

James Fox - Tony

Catherine Lacey - Lady Mounset

Richard Vernon - Lord Mounset

Ann Firbank - Society Woman

Patrick Magee - Bishop

Jill Melford - Younger Woman

Alun Owen - Curate

Harold Pinter - Society Man

Dorothy Bromiley - Girl Outside Phone Box
Johnny Dankworth - Jazz Bandleader

Gerry Duggan - Waiter

Philippa Hare - Girl in Bedroom

Brian Phelan - Man in Pub

Alison Seebohm - Girl in Pub
Derek Tansley - Head Waiter

Joseph Losey - Director / Producer
Norman Priggen - Producer

Robin Maugham - Book Author
Harold Pinter - Screenwriter / Songwriter

Douglas Slocombe - Cinematographer
Johnny Dankworth - Composer (Music Score) / Musical Direction/Supervision / Songwriter
Reginald Mills - Editor
Richard Macdonald - Production Designer
Ted Clements - Art Director / Set Designer

Beatrice Dawson - Costume Designer
Bob Lawrence - Makeup
Roy Stevens - First Assistant Director

Chic Waterson - Camera Operator
Teresa Bolland - Production Manager


The Servant is a film that will capture your attention from beginning to end. Few films have gotten as much mileage out of Britain's caste system as The Servant.  John Dankworth’s somewhat depressing background music enhances the story’s dismal mood. All the acting is good. It is a black comedy charting the uneasy relation ship between weak willed young aristocrat Tony (James Fox) and  Hugo Barrett (Dirk Bogarde) as his devious, reserved manservant. 

The film shows Tony’s mental and moral disintegration under the powerful influence of his recently hired manservant Barrett. Suggesting that the house could use a little fixing up, Barrett convinces Tony to spend a whopping amount of money on it. But this is just a warm-up session for Barrett, who by mid-film is calling all the shots in Tony's household, all the while pretending to keep his place. Tony's fiance Wendy Craig sees through Barrett's game. Barrette then brings his own lady friend (Vera) Sarah Miles into the house.  Things change for the worse when Barrett arranges for his own fiancace Vera to seduce Tony, and even worse when Tony discovers them (Barrett and Vera) frolicking in his bed one night.

Servant is fired,–servant is rehired. Money gets a bit tight. They play games. This part of the film is think with homosexual inuendo. Is there, just maybe, something sexual going on between Master and Servant, that even they aren’t aware of? What is going on in the hide-and-seek game?  Will Master get a grip on himself and send Servant packing for good?  What was the servants rationale for corrupting Tony (money? control? sexual longing?) The film is worth watching to find out.

There was not anything spectacular in the movie to speak of.

British Academy of Film and Television Arts (BAFTA) 
  •     Best Black and White Cinematography-Douglas Slocombe 1963
  •     Best British Actor-Dirk Bogarde 1963 
  •     Best Film - Any Source 1963 
  •     Most Promising Newcomer-James Fox 1963
New York Film Critics Circle
  •     Best Screenplay-Harold Pinter 1964
[on the Cannes Film Festival]- "My idea of hell. You see all the people you thought were dead and all the people who deserve to be dead. After a while, you start to think you might be dead, too."

[to Russell Harty during a 1986 interview]" But I'm still in the shell, and you haven't cracked it yet, honey."

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