Introduction: The Dirk Bogarde Collection Project

INTRODUCTORY NOTE – Over the next few weeks, the NoRMMA blog will be hosting a series of posts focusing on archival materials relating to Dirk Bogarde. These archival materials were catalogued recently for the BFI by Dr Sarah Polley, one of our founding NoRMMA members – and she very kindly took the time to write up a series of eight blog posts about her process and findings! Stay tuned – and enjoy.

Introduction: The Dirk Bogarde Collection Project

by Dr Sarah Polley

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This is the introductory post to a series of several blog entries focusing on the British actor and film star Dirk Bogarde. The posts will provide a useful record of this project, and potentially be of interest to those interested in Bogarde, magazines and film research. Previously I have been aware of Bogarde as an actor in British films and a resident of Amersham in Buckinghamshire. Many years ago, I enjoyed watching him as Dr Simon Sparrow in the Doctor series of comedies (he appeared in 4 of these between 1954 and 1963), as well as British dramas like The Blue Lamp (1950), Hunted (1952), the ground-breaking Victim (1961) and the US co-production I Could Go on Singing (1963).  While studying film at the University of Kent I came into contact with more Bogarde films, considering the place of The Servant (1963) and Darling (1965) in the history of British Cinema as well as examining the former from an auteurist point of view because of its director, Joseph Losey. I also heard about Bogarde through my Mum, and other members of my family who lived in Amersham. The town was popular with British film stars (other residents included Michael Denison and Dulcie Gray) due to its village-feel despite its proximity to the London film studios.  More recently, I have been lucky enough to be given the opportunity to research Bogarde in depth via his appearances in magazines.

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Anastasia Kerameos, a librarian in Serials and e-Resources at the British Film Institute’s (BFI) Reuben Library I’d previously met at a conference, asked in March this year if I would be interested in seeing their Dirk Bogarde collection. This is an archive of magazines, most of which included coverage of Bogarde. It was donated to the BFI by the late actor’s estate. Although all stars are likely to have an interest in how they are perceived (since they promote themselves as a product), the magazines were not necessarily collected, or read, by Bogarde himself. The BFI needed these to be catalogued so that they could compare them against their existing collection of magazines and assess which to keep. My own work has primarily focused on Hollywood stars and US magazines. More specifically, I examined US fan magazines from the 1920s to the 1950s for my recently completed PhD at the University of Kent. But as a member of NoRMMA, and because I would be able to perform this archive work from home – the BFI very kindly offered to deliver the collection to me – I jumped at the chance to see the collection!

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My PhD especially investigated the fact that the material about a star in magazines is, as Richard Dyer states, not about the real person, but a version of them constructed for the reader and the film-going audience (Stars 1979). With Bogarde I am especially aware of this.  Partly this is because my connections to Amersham making me more aware of him as a ‘real’ person. With Bogarde there is also a specific disjuncture since his homosexuality, revealed to the general public after his death, was not present in contemporaneous material including his many volumes of memoirs. In addition to threatening his liberty (homosexuality was illegal in the UK until 1967) it would have been at odds with the promotion of him as a matinee idol – an object of desire for female filmgoers and an ego ideal (i.e.  providing a blueprint for how to be man) for male filmgoers.

Upcoming posts will explore Bogarde’s life and career in more detail, consider academic and other published work on the star, outline my research process, delve into the contents of the collection, and provide insights into studying magazines more generally.

Following this, I plan to post here ad hoc aspects which relate to Bogarde and/or the magazines as I continue my research. Comments more related to Dirk Bogarde’s films (and specifically the matter of melodrama) will be posted as and when on the University of Kent Melodrama Research Group Blog:

Please do leave comments and/or questions (about magazines, the project, and or/Dirk!) on the blog, or email me, Sarah Polley, on

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