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Death of a movie idol.

SIR Dirk Bogarde, the matinee screen idol of the 1950s who went on to become a highly acclaimed actor and accomplished writer, has died aged 78.

His distinguished film career involved more than 70 feature films, ranging from the light-hearted Doctor in the House series, which won him a reputation as a heart-throb, to classics such as Death in Venice, Darling, and The Servant, which won him critical acclaim.

Bogarde, a slim, urbane man, began his remarkable film career in 1948 but he remained a curiously solitary figure.

In Backcloth, the fourth volume of his autobiography, he called himself a "hermit crab" and described how he dreaded "possession".

This fear meant he never married or had children.

Although he documented with frankness his early sexual encounters with girls and later his adoring love for Kay Kendall and Judy Garland, he never wrote about the longest and closest relationship in his life - with his friend and manager for more than 50 years, Tony Forwood.

It was an appearance on a television chat show in the 1970s, to promote his film The Night Porter, which proved a turning point in his life.

Norah Smallwood, chairman of publishers Chatto, was captivated by his skill as a raconteur and contacted him suggesting he wrote his autobiography.

The fourth and final chapter of his life, chronicled in Backcloth, was published in 1986.

Bogarde ensured that it closed the book on his memoirs by burning diaries and letters, leaving nothing for any posthumous biographer to pick over. But he continued to write novels.

Born in March, 1921, Derek Niven Van den Bogaerde grew up in an artistic and Bohemian Hampstead household. His father was the picture editor of The Times.

Bogarde described the Second World War as the single most important event in his life. As Captain Dirk Bogarde of the Queen's Royal Regiment, he had to drive in to the Belsen concentration camp the day after it was liberated from the Germans - nothing would ever frighten or disturb him as much again.

Bogarde was a paradox - a screen-star recluse. In the 1950s, when he was the "idol of the Odeons", he had to have his flies sewn up before film premieres in case fans tried to strip him naked.

But in the 1960s, he went to live as a recluse in a 15th century farmhouse in Provence, France.

His 20-year French idyll ended in the autumn of 1986, when Mr Forwood became seriously ill with Parkinson's Disease and needed to live near a hospital.

His stature was recognised with a knighthood in 1992, a year after his last film These Foolish Things was released - and in 1996 he celebrated selling a million books.

He said, with customary self-deprecation: "I don't care if I am remembered or not.

"I have said that in my will: no funeral, no memorial service... just forget me."
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Author:Williamson, Richard
Publication:Sunday Mercury (Birmingham, England)
Date:May 9, 1999
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