I blogged today over at Give 'em the old Razzle Dazzle about how impressed I was with the new BBC drama Christopher and His Kind. Of course, Mr Isherwood's adventures in Berlin was not the end of the story - far from it...
After escaping the horrors of his beloved city of Berlin once the rise of the Nazis had ensured the decimation of its decadent underworld, Christopher Isherwood settled in Los Angeles and immediately became entangled in its circle of European émigrés, writers, painters, and seekers of enlightenment - Aldous Huxley, Truman Capote, David Hockney and the rest.
Among this gay gathering of aesthetes was Don Bachardy, who would become Isherwood’s longtime partner after a chance meeting on Valentine’s Day on the beach. Christopher was 48; Don was eighteen years old.
"Isherwood and Bachardy were open about their life together, regardless of the waves it caused. This was during a period when gay relationships were not acceptable. The age difference in their relationship brought obvious personal problems that had to be addressed.This is, of course, the promotional blurb for the film production of their life together Chris and Don - A Love Story.
Don often felt disregarded by Chris's famous friends and frequently was. Nevertheless, Bachardy pursued his art career with great energy, painting and drawing every day. Finding a vocation gave Don a sense of fulfilment and independence. He began to realize that he could function independently, which made him question whether he wanted to stay with Isherwood. Don toyed with leaving the relationship and striking out on his own..."
Despite living for 33 years with Christopher, Don never once peeked at his diaries. “We agreed that we mustn’t give each other access to our diaries because we would become self-conscious,” he said.
Bachardy only began to read the diaries the night Isherwood died. He took three months, reading from most recent to oldest, and had only one regret.
Don also kept his own diaries, of which he says: “I was very sorry that it never occurred to me that if I didn’t share them with him while he was alive, he would never read them,” he said.
The diaries obviously form the basis of Don's documentary film, and expose in intense detail the ups and downs of a long relationship - indeed during one "down" period when Don fled the nest briefly for another man, Christopher wrote the story that became the award-winning Colin Firth movie A Single Man. Don himself made a cameo appearance in the movie.
Don Bachardy is alive and well at the age of 76, and still lives in the couple's marital home in California. His artworks reside in the permanent collections of the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York, Princeton University, the Smithsonian Institute and other galleries across America, and in the National Portrait Gallery in London:
W.H. Auden by Don Bachardy
Isherwood by Don Bachardy
Chris and Don: A Love Story:
Christopher Isherwood biography on the GLBTQ website
Portraits by Bachardy