Diana Dors: The siren from Swindon

Diana Dors: The siren from Swindon
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This is an exclusive feature from the now sold-out Issue 7 of Yours Retro. For more nostalgia, check out the latest Retro at www.greatmagazines.co.uk

At the age of eight, Diana Mary Fluck announced to her classmates, “when I grow up I am going to be a film star and live in a big house with a swimming pool and a cream telephone”.

Born in Swindon in 1931 to Albert and Winifred 'Mary' Fluck, the young Diana was doted on by her mother, who encouraged her daughter's dream of becoming an actress. Diana had nothing but the best – she attended private school, took elocution lessons and wore the finest clothes in town.

Diana's father was more conservative and hoped that one day she would find work as secretary, settle in Swindon and marry 'a decent sort of chap' – an idea which horrified Diana with her dreams of Hollywood.

Diana's world changed in 1944 when the American GIs came to Swindon. She was just 13 and it was as if Hollywood had landed on her doorstep! Mary allowed Diana to attend GI dances on the condition that she accompany her.

With her glamourous clothes and flawless make-up, a 13-year-old Diana told everyone she was 17 and no one questioned it! Diana also took part in dramatic productions put on by the new influx of Americans and her talent was soon recognised.

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Eventually, after much persuasion by Mary, Albert allowed Diana to attend drama school full-time. In 1946, Diana left Swindon and became the youngest-ever student at LAMDA. Soon after, she was offered a screen test for the film The Shop At Sly Corner. Her agent suggested she change her surname from Fluck to something more glamorous, so she took the name of her maternal grandmother. Diana Dors was born.

Media frenzy

In 1951, Diana married Dennis Hamilton – a charmer with a flair for publicity. The wedding was a media frenzy, but did not run smoothly after Hamilton had an altercation with the registrar.

Diana soon became a phenomenon and with her abundance of confidence and glamour she was a welcome relief after the austerity of the war years. She turned down the offer of a Hollywood contract, became the youngest registered owner of a Rolls Royce (despite the fact she had not yet passed her test) and released a book of risqué photos entitled Diana Dors in 3D, complete with glasses! At the Venice Film festival she almost caused a riot when she sailed down the Grand Canal in a mink bikini.

Diana's most celebrated role was in Yield to the Night (1956), in which she played a condemned woman in a prison cell. Diana won both critical acclaim and respect as a serious actress – she was now Britain's highest-paid film star, with a 23-bedroom mansion, swimming pool and the cream telephone she’d dreamt of as a child.

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Hollywood beckoned and Diana signed a three-picture deal with RKO studios. While hosting a party for Hollywood luminaries, she and Dennis were knocked into the swimming pool by a photographer. A fight ensued, resulting in the headline 'Go Home Diana and Take Mr Dors With You'.

By this time, she and Dennis had grown apart – she had become weary of his womanising ways, aggressive outbursts and controlling nature. Diana's third Hollywood picture never materialised and she returned to England. Just a few months later, after a short illness, Dennis passed away at the age of just 34.

Swingin’ Dors

In 1959, Diana married comedian Dickie Dawson. They had two sons, Mark and Gary. While pregnant with Mark, Diana recorded the classic lounge album Swingin' Dors and also released an autobiography of the same name, which caused quite a stir with its scandalous revelations. The family made a permanent move to America, but the marriage eventually failed and she once again returned to Britain.

Disappointed by the film work on offer during the Seventies, Diana forged a career touring working men's clubs and branched out into TV. It was on the set of the TV show The Inquisitors that Diana met actor Alan Lake.

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The two soon married and had a son named Jason. In 1978 Diana released her first book For Adults Only which was a bestseller. She also became an agony aunt for the Daily Star and dazzled as the Fairy Godmother in Adam and the Ants’ Prince Charming video. In 1981 she celebrated her 50th birthday on a special edition of The Russell Harty Show filmed at her sumptuous home, Orchard Manor.

During the last two years of her life Diana battled cancer, but her vigour and determination meant she did not stop working. She had a regular slot on TVAM and continued with her many television appearances.

In March 1984 she began her final film, Steaming. Sadly, on May 4, 1984, Diana passed away; her devastated husband Alan told the press that “The world has lost a legend”. Unable to live with his grief, Alan took his own life in October 1984, 16 years after they first met.

Diana Dors was a British icon, admired for her wit, talent and courage. When reflecting on her life in her autobiography Dors by Diana, she exclaimed that she “enjoyed the whole absurd mess to the highest possible degree.”