She's been a National Joke and a National Disgrace in her time, but when she died we realised we'd lost a National Treasure.
She was born Diana Fluck in Swindon. Her mother pushed her into performing, though she didn't need much pushing. She attended RADA and quickly got small parts in pictures. It was clear from the start that there was something that set her apart from other actresses of her generation - she was unmistakably common.
The public started to notice her, particularly in her role as the cousin in two of the Huggetts films. Rank's publicity machine moved in to get as much mileage out of her personality as possible. She was even, briefly, at the famed Rank Charm School, though that was never going to change her. What Rank seemed incapable of doing was providing her with a vehicle to show off her talents. After Dance Hall Rank dropped her contract and she freelanced for a while, doing theatre, music halls and several dreadful films.
She got a decent role in The Weak and the Wicked and people started to believe she could act as well as look decorative. Following this up A Kid for Two Farthings and Yield to the Night confirmed her talent and naturally she was snapped up by a Hollywood studio.
Unfortunately, the studio was RKO which was entering its death throes. It put her into two unsuitable vehicles before a public brawl between her and her husband made Hollywood uncomfortable for them.
She came back to Britain, and like many British actresses who tried and failed in Hollywood, never quite attained the level she was at before she left. There followed a period of decline - she never stopped working but the films were mostly bad and her roles small. She began to pile on the pounds and rapidly went from blowsy to fat.
She opened the Seventies with Queenie's Castle as the Yorkshire matriarch of a rough family living in a council flat. This TV sitcom was written by Keith Waterhouse and Willis Hall and was the ideal vehicle for her talents. Queenie was loud, common and determined to be herself and Dors revelled in the part.
Her role in The Amazing Mr Blunden got a lot of publicity as she played a slatternly Victorian housekeeper in her sixties. However she continued to accept any role going and took small parts in several examples of that dodgiest of genres - the British sex comedy.
She'd battled cancer for a number of years but it was a shock when she finally died. For over thirty years she'd lived her life in the headlines, and she was missed. Her third husband, Alan Lake, committed suicide not long after which generated even more headlines. Proof of her lasting appeal came in a recent TV biopic: The Blonde Bombshell.
Her appeal stemmed from a combination of glamour and humour, coupled with a lack of vanity. A good example of her early appeal comes in Lady Godiva Rides Again where she plays the main rival to Pauline Stroud in a beauty competition. She's friendly and surprisingly non-threatening, more interested in having fun than in winning. As an actress she's not trying very hard, but still manages to act Miss Stroud off the screen. She looks utterly artificial but behaves completely naturally. No wonder we fell for her.
|1946||The Shop at Sly Corner|
|1947||Dancing with Crime|
|1948||Good Time Girl|
|1948||My Sister and I|
|1948||Penny and the Pownall Case|
|1948||Here Come the Huggetts|
|1949||Vote for Huggett|
|1949||It's Not Cricket|
|1949||A Boy, a Girl and a Bike|
|1951||Worm's Eye View|
|1951||Lady Godiva Rides Again|
|1952||The Last Page|
|1952||My Wife's Lodger|
|1953||The Great Game|
|1953||Is Your Honeymoon Really Necessary?|
|1953||It's a Grand Life|
|1953||The Saint's Return|
|1954||The Weak and the Wicked|
|1954||As Long as They're Happy|
|1955||A Kid for Two Farthings|
|1955||Value for Money|
|1955||Miss Tulip Stays the Night|
|1955||An Alligator named Daisy|
|1956||Yield to the Night|
|1957||I Married a Woman (U.S.)|
|1957||The Unholy Wife (U.S.)|
|1957||The Long Haul|
|1958||La Ragazza del Palio (It.)|
|1958||Tread Softly Stranger|
|1959||Passport to Shame|
|1960||Scent of Mystery|
|1961||On the Double (U.S.)|
|1961||King of the Roaring Twenties (U.S.)|
|1961||Encontra a Mallorca (Sp.)|
|1962||Mrs Gibbon's Boys|
|1966||The Sandwich Man|
|1969||There's a Girl in my Soup|
|1972||Nothing but the Night|
|1972||The Amazing Mr Blunden|
|1973||Theatre of Blood|
|1973||Steptoe and Son Ride Again|
|1974||From Beyond the Grave|
|1975||Bedtime with Rosie|
|1975||Three for All|
|1975||The Amorous Milkman|
|1976||Adventures of a Taxi Driver|
|1977||Adventures of a Private Eye|
|1979||The David Galaxy Affair|
Diana Dors at Amazon UK
Diana Dors at Amazon US