Diana Dors was born in Swindon, Wiltshire in 1931 with the unfortunate surname of Fluck (oh those rhyming slang jokes must have jarred).
She once quipped, “They asked me to change my name. I suppose they were afraid that if my real name was in lights and one of the lights blew . . .”
Dors studied at the London Academy of Music and Dramatic Art and at the age of 15 won her first film part from Gainsborough Studios, playing a small role in The Shop At Sly Corner.
Other films followed, and by the delicate age of 16, she was already under contract to the Rank Organisation, the largest film company in Britain at that time.
Diana discovered early on that she had a natural abundance of what was commonly referred to as “sex appeal” and did not hesitate to cash in on her attributes. She posed virtually nude for pin-up pictures and then bluntly told newsmen, “I might as well cash in on my sex now while I’ve got it. It can’t last forever, can it?”
Of her perfect 35-23-35 figure, she remarked, “What merchandise! And boy, how it sells!”
Diana learned quickly. She turned up at the studio every day – even when she wasn’t filming – determined not to miss any chance of learning the ropes from more experienced actresses.
Typecast, she often played the ill-fated blonde in B-grade films, sexed up and alluring but never destined to settle down happily behind the picket fence.
As actor Rod Steiger put it, “she was swamped in an image”, yet her powerful personality tended to transcend the pigeon-holing – the viewer was always aware it was Dors on the screen and not a generic brittle blonde.
Her best on-screen performance is widely considered to be her portrayal of a toxic murderess in the 1956 thriller, Yield to the Night, directed by J Lee Thompson.
It was a role that actually required her to act, and she was not afraid to strip away the outward markers of her sex appeal, to let her dark roots show beneath the platinum and play a makeup-less woman in bleak prison garb, teetering on the edge of annihilation.
According to some of her contemporaries, her films were never as important as the men in her life, thus, she never struggled hard enough to play the high, dramatic roles.
Dors did, in fact, possess considerable talent and many of her later films – after she’d piled on the weight and lost the seductress tag – reveal a fine character actress.
In the 70s and 80s, she regained a large measure of popularity through a succession of television roles that highlighted her dramatic skills.
Her final screen appearance was Steaming (1984).
Married three times – to Dennis Hamilton, Richard Dawson and Alan Lake – it was perhaps her tumultuous relationship with Hamilton that is most revealing of her personality.
Hamilton, who reputedly loved “sex, money and power” was a control freak and had her turned into a company, Diana Dors Ltd.
He also owned or managed most of her assets – financial and physical – and when she tried to extricate herself from him, things got messy, with Hamilton forcing her at gunpoint to hand over most of her assets to him.
Hamilton died of syphilis in 1959, before divorce proceedings could go through but not before he had spent much of her money.
Dors seemed to attract men who spelt trouble with a capital “T”, and perhaps, as some have suggested, that was the attraction. Her life, like her looks, was high drama and sensationalism.
Her final film was Joseph Losey’s Steaming (1985), in which she co-starred with Vanessa Redgrave and Sarah Miles in a drama about a group of women fighting the closure of the steam room where they regularly met.
Dors died at the age of 52 from ovarian cancer, leaving behind two sons and her third husband, Alan Lake, to whom she had been married – again tumultuously (Lake was a serious drinker) – for 16 years. Before the year was out, Lake, committed suicide, unable to cope with Diana’s death. He was 43.
Their son, Jason, died in 2019 aged just 50 – also a possible suicide.