The 50s was a glamorous era, and curvy actresses were the epitome of it. Styled as England’s answer to Marilyn Monroe, Diana Dors was one of the women who exuded sensuality during a time of restrained feminine sensuality. The gorgeous actress seemed destined for greatness, that is, until her scandalous personal life threw a terrible shadow over everything.
Diana Dors was born in Swindon, Wiltshire, England on October 23, 1931, to Albert Edward Sidney Fluck, a railway clerk, and Winifred Maud Mary. Although not wealthy, her parents provided her with a stable, middle-class upbringing. Swindon may have been a big town, but it was a far cry from the silver screen. However, Diana had a knack for creating scandal—and it began even before her birth.
You see, when Diana's mother discovered her pregnancy, she realized she was in a little bit of a pickle. She'd had a torrid affair with a lodger, and consequently, had no clue who Diana's real father actually was. But the drama revolving around the baby's impending arrival didn't end there. The future star certainly made the most memorable entrance into the world.
In a traumatizing twist of events, Diana's mother took nearly a week to give birth. Mother and child almost didn’t survive the difficult birth as little Diana emerged without color in her face. While the doctors saved Mary, a nurse managed to save Diana’s life as well. Luckily, there were no lasting problems from the complicated birth, which set the tone for Diana’s childhood.
A future star deserves nothing but the best things in life. Young Diana dressed in the fanciest garments and attended dance lessons. There were also trips to the theaters to watch movies. It was on these occasions that Diana developed a deep passion for film. More than anything, she idolized sultry screen sirens, such as Jean Harlow and Lana Turner. But this was only the tip of the iceberg.
Although she yearned for fame, Diana wasn't quite there yet. She attended Selwood House, a small private school run by strait-laced sisters Daisy and Ruth. With her head filled with dreams of stardom, it wasn’t a shock that academics weren’t her strong suit. Her permissive mother didn’t care as long as Diana was able to count the few pounds she would earn by the end of the week. But luck was on her side.
The aspiring actress already had everything she needed to succeed...
Despite Diana’s lack of interest at school, she surprisingly excelled in her elocution studies. The elocution lessons paid off because her speaking skills gave an air of maturity beyond her years. In fact, it was her seductive voice that helped her get a foot in the door towards a career in show business. However, young Diana had another asset that heightened her lethal disguise. She simply didn't look like a child.
Yes, Diana's voice was a pure delight to listen to. But that wasn't all. She also reached full physical development at a young age. When Diana was barely a teenager, she applied make-up and lightened her natural brunette locks to a dark blonde hue. This was a deadly combination. Although still a child, her figure and attitude became her golden ticket.
Although voluptuous women and pin-up modeling are a match made in heaven, its world is no place for an impressionable teenage girl. Well, Diana didn't care. At the age of 13, she entered a beauty contest in search of a pin-up model for Soldier magazine. But here's where it gets a little dicey. Diana pretended to be 17 and wore a red-and-white swimsuit in her picture.
The ruse paid off, and she the amateur model placed third. Suddenly, Diana realized that she could manipulate the system. Lying became her secret weapon.
Diana started booking modeling gigs and acting roles in local theater productions, but in order to really make it big, she knew that she required some decent training. Once again, she lied about her age, becoming the youngest student at the prestigious London Academy of Music and Dramatic Art (LAMDA). Here, Diana studied Shakespearean plays, the classics, and even fencing. Although the workload was intense, Diana kept her eye on the prize.
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Diana excelled at LAMDA, proving that she was far more than just a pretty face. She received a silver medal with honors for exams that required her to perform Shakespeare. She also won the London Films Cup, which recognized the “girl most likely to succeed in films.” With a bolstered ego in her back pocket, it wasn't long before Diana's talent caught the eye of casting director Eric L’Epine Smith, who made her dreams come true.
When she was only 15, Diana’s undeniable talent led to an early professional debut. In The Shop at Sly Corner, she played a promiscuous woman, which meant she had to keep her age a secret. After downing a few drinks, she nailed her scene, for which she received a salary of £24. Although Diana didn’t receive credit for the role, Diana was happy to finally be in a movie.
Her acting career had finally started, but first, she needed to make a drastic change.
With a surname like Fluck, Diana obviously needed a stage name. She was one misspelling away from a disaster. Believing that first and last names with the same initial letter would provide a memorable name, her mother suggested that Diana use "Dors," her maternal grandmother’s maiden name. From then on, Diana Fluck became Diana Dors—a name destined to make cinematic history.
But despite all of her early success, everything wasn't as it seemed. Behind the scenes, the hopeful actress faced a daunting problem.
Living in London ain’t cheap, especially for an aspiring actress. To supplement her income, Diana took a job as a photographic model with the London Camera Club for a salary of one guinea an hour, which was quite the pretty penny back in the day. But there was a dark side to this gig: The work also involved modeling in the buff, and Diana was still a minor at the time. Of course, this didn't stop Diana.
With her parents’ blessing, she went ahead with it and never looked back.
Diana may have had the looks, but she still needed to smooth the rest of her sharp edges. At the age of 15, she attended the Rank Charm School. Yep, there was a charm school just for aspiring actors, and Diana received lessons in charm, etiquette, and grace. She despised every second of it, but it was well worth her trouble because she received a lot of publicity.
During this time, she received the nickname "The Body"—but this was only the beginning of her sizzling reputation.
Nothing makes a celebrity more memorable than an impressive nickname, and Diana had plenty of those throughout her career. They included “The Siren of Swindon,” “The Hurricane in Mink," and “The Blonde Bombshell.” Because of her voluptuous figure and platinum blonde hair, she became known as “England’s Marilyn Monroe."
The physical similarities would lead to lifelong comparisons between the two women. For the entertainment world, this was the opportune moment to spark a titillating rivalry.
So, what does the press do with two blonde vixens? Pit them against each other, of course! Given the physical similarities and mutual provocative reputations, it wasn’t a shock that the press constantly linked Diana Dors to Marilyn Monroe. When Monroe’s The Asphalt Jungle came to the UK, a journalist remarked, “How much like our Diana Dors she is.”
As much as Diana hated the comparisons, she shared Monroe’s ability to create a public sensation with her sensuous roles. Sometimes, however, her naughty parts got her into some serious trouble.
Showing too much skin was a big no-no. In the early 50s, Diana ran into trouble with the censors in the US. The American Board of Film Censors temporarily banned her movie Lady Godiva Rides Again for one scandalous reason: She exposed her navel. To get past those pesky American censors for another movie, My Wife’s Lodger, Dors filmed a scene twice, donning a modest shirt to cover her navel in the American version.
During these years though, Diana would face even greater obstacles.
After playing many minor roles, Diana finally got her first leading role in Diamond City, a movie about a boomtown in South Africa set in 1870. Although only 17 at the time, she played a saloon owner who falls in love with the lead character. Sadly, the movie was a box office flop. But as her career swerved through a trying rough patch, her love life got interesting.
After filming Diamond City, Diana entertained a two-year relationship with Michael Caborn-Waterfield, a shady businessman. With a nickname like “Dandy Kim,” it comes as no surprise that he later opened an adult novelty store called Ann Summers. Still, that wasn't the worst part. After one of his dubious business schemes, Michael ended up behind bars for two weeks.
This certainly wasn't shaping up to be a fairytale romance—and it was doomed to a dramatic end.
While her boyfriend served his time, Diana had her head turned by somebody else. She met Dennis Hamilton in May 1951. Dennis swooped in with a smooth first move: He asked her for a lighter. But his romantic expertise didn't stop there. He continued to lay it on thick, wooing Diana and sending her lavish bouquets of flowers every day.
No man had treated her like this before, and the actress quickly fell for Dennis’ good looks and charm. By the end of June, Dennis had convinced Diana to take a leap of faith.
After only five weeks, Dennis convinced Diana to marry him. But while the two lovebirds were having the time of their lives, their romance rubbed one person the wrong way. Diana's awful ex, Michael, wasn’t going away without a fight. Not even a prison sentence could prevent him from raining on the new couple's parade—and he hatched a nefarious plan in the hopes of sabotaging the wedding.
In an attempt to ruin Diana's big day, Michael disclosed to the registrar that there was a fake signature on the registry. Too bad for him, the plan didn’t work. Determined to marry Diana, Dennis got physical with the registrar and had some choice words with him. Nothing was going to get in his way—not even a pesky ex-boyfriend. The wedding went ahead, but not without a few glitches.
Weddings are usually a joyous, lavish event, but in Diana's case, it wasn’t an entirely happy occasion. The couple was broke, so the guests had to pay for their own meals at the reception. And then there was the self-seeking groom. With a constant eye on opportunities to generate publicity, Dennis decided to exploit his own wedding. He went ahead and tipped off the press.
To her dismay, Diana's romantic private affair morphed into a horrifying media frenzy. Sadly, this wasn't the only red flag in the relationship.
Poor Diana should’ve seen it coming. Dennis controlled her entire life. Eager to profit off of his wife, he steered her towards higher-paying roles at the expense of ones that would have established her as a serious actress. Laurence Olivier once offered her a role in The Beggars Opera, but Dennis convinced her to reject it. If it wasn’t for Dennis, Diana had a good chance of becoming a respected actress. Sadly, her husband's sinister influence knew no bounds.
Dennis was willing to do anything to turn Diana into a star. Diana participated in the common “casting couch” practices, a euphemism for exchanging a certain type of favor for acting jobs. Biographers and friends claim Dennis made arrangements between Diana and influential producers and actors to further her career, as well as his ambitions.
As a slimy schemer, he came up with different ways to keep Diana’s name in the headlines.
To help Diana project a glamorous front and gain publicity, Dennis cooked up another shady scheme. Despite not knowing how to drive, Diana became the youngest registered owner of a Rolls Royce at the age of 20. Ever a smooth operator, Dennis used their old car as a deposit and promised to pay the remainder of the money in installments. As the saying goes, to play a part, you’ve got to be the part.
3D pictures were in, and Dennis used them to cement Diana’s hottie status. The actress released salacious pictures of herself in two books. The first one was called Diana Dors 3D: The Ultimate British Sex Symbol, and it came with a pair of red and green 3D glasses. Another book titled London Models featured photos of Diana in her full natural glory. The actress faced serious charges, but the court ruled in her favor.
Buried beneath a mountain of poor choices, Diana only set herself up for even greater disappointment.
Diana finally set her eyes on making it in Hollywood, but she failed miserably. She signed a three-picture deal with RKO in 1956, but nothing materialized. Finally, it all came to a crashing halt at a party arranged by Diana and Dennis at a friend’s home. Pushed into the pool, Dennis went after a photographer. The incident created bad publicity in America, and the actress's awful marriage crashed and burned in the worst way imaginable.
After enduring years of her husband's constant exploitation, Diana found the courage to leave him. However, the separation came at a high price. Unable to part with his cash cow, Dennis forced Diana to sign over most of her assets...at gunpoint. And then, after finally escaping from Dennis, Diana still needed money to pay her divorce lawyers and accountants.
As such, her dire situation cornered her into an act of desperation.
Pressed for cash, Diana did a tour of cabaret shows called The Diana Dors Show around Britain. Managed by Joe Collins, the father of Jackie and Joan Collins, it showcased Diana’s singing skills and her ability to engage with a live audience. The successful tour didn’t just revive Diana’s career, it also sparked another romance. During this time, she met her second husband, comedian Richard Dawson, who would go on to be the host of Family Feud.
Life was on the ups for Ms. Dors, but it didn’t last long.
While Diana worked on her new venture, her horrible ex-husband suddenly croaked. Unfortunately, because they hadn't secured a proper divorce, she had to deal with the financial mess he left behind. And that wasn't all. To make matters worse, the tax department also came for her. Her financial situation was in dire straits—and her second marriage to Richard Dawson didn't help matters at all.
Diana Dors was officially unlucky in love and life. Like her first marriage, her romance with Richard Dawson also failed, and after she got a divorce, she had no choice but to declare bankruptcy. To save the family home in America from the British tax department, she gave it to Richard as well as custody of their sons. Everything was falling apart. Her family, her relationships—even her career.
The late 50s weren’t kind to Diana. Things weren’t going well for her professionally—and when RKO terminated its contract with her, she countered them with a lawsuit. In the face of all her issues, Diana announced she was going to retire from acting and concentrate on her other interests, like a shampoo factory. Thankfully, she pivoted and decided to stay the course.
Due to the success of her cabaret show, Diana got her own tv show, also named The Diana Dors Show, with Richard Dawson as the primary scriptwriter. Like its predecessor, the variety-comedy show was also a success and ran from 1959 to 1961 in Britain. This career triumph couldn’t have come at a better time—and it reinvigorated her declining film career.
Diana’s movie career may not have reached its potential, but she did achieve critical praise for some of her performances. At the 1956 Cannes Film Festival, she received praise for her role as a murderess in Yield to the Night. She also showed her more serious side as an actress when she dressed down for the role, a far cry from the sultry characters she usually played.
Unfortunately, Diana made mistakes in her choice of roles, and her career paid dearly for it.
While Diana’s lack of control over her early career resulted in squandered opportunities to build a strong film career, she was able to revive her career with leading roles in television shows and supporting roles in movies in the 1970s. Capitalizing on her past sensual image, she found roles in adult comedies, such as The Amorous Milkman and Three for All.
In the UK, she also had a starring role in a sitcom called Queenie’s Castle, which aired for three seasons. She even made appearances in game shows, such as Celebrity Squares. However, it was Diana's penchant for trouble that kept her in the headlines.
Nothing symbolizes luxury like mink, and Diana made sure she wore it often. One of her nicknames, “The Hurricane in Mink”, was a reference to her love for the fur, which created some interesting moments. In 1955, she wore a revealing mink bikini, which was really rabbit fur, at the Venice Film Festival while on a gondola. This risky stunt garnered a lot of publicity for her.
She claimed her mink coat as a tax deduction, which became a hot topic of discussion in the British Parliament. But wearing fur was Diana's tamest transgression.
It’s no surprise that a buxom babe like Diana Dors had a reputation for holding raunchy, boozy adult parties. For most of her career, Diana was infamous for hosting her home as a place where celebrities could mingle with young ingenues. One of her sons alleged that she had 8mm movie cameras lying around the house. Instead of paying to attend these wild parties, young actresses agreed to film the celebrities’, um, "performances."
Apparently, Diana enjoyed watching them afterward and kept a collection of the best ones.
Ever the resourceful woman, Diana was able to turn the salacious parts of her life into an income stream. She dipped her toes into the realm of literature—and in 1960, she released a book titled Swinging Dors. Oh, but she was just getting started. During the last years of her life, she wrote four memoirs. In one of them, Behind Closed Dors, she wrote about famous actors and actresses, such as Paul Newman and Sophia Loren. But that wasn't the spiciest publication.
Diana's book A. to Z. of Men featured humorous takes on what men and women think about each other based on the alphabet. The titillating title of another book was for adult eyes only. In fact, these books were so tawdry—they made Fifty Shades of Grey look like child’s play. But it was interesting how racy she could be, considering her strong religious views.
Believe it or not, Diana Dors was actually a religious person. In 1973, she converted to Catholicism and even liked attending mass on Sundays. She was a devoted supporter of religious and charity groups. However, even then, she kept her wild side alive. For example, in 1972, she joined a campaign to allow prisoners to have marital relations in prison with their wives. Some habits just refuse to die.
Even after two failed marriages, Diana didn’t give up on love. In 1968, she married her third husband, actor Alan Lake. She seemed to have finally found lasting love because she remained with Alan until the end of her life. But like her previous marriages, this one was also full of drama. Alan’s battles with sobriety created problems, and he served a sentence for getting into a fight outside a pub.
But although Diana’s marriages may have caused her a world of heartache—they also granted her her greatest treasures.
Despite her trouble with men, Diana still extended unconditional love to her sons. Her marriage with Richard Dawson produced two sons, Mark and Gary. And through her marriage to Alan Lake, she welcomed one more son named Jason. Sadly, Jason's life ended in tragedy: He died by suicide at the young age of 50—long after Diana had passed.
Additionally, Diana's journey to motherhood had an incredibly dark backstory.
As a young actress, Diana got pregnant on three occasions, which would have impacted her fledgling acting career. She had no choice but to make an incredibly difficult decision. She opted for three abortions, which would’ve created a huge scandal back then. Her first abortion happened when she was dating Michael Caborn-Waterfield—and it was one of the most trying moments of her life.
To abort her first pregnancy, Diana's partner Michael arranged for a seedy backdoor abortion on a kitchen table. The procedure was a disaster and it left Diana with severe health complications, from which she took months to recover. The other two abortions happened during her marriage to Dennis Hamilton, who didn’t want a pregnancy getting in the way of Diana’s career.
Unfortunately, Diana had poor health during the later years of her life. After surviving her first bout with cancer, she got meningitis and had to fight for her life. She survived yet again, but the sickness led to a worrisome thyroid problem. Famed for her svelte figure, Dors gained quite a bit of weight. However, with her flair for turning a bad situation around, Diana decided to find the silver lining in the encroaching darkness.
Ever an opportunist, Diana used her weight gain to her advantage. She co-wrote a diet book and released a diet and exercise video. The success of these ventures led her to have her own segment on ITV’s morning show that focused on diet and nutrition. It eventually segued into an “agony aunt” segment. Sadly, she didn’t get to enjoy her late success for long.
Diana’s on-and-off battle with ovarian cancer ended on May 4, 1984, when she was only 52. She left behind her husband, Alan, and three sons. At the time, her youngest son was only 14. The saddest part was she was enjoying a revival in her career. Her last movie, Steaming, was released around this time. But although she'd passed on, the nightmare still wasn't over.
Things continued to get worse for Diana's family when her husband Alan took his own life five months later. His passing shook everyone to their core—but it also posed another problem. You see, only Alan knew the answer to a very important question. Officially, Diana left behind very little money, but that might not be true. According to her son, Mark, Diana may have hidden a fortune of around £2 million in banks throughout Europe. But how could he find it?
According to Diana's son, Mark, the actress had left behind the key to her secret fortune in two halves. Dors gave half of it to Mark as a piece of paper and the other half to her last husband, Alan. Mark had so much trouble decoding his part that he turned to forensic scientists and cryptologists for help. Unfortunately, because of his untimely passing, Alan’s part of the key is still missing, leaving the whereabouts of the money a mystery.
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