On this day in history : 4th May 1984 – Diana Dors, film actress, singer and writer, the English equivalent to Hollywood’s blonde bombshell, dies of cancer….
Born Diana Mary Fluck on the 23rd of October 1931 in Swindon, Wiltshire, Diana knew from an early age that she wanted to be an actress…. Her passion as a young girl being the cinema – her heroines Hollywood actresses such as Veronica Lake, Jean Harlow and Lana Turner….
As a girl Diana was mature for her age, looking older than her years…. At the age of 14 she was offered a place at the London Academy of Music and Dramatic Art….making her their youngest ever student….
She made her film debut in 1947, a small uncredited role in ‘The Shop at Sly Corner’…. On signing the contracts she was asked to change her name from ‘Fluck’ – and she opted for her maternal grandmother’s maiden name of ‘Dors’….
Also in 1947 she had a small part in the comedy drama ‘Holiday Camp’ and a walk-on part in ‘Dancing with Crime’ starring Richard Attenborough…. 1948 saw her in a further 6 films including the role of Charlotte in ‘Oliver Twist’….
At the age of 16 she signed with the Rank Organisation and in 1949 landed her first leading role in the period drama ‘Diamond City’, set in 19th century South Africa…. In May 1956 she signed with RKO and left England for a career in Hollywood….
In 1951 Diana had married Dennis Hamilton, five weeks after meeting him on the film set of ‘Lady Godiva Rides Again’…. Hamilton, although a charmer, was a controlling, violent man who exploited her and took over her business affairs…. He also reportedly involved Diana in sex parties and introduced her to the likes of the Kray twins who he counted amongst his friends…. Incidentally, Diana became friends with Ruth Ellis, the last woman to be hanged in Great Britain, whom she had also met on the set of ‘Lady Godiva’…. Ellis had a small part in the film….
It was at a party held for Diana that scandal broke out…. Diana, Hamilton and two others were posing for a poolside photo shoot when the Press surged forwards, knocking the four into the pool…. Hamilton was beyond furious; he exited the water and punched the nearest photographer, knocking him to the ground…. Hamilton then repeatedly kicked the man in the head until he lost consciousness….
Feeling she had to get away, Diana returned to England…. The end of her marriage left her financially crippled; Hamilton had forced her to sign over all her assets….
Diana resumed her career in Britain and throughout the 1950s her popularity increased…. She also started to do cabaret with her ‘The Diana Dors Show’…. In 1959 she married comedian Richard Dawson and had two sons, Mark and Gary…. However, the marriage ended in 1966….
She remarried in 1968, this time to actor Alan Lake and had another son, Jason…. Lake was a reputed alcoholic and the marriage was stormy….
It was during this period of time that she recorded her album ‘Swingin’ Dors’…. Continuing to work Diana began to diversify in her career – in 1978 her first book ‘For Adults Only’ was published and was an instant bestseller…. She also became Agony Aunt for the Daily Star….and was later to become a TV agony aunt…. She even appeared as the fairy godmother in the Adam and the Ants music video for ‘Prince Charming’….
To celebrate her 50th birthday a special edition of the Russell Harty show was filmed at her home…. But tragically, unbeknown, Diana’s life was drawing to a close…. For the last two years of her life she battled ovarian cancer…. In March 1984 she started work on her last film, ‘Steaming’ – but sadly lost her battle in May…. Diana died at the Princess Margaret Hospital in Windsor…. Having converted to Catholicism in 1973 she was buried at the Sunningdale Catholic Cemetery….
Devastated, Lake took his own life a few months later….16 years to the day of when they had first met….
Diana is claimed to have left a fortune to their son….details of which were given to the family in code… A code only Lake knew how to decipher….it is thought around £2 million was hidden in banks across Europe…. However, its whereabouts to this day remains a mystery….
In her autobiography ‘Dors by Diana’ she said of her life that she “enjoyed the whole absurd mess to the highest possible degree”….