"I said to this priest 'Am I expected to believe that if I went out and had an affair that God was really going to be upset? If no one is any the wiser what the hell difference does it make?' He was lovely. He told me the Commandments were laid down for a lot of guys living in the desert."
New York gave us Veronica Lake, Swindon gave us Diana Dors. For recent generations, the one-time Diana Fluck is best remembered, if at all, for appearing as a fairy godmother in an Adam And The Ants video. My first memories of her are as an overweight woman advertising her kiss-and-tell stories in the News Of The World; with no knowledge of her fifties heyday, I found her faintly repellent. "There is something a bit rubbish about her" says biographer Damon Wise, "rubbishy and British."
Like G-plan, for post-war Britain that was enough. By Hollywood standards she was a little plump, and she wasn't exactly pretty, but this didn't matter. Bursting onto UK cinema screens in all her curvaceous splendour, Diana Dors was the definition of a glamourpuss; she also looked like a whole heap of fun and a sack load of trouble. American stars were on another planet, but girls in Dewsbury knew they could be her, boys in Dartford knew they could meet her.
Diamond City was Dors' first starring role in 1949 (her first line: "You shut up!"). She played barmaid Dora Bracken in a South African diamond mining town in the 1870's. It was an attempt at a British western, though the starchy David Farrar - a cut-price Stewart Granger - is no kind of hero. Instantly typecast, Dors is fighting for the attention of Farrar with bible-bashing Honor Blackman in a real battle of the busts. The two actresses end up in a saloon catfight, Dors finally decking Blackman with her diamond-encrusted fist. Still brown-haired, just seventeen, Dors often turned up on set without sleeping, having been up all night with the Chelsea set. "The make-up man had the devil's own job with my eyes, which grew baggier and smaller as the weeks went by" she later recalled.
The films were frequently smaller than her presence. Released on a BFI DVD last year, My Wife's Lodger (1952) has a script riddled with puns so weak ("Have you been creating a career for yourself in Korea?", "No, I was committing suicide in Suez") you'd think jokes were being rationed. An odd mix of Three Stooges slapstick and pre-war music hall, it is an intriguing curio, but Dors - playing a girl called, with characteristic British glamour, Eunice - cuts through the austerity fug with a jitterbugging exhibition. The main reason for her appearances in such minor movies (she was making an average of four a year in the fifties) was her husband and agent Dennis Hamilton. Down from Luton, he was a failed actor and was working as a door-to-door salesman when he spotted his golden ticket and wowed her with huge bouquets of flowers. Off camera, he initiated Dors into the world of sex parties and two-way mirrors; he also stunted her career like an ungodly mix of Colonel Tom Parker and Simon Cowell by guiding her away from serious roles, roaring "to hell with all that acting rubbish!" Light entertainment, as ever, was where the money was.
Meanwhile in 1953, Marilyn Monroe was shooting the film that made her an international phenomenon, Gentlemen Prefer Blondes. There was no reason to suppose, prior to this, that Monroe was anything other than healthy competition for a shapely blonde, but from '53 onwards Dors was walking in her shadow.
By now a huge star at home, a spell in Hollywood proved her undoing. At a housewarming party with a guest list including Tony Curtis, Lana Turner, Doris Day, Eddie Fisher and Gregory Peck, Dors was dunked in the swimming pool by a photographer. Dennis Hamilton went nuts and kicked the photographer senseless, earning a National Enquirer headline "Go home Diana - and take Mr Dors with you." She was nicknamed Marilyn Bovril and given a couple of tired, obvious roles (The Unholy Wife and I Married A Woman) and did a 1960 Vegas cabaret stint before returning home.
Diana Dors knew her limitations, pushed bare-faced cheek to the limit, and never played the tragedy queen. When she was broke between films in the fifties, she went round Hertfordshire with Dennis Hamilton selling water softeners - an episode which ended with the pair climbling down knotted sheets to avoid paying the hotel bill. Later on, as a "diet buster" agony aunt on TV AM, she would be weighed with all her jewellery on, then remove it in the toilet to miraculously lose weight by the end of the programme. Her choice of friends (Freddie Starr, PJ Proby, 'Dandy Kim' Waterfield) was unfortunate, her husbands (Hamilton, who died of syphilis, the depressive drunk Alan Lake) worse. A relentless self-documentarist, books like Swingin' Dors are feisty, but have a wistful quality. In a way, she seemed genuinely innocent. "Nobody ever had a bad word to say about her" says Damon Wise.