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A story about an English businessman in 1930s Germany who encounters a financier who has forged his career on greed, corruption and opportunism, rather than the traditional British principles of decency and fair play.
If you have ever read Graham Greene's short story "May We Borrow Your Husband" you are more than likely to be quite perplexed by this screen adaptation. Greene's story is a fairly breezy affair laced with a biting wit. This screen adaptation is handled in a very dour manner. The credit should rather state "suggested " by a story of Graham Greene since only its bare bones are up on the screen. The whimsical title which is so fitting to Greene's story is totally out of place and should have been abandoned. It is perfunctorily inserted in the opening scene, simply to justify the use of the original title.
Besides taking the starring role, Dirk Bogarde himself had a hand in the screenplay and therein lies the interest of this venture. One senses Bogarde has invested much in this project and to some extent seems to be playing himself. Apparently he even wore his own clothing in this film. A lot has been written about Dirk Bogarde and there have been a number of illuminating film documentaries too. He was a talented, intelligent man, but a man not entirely at peace with himself. The often irritable person we see in "May We Borrow Your Husband" confirms much of what comes across in accounts from those who knew him. Most interesting is his cat and mouse treatment of homosexuality.
In his long career Bogarde was associated with some films containing overt homosexual elements ("Victim", "Death in Venice") and many with a strong gay undercurrent ("The Damned", "The Singer not the Song",. "The Servant", "Darling" – and more.) And yet to the very end of his days, he staunchly refused to acknowledge his own homosexuality. He rose to fame at a time when being outed would have ended his career before it began. One can empathise with the difficulties of having to guard this secret while riding the wave of huge adoration from the British public– similarly to Rock Hudson in the USA. But when the climate of acceptance changed, Bogarde would not budge an inch from his original stand on this issue. He wrote an autobiography made up of seven volumes in which he chose to omit the major story of his life, his 40 year relationship with Tony Forwood. In these writings his lover is portrayed as his manager/driver and is usually mentioned by surname only. There is no hint of this astonishingly enduring relationship.
While being attracted to Greene's biting tale of uncertain sexuality, Bogarde clearly was not impressed by the humor. For him being homosexual was no laughing matter. So what we are left with is this unappealing, ponderous and hugely misguided adaptation.
Fans of Graham Greene are advised to steer clear, but those interest in Bogarde will find much of interest.
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