Monday, 3 June 2013

Shepperton Babylon by Matthew Sweet

published 2005   chapter 8






[On the 1961 film The Singer Not the Song] It is Bogarde’s performance and Bogarde’s costume… which give the film its intensely fruity flavour.

‘Don’t go on about the leather pants,’ pleads [director Roy Ward] Baker, when I raise the subject. ‘I remember him coming to me and saying he’d found the most wonderful tailor in Rome, who made the most wonderful leather trousers. Then, when we were in the middle of shooting in Spain, Ralph Thomas and Betty Box turned up, spying for [Rank’s John] Davis, I told them that Dirk was being very difficult. Ralph said ‘Oh no, the only thing he worries about is the fit of his bloody trousers.’’ 

John Mills’s performance also registers the importance of his co-star’s clothes. In their first scene together, in which priest and bandit confront each other on the dusty streets of the town that Anacleto has been terrorising, you can distinctly see Mills run his eyes up and down Bogarde’s body. There’s plenty to look at: the braided bolero jacket, the pencil tie, the black leather boots and gloves, the arse-hugging fetish pants. Bogarde is like some quiffed eel: long and lithe and shiny and difficult to handle.



observations: In an earlier entry I encouraged all film fans to read this book. In fact, just the chapter on the Rank Organization would make the price of the book worthwhile – or just the section on this film and Dirk Bogarde’s trousers. I would go further: Sweet describes an earlier Bogarde film in which he is
a leering Borstal inmate…[who] manages to suggest barrack-room bullying and buggery just by the way he leans on his mop
- and I would respectfully suggest that that description is worth £11.99 of anyone’s money.

There is the interview with Norman Wisdom, where Stockholm Syndrome is setting in. There is the German officer who ‘eats an éclair in two fascistic gulps’. There is the actress doing personal appearances who brings her own bouquet in case the locals haven’t thought to provide one for her. But the true brilliance of the book is that it is not just a collection of anecdotes to make you spit out your coffee laughing: it is a real and irreplaceable history of British cinema, and one that it is hard to imagine being bettered. Sweet has a great talent for choosing the words to define some aspect of the cinema – Gainsborough pictures are described perfectly in half a page.

This book featured before. Dirk Bogarde played the Doctor in the House in the films.

The picture is, self-evidently, Dirk Bogarde in The Singer Not the Song.

12 comments:

  1. Just ordered it, the combination of gossip and the gorgeous Dirk B is just too good to miss. Thanks for the recommendation.

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  2. You'll love it! And who (male or female) wouldn't have loved him, looking like that....

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  3. Moira - As though I didn't already want to read this book, the wit does it for me. Thanks for featuring this again. I'm still chuckling at the bouquet...

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  4. Moira - As though I didn't already want to read this, the wit has completely convinced me. Thanks for the reminder of this one. I'm still chuckling at that bouquet.

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  5. I quite like the sound of this one, Moira. I'll check it out, I don't suppose it comes with the trousers does it? Hopefully not.

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  6. There you go - no stereotypes, but yesterday's entry was all silk negligee, and the women readers all wanted that, and now here we go with the leather trousers...

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  7. Part of me reckons I would look rather fetching in a pair of these....the small irrational part of my brain that doesn't work too well, I guess.
    Leather or silk, I just can't choose!

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  8. Now you know what I'm going to say - wear both at once! Leather trousers under silk negligee. A fetching combo.

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  9. What a gorgeous picture! The book sounds really interesting, and it looks like I can track it down to buy used. I went back to the earlier post that featured Ivor Novello, that was interesting too. I was not even aware of Novello until I saw Gosford Park, although my husband, who is more knowledgeable about film history than I am, was.

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  10. It is such an interesting history of the film industry - I hope you do read it and enjoy it Tracy....

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  11. I love the photo. Dirk Bogarde really did have a varied career which went into his later years. As Tracy says, the book does sound interesting.

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  12. He was a very good actor, but also had that magnetism, you can't stop looking at him. And an interesting life...

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