A gay landmark

The first British film to deal seriously and sympathetically with homosexuality was Victim, which was released in 1961 starring Dirk Bogarde. Alistair Lexden recalled this fine film, made six years before homosexuality was decriminalised, in a letter published in TLS: The Times Literary Supplement on January 25.

Sir, - F.W. Nunneley (Letters, January 18) regards Joseph Losey’s The Servant (1963) as the film in which the hero of my boyhood, Dirk Bogarde, first showed what a remarkable actor he was. But surely it was the earlier Victim (1961) which marked his transition from matinee idol to a new, glorious seriousness. At the end of the film a rising barrister with strong gay leanings played by Bogarde is confronted by his beautiful wife (Sylvia Sims) who asks him why he stopped seeing a young man who had committed suicide under pressure from blackmailers. “Alright—alright, you want to know, I’ll tell you. You won’t be content until I tell you, will you—until you’ve ripped it out of me. I stopped seeing him because I wanted him. Can you understand—because I wanted him. Now what good has that done you?” The scriptwriter’s lines were embellished by Bogarde to increase their power and force. The scene, John Coldsteam writes in his magnificent biography (2004) of this complex, restless man, “was, and remains, the most important of his acting life”.

Alistair Lexden
House of Lords