She was the glamorous big screen star, Britain’s very own Marilyn Monroe, but before all that Diana Mary Fluck was a little girl from Swindon with a big dream
After a traumatic week-long labour, Diana Fluck was born on October 23, 1931. Her mother Mary was smitten instantly and growing up Diana wanted for nothing. When she was just three years old her mother began taking her to the pictures and so Diana’s love of the silver screen began. Swept away by the Hollywood glamour and the beautiful leading ladies, Diana vowed that one day she’d be a film star just like her idols.
did you know…
Diana changed from Fluck to Dors, her grandmother’s maiden name, as her agent felt that Fluck was too risky a surname for a film star!
Swindon couldn’t have been any further away from the glitz of Hollywood and so when in 1944 D-Day brought hundreds of Americans to Britain, Diana was of course thrilled! Much to her delight a visiting GI came to stay with them. She spent hours quizzing their guest, but being from a rural farm he wasn’t quite the Hollywood insider she was desperate for!
At just 12-years-old, Diana looked much older. She wore make-up and would walk down the street to calls of ‘look it’s Veronica Lake!’ One evening returning home from the cinema with her mother, they were invited to an American dance. Diana danced the night away with countless GIs who believed her to be far older than she actually was.
Shortly after, on holiday in Weston-Super-Mare she entered a pin-up girl beauty contest. Telling everyone she was 17 and not 13, she strutted her stuff in her swimsuit. She was such a hit that she was asked to pose regularly for an art class at an American college. Theatre performances followed and Diana left school and begged her parents to allow her to take acting classes once a week at the prestigious LAMDA (London Academy of Dramatic Arts). One by one the Americans left Swindon, leaving Diana determined to do the same.
Failure is unthinkable
Persuading her parents that LAMDA was where she needed to be, in January 1946 Diana packed her bags and left for London. Her father’s lecture about succeeding rang in her ears as she settled into the YMCA hostel where she’d be staying. At 14-years-old she was LAMDA’s youngest full-time student.
She got herself an agent and quickly suffered her first knockback, missing out on a role in the film Black Narcissus. More determined than ever, she took an evening job posing nude for the London Camera Cub for one guinea an hour and threw herself into her studies. Soon came her first notable film role in The Shop at Sly Corner and although she had to lie about her age to get the part, it certainly got her noticed.
In 1946, the Rank Company of Youth was established as a charm school for budding young stars. Diana was offered a ten-year contract with a regular wage.
Diana hated the charm school, especially the weekly cocktail parties they were expected to attend in order to meet producers, directors and influential industry people.
A quick succession of acting roles followed, as did a series of relationships. One that lasted longer than others was with Michael Caborn-Waterfield – a playboy with piercing eyes. Their relationship was hardly a success and when she fell pregnant a back-alley abortion seemed her only option. Money was tight and when her regular contract abruptly ended, life seemed bleak. In 1951 her big break came at just the right time with a part in Lady Godiva Rides Again. Then a chance meeting with Dennis Hamilton, her future husband, changed her life completely.
The spider’s web
His good looks and easy charm made her forget all about Michael and just five weeks after meeting he proposed. While he may have been charming, Dennis had a darker side. Alarm bells should have rung on their wedding day, when Dennis threatened to knock out the registrar’s teeth. Married life was far from blissful – his rages were uncontrollable and he didn’t hold back the punches. Diana was later to comment that she never fell in love with Dennis, but felt as though she was the fly caught in the spider’s web. However, in the midst of the darkness Dennis made her a promise. He was going to make her the greatest star Britain had ever known.
Before the bombshell
A few of Diana’s early roles as a blossoming Rank starlet
The Shop on Sly Corner (1946)
Diana’s debut role as Mildred in a film that centres around murder and blackmail in an antique shop
Good-Time Girl (1948)
Diana plays troubled teenager Lyla Lawrence at the beginning of this tense film noir
Oliver Twist (1948)
In David Lean’s definitive Dickens adaptation Diana plays servant girl Charlotte who is less than kind to Oliver
Here Come the Huggetts (1948)
Part of the popular comedy series starring Jack Warner and Kathleen Harrison. Diana played Ethel Huggett’s flighty young cousin
A Boy a Girl and a Bike (1949)
A gentle romantic film follows the exploits of a Yorkshire cycling club also stars John McCallum, Anthony Newley and Honor Blackman
Lady Godiva Rides Again (1951)
A small-town English girl wins a beauty contest and garners even greater fame after appearing as Lady Godiva in a pageant. The film also features Joan Collins’ debut.