Many of Dirk Bogarde's best performances on screen involved the use of significant pauses: the enigmatic look on his face as he regards the sleeping James Fox in the first scene of Joseph Losey's The Servant, the slight twitch in Aschenbach's mouth in Visconti's Death in Venice, the bowed shoulders, then the little cough, as he admits the truth to Sylvia Syms in Victim. 'I am happiest in silence, I must confess … but that makes one deadly dull!' he wrote in 1981. In his correspondence, though, he seems to have found an outlet that cheered him up even in moments of despair, and must have been a delight to those whose good fortune it was to be his friends. One or two of them were people he never met, but wrote to for years.
Having written Bogarde's biography, John Coldstream has now undertaken the task of editing his letters. Those published here represent only about 15 per cent of the surviving documents. At the height of his fame – and he was one of the top box-office attractions in British cinema for two decades