Sunday, 24 October 2010

Diana Dors...

For overseas readers and the young everywhere, Diana Dors was a British actress and a sort of British Marilyn Monroe. Her real name was - erm - Diana Fluck. The dangers posed by a missed consonant - and the kind of mistake made by a vicar introducing her when she came to open a fĂȘte as 'ladies and gentlemen, please welcome the very lovely Miss Diana Clunt' led to a rapid change of name.

But I digress. This is mostly the story of her first marriage to a man named Dennis Hamilton who she married in 1951 aged 19. It makes for an interesting story. As parental permission was then needed fro the under 21s to marry and her parents were understandably unenthusiastic about their daughter marrying a major criminal - for such Hamilton was, Dors forged their signatures on the permission document. She already had something of a track record as a wild child having spent £5,000 on a Delahaye Roadster 175S despite being 17 at the time and not having a driving licence. The car was sold at auction in 2010 for $3 million. Other youthful episodes featured being thrown out of a flat in Chelsea following complaints about loud noise and endless parties and a pregnancy resulting in a £10 abortion on a Battersea kitchen table. The marriage was at Caxton Hall in Central London, then a fashionable place for civil ceremonies. The registrar had a tip off about the dodgy state of the relevant paperwork and raised the topic with Hamilton.

Hamilton shook the registrar warmly by the throat and announced 'you’ll marry us, all right, or I’ll knock your fucking teeth down your throat'.

The registrar complied. The happy couple had met 5 weeks previously

Apparently Diana Dors could act but struggled for good parts, partly due to the notoriety of her associations and lifestyle. Hamilton introduced her to sex parties where she met the young Bob Monkhouse (British 'comedian' - only good line - 'They laughed when I said I was going to be a comedian. They're not laughing now').

Very true that. Dors later had an affair with Monkhouse which lead to Hamilton threatening him with a cut-throat razor and the immortal line 'I’m going to slit your eyeballs!'

As one does.

Dors later went to Hollywood where a very public affair with Rod Steiger and Hamilton beating a photographer senseless didn't advance her career. RKO, who had brought her over to Hollywood, were soon looking for a reason to fire her. Apparently, though, a Sheikh was so taken with her that he offered Hamilton 23 camels for her. She seperated from Hamilton in 1956 after he started an affair and planned to marry an obscure actor named Tommy Yeardye after divorcing him. Returning to England, Dors' contract with Rank was cancelled by mutual consent. Yeardye contrived to get himself arrested following an altercation with a policeman and Dors fell for a young comedian called Richard Dawson. She asked Yeardye to leave and accused him of having stolen £18,000.

Dors and Hamilton were divorced in 1958 and Hamilton died of a heart attack in 1959. She married Dawson in the same year, had two sons with him and more affairs (it gets a bit hard to keep up with the affairs) and they divorced in 1966 or 1967. She was later made bankrupt but entered into her third and final marriage to actor Alan Lake in 1968 at Caxton Hall (again!). Lake, an alcoholic, went to jail for his part in a pub brawl. She had one live and one stillborn son with Lake. They both converted to Roman Catholicism in 1971.

The end of her story is that Diana Dors was diagnosed with cancer in 1982 and died of cancer in 1984 aged 52. Six months later Lake committed suicide with a shotgun, sixteen years to the day he met her. He is buried next to her.

There is a biopic of her dating from 1999 called The Blonde Bombshell. There is no point in being censorious about her car crash of a life. Her story is mostly a sad one, a headstrong young woman with too much money and too little guidance. She didn't wear well but the first photo does show a pretty young woman, already in the clutches of an older - and downright evil - man. She appears on the cover of Sergeant Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band. See if you can spot her - it's not too hard. Hat Tip to the rather wonderful Another Nickel in the Machine (link to left) for black and white pics and some of the narrative.


B.E. Earl said...

Interesting. I had always thought that was Marilyn Monroe over on the right, but she is elsewhere on the cover. The center of the second row from the top, to be specific. I never knew about Diana Dors.

sybil law said...

Meh. She was no Marilyn.
Still - fascinating story!

Barmaid said...

I read Diana Dors autobiography some years ago. Think it was called Behind Closed Dors. It was very kiss and tell, and shed a different light on the likes of Grace Kelly and Doris Day. It made for a very interesting read!

Laci the Chinese Crested said...

I knew it wasn't Marilyn from the guides to the pics on the SPLHCB cover, but I usually forget that fact and think its Marilyn. Both Dors and Monroe are a bit "before my time" (even though I am a few years younger than you are). I may have been "born in the 50s", but it was at the bitter arse end of that decade.

Laci the Chinese Crested said...

RE: Bob Monkhouse

Don't current British comics make fun of that type of humour (e.g., the Fast Show has a sketch about a "Bob Monkhouse" style comedian).

JoJo said...

Richard Dawson? From Hogan's Heroes and Family Feud?

I never heard of this woman but man alive is my interest piqued. Is there a book about her?

Catch Her in the Wry said...

Further investigation indicates Richard Dawson gained custody of their children after their divorce. She must have been one awful mother for the courts to have done that back in the 1960's.

Dawson seems to be the most stable of all her conquests and he was apparently smart enough to get away.

Petit fleur said...

Jojo!!! Once again, our great minds (or are they twisted?) are thinking alike. I was wondering that same thing about RD. Crazy.

Rabbit, this is indeed a sad and torrid tale.. but fascinating.

I'm guessing she's the second row 3rd from the left? hee hee!
Good post.

The Dental Maven said...

You pegged it Rabbit, "a car crash of a life." So very sad.

Laci the Chinese Crested said...

for the US readers--Yes, that Richard Dawson, who is another Dual Citizen!

Findon said...

I liked the aptly named DD. She had a series on Yorkshire TV called Queenies Castle, (you'll be too youung to remember it I think) which was a bout a brazen blonde who always came out right. I remember when she became an agony aunt on breakfast TV and she dished out some good advice, she seemed to have gained humility and dignity by then. As you state she died of cancer and her husband comitted suicide shortly after, an act I admire as I feel the same if I lose My Beautiful. By the way Queenies Castle was a major and notorius housing development in Leeds. The series was based on people who lived there. It was demoished and the West Yorkshire Playhouse now stands on the site.
Here is a link

white rabbit said...

Earl - Yup. That's Marilyn centre second row from top.

Sybil - Interesting point. I generally agree that British copies of various American stars tend not to match the original (Cliff Richard was no Elvis, Donovan was no Dylan - though I quite like Donovan) but....

1. It is generally accepted that Diana Dors could act. Her career was held back by her notoriety. Very bad news in those days.

2. Marilyn Monroe was 36 when she died. I tend to the theory that we become caricatures of ourselves if we live long enough. Albeit that Diana Dors was not exactly old when she died, she had lived long enough to become a comedic parody of her original sex bomb routine and was actually quite a decent comedienne (see comment to Findon below)

Barmaid - can't find autobiography -or anything else on her bookwise - on amazon. The writer in me is thinking the story merits retelling.

Laci/JoJo - that's the man - thanks Laci. By the way, Bob Monkhouse was one of tyhose people who was constantly on TV in my youth and no-one knew why. He was seriously unfunny. There were no remotes in those days. You had to get up and walk across the room to change channel (and avoid Bob Monkhouse)

*twangs braces in Four Grumpy Yorkshiremen manner*

Catchy - Good point. He's the only one who lived to tell the tale.

Little Flower - Noooooo... Front row right. I'll post on this for clarity.

Maven - Thank you. I rather liked the phrase :D

Findon - Not only do I remember the programme, I remember Quarry Hill Flats. The prog ran from 1970-1972 I gather from Wikipedia and does illustrate the point I made to Sybil about how she became a decent comedienne and self-parodist.

Sarcastic Bastard said...

This was an interesting post. I didn't know much about her. Now, I know WAY too much. Just kidding.