Dirk Bogarde was a good-looking man. Some would say beautiful. Damn his perfect face. In his early roles of the 1950s he would play pretty villains, as in the The Blue Lamp or a witty, stressed out junior doctor, as in Doctor In The House. Whatever way he played these parts, he always played them handsomely, the swine. But – unlike many cursed with beauty – he wanted something more. By the 1960s he had started to experiment. Bogarde looked to alternative directors and scriptwriters to give himself an edge, someone to stop him catching the cancer of lightweight. He found that help in the form of Joseph Losey and Harold Pinter.

Joseph Losey was an American film and theatre director and a friend of ‘difficult’ artists of the left such as Bertolt Brecht. As a result the House of Un-American Activities watched him closely. He found himself in England; a far more un-American place than it is today. Losey was influenced by Russian cinema and German theatre. His films were sympathetic to socialism, neorealism-lite; accessible experiments but tightly focused.

Completing the threesome was playwright Harold Pinter. His plays The Birthday Party and The Caretaker had already given him the reputation as master of the comedic horror of repressed longing and the never-said. His screenplays gave British films of the 60s that quirked edge they desperately needed.

So we have two subversives and one supressed. Bogarde was a homosexual at a time when one’s sexuality could see you jailed. In every performance he gave, even the light comedies, you felt him hiding something. For films about secrets he was ideal.

Bogarde and Losey would work on several films together over their careers and so would Pinter and Losey – most notably in 1970s The Go-Between – but it was only in two films, The Servant and Accident that this perfect threesome of repressed political rage, longing and lust worked as one.

Accident – 1967

Dirk Bogarde plays a university professor inevitably hiding his midlife crisis. He falls in love with a student half his age. Everyone is blinded by their own agendas. Some heavy-handed symbolism perhaps – a high-heeled shoe in a lover’s face – but one of the greatest portraits of guilt in British film.

Dirk Bogarde Accident

Bogarde with Jacqueline Sassard in Accident (above)

The Servant – 1963

James Fox – making his debut as the go-to posh bloke – hires Bogarde as his manservant, Hugo. Slowly the roles are reversed. Losey uses European influenced camera and lighting angles to convey Pinter’s anger and hidden rage. With the possible exception of The Night Porter this is Bogarde’s most handsome role.

Dirk Bogarde The Servant

Bogarde with Sarah Miles in The Servant (above)