Book Review: The Real Diana Dors by Anna Cale

The story of Swindon-born film star Diana Dors is one of fame, glamour and intrigue. From the moment she came into the world, her life was full of drama. Her acting career began in the shadow of the Second World War, entering the film world as a vulnerable young teenager and negotiating the difficult British studio system of the 1940s and 50s. Yet she battled against the odds to become one of the most iconic British actors of the 20th century.

This book follows her remarkable story, from childhood in suburban Swindon, to acting success as a teenager and finding fame as the ‘the English Marilyn Monroe’. Many remember her as an outspoken and sometimes controversial figure, grabbing headlines for her personal life as often as her film roles. For Diana, image seemed to be everything, but there was more to her than the ‘blonde bombshell’ reputation suggested. A talented actor, she worked on numerous film and television projects, building a fascinating career that spanned decades.

Set against the backdrop of the changing social landscape of twentieth century Britain, this book charts the ups and downs of her diverse acting career and her tumultuous private life, to build a fascinating picture of a truly unique British screen icon.

What I Thought:

I have vague memories from childhood of Diana Dors as a big-haired, big-bosomed woman who I occasionally saw on TV but, unbeknownst to me back then, she was a talented actress who had a tremendous body of work behind her.

In The Real Diana Dors, Anna Cale draws back the curtain on this older woman that I remembered to reveal the length and breadth of Diana Dors’ career from the post-war period, until her death in 1984.

What a fascinating character Diana Dors was! From humble beginnings, but with a mother who had big dreams for her daughter, Diana’s life is one of unsuitable marriages, bankruptcy, chasing the appearance of wealth and an incredibly sad family life, but it is all played out against hard work and an acting catalogue spanning over 30 years.

Anna Cale’s book never shies away from the realities of Diana’s life, but presents the life of a driven, professional woman who often sees her career at odds with her family life, at the eventual expense of her relationship with some of her children.

All of the tragedy and scandal – most of which would not be seen as remotely scandalous these days – is covered sensitively and does not sensationalise Diana’s misfortunes. It feels like it comes from a place of deep appreciation for Diana’s work.

Despite early promise and what seems to have been a fearsome work ethic, Diana never really lived up to the potential she had early on – she was known as the British Marilyn Monroe, so should more than share Marilyn’s fame – but scandal cast a shadow over her work.

This book has gone some way to clearing the noise away from Diana’s career and it’s a fascinating look at a fascinating woman. With vintage movie channels like Talking Pictures now regularly on TV, I would hope to see more of Diana’s work come to the fore.

The Real Diana Dors is published by White Owl.

You can connect with Anna Cale on Twitter.

Please note: I was sent a copy of this book for review. All opinions are, as ever, my own.

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