Sir Dirk Bogarde (28 March 1921 – 8 May 1999) was an English actor and novelist. Initially a matinee idol in such films as Doctor in the House (1954) and other Rank Organisation pictures, Bogarde later acted in art-house films like Death in Venice (1971). He also wrote several volumes of autobiography.
Bogarde was born Derek Jules Gaspard Ulric Niven van den Bogaerde in a nursing home at 12 Hemstal Road, West Hampstead, London, of mixed Flemish, Dutch and Scottish ancestry, and baptised on 30 October at St. Mary's Church, Kilburn. His father, Ulric van den Bogaerde (born in Perry Barr, Birmingham), was the art editor of The Times and his mother, Margaret Niven, was a former actress. He attended University College School, the former Allan Glen's School in Glasgow (a time he described in his autobiography as unhappy, although others have disputed his account) and later studied at the Chelsea College of Art and Design.
Bogarde served in World War II, being commissioned into the Queen's Royal Regiment in 1943. He reached the rank of major and served in both the European and Pacific theatres, principally as an intelligence officer. He claimed to have been one of the first Allied officers in April 1945 to reach the Bergen-Belsen concentration camp in Germany, an experience that had the most profound effect on him and about which he found it difficult to speak for many years afterward. As John Carey has summed up with regard to John Coldstream's authorised biography however, "it is virtually impossible that he (Bogarde) saw Belsen or any other camp. Things he overheard or read seem to have entered his imagination and been mistaken for lived experience." Coldstream's analysis seems to conclude that this was indeed the case. Nonetheless, the horror and revulsion at the cruelty and inhumanity that he claimed to have witnessed still left him with a deep-seated hostility towards Germany; in the late-1980s he wrote that he would disembark from a lift rather than ride with a German. Nevertheless, three of his more memorable film roles were as Germans, one of them as a former SS officer in The Night Porter.