Harry Ransom CenterThe University of Texas at Austin

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Diana Dors

Diana Dors, England's answer to Brigitte Bardot and Marilyn Monroe, talks to Wallace about England's attitude toward sex, publicity stunts, the entertainment business, and the price of fame.

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Guest: Diana Dors

WALLACE: And now to our story.Diana Dors is one of England's leading film stars. A bosomy, blonde bundle, with a flair for publicity that is extraordinary even by American standards. The daughter of a railway clerk, or clark, Miss Dors like so many Hollywood actresses has wanted to be a star since she was a child. And her success as a blonde bombshell in films has been meteoric thanks in large part to her 'ready wit' and her ability to carry off such publicity stunts as sailing down Venice's Grand Canal in a gondola while clad in a mink bikini.Diana, first of all, let me ask you this: Americans, I believe, traditionally think of the British as being emotionally cool, undemonstrative people, and then along comesDiana Dors, platinum blond, clad in low-cut gowns - except tonight - sometimes, I think you'll agree, brassy, issuing colorful statements to the press. How do you account for such a rare British phenomenon as Diana Dors?

DORS: Well, Mike, I... I don't really consider myself a phenomenon at all. And, uhm...er... if... uh... if you, or anybody else went to England I'm sure you would find just as many other, glamorous, er... er... colorful people, as myself.

WALLACE: Now, well... well... well, Diana, truth to tell, when we think about Hollywood stars we think possibly of Marilyn Monroe, Jane Mansfield, and that kind of person. You go to Italy and it's Sophia Loren or Gina Lollabrigida. England, Vivian Leigh, Deborah Kerr, Wendy Hiller - it's a different type of person- you seem to be, in a sense, in a class by yourself, for an Englishwoman.

DORS: Yes, I... I suppose, I am, Mike. Yes, when you put it like that, of course there are, a great many, very glamorous, undiscovered British girls, you know, who are just waiting for the... for the chance to show themselves.

WALLACE: Oh, I'm...

DORS: I know that I've been lucky enough to.

WALLACE: I'm certain of that. But how do you account, how do you account for the fact that evidently the British aren't interested in producing more like you have... who have reached top rank?

DORS: Well, I think that, er... the British are certainly very interested in it, but, as yet, maybe it has something to do with the British temperament of being a little cool and a little reserved, they don't quite know how to go about this and bring this kind of personality out. And if it suddenly happens, as in my case, and I don't know how it did,I don't think they... they really know what to do with it.

WALLACE: But, perhaps, you yourself once hit it; at what I'm driving at. As a matter of fact you've said it, in a sense, right now. An article about you in Time Magazine, October 10th, 1955 said this "Miss Dors feels that English film directors are wary of sex. She says, I don't think they quite know what to do with it." What do you mean by that?

DORS: Well, I... I don't think that, er... you see, Britain has made so many films which have not been on the kind of sex basis as opposed to Hollywood. Now, don't get me wrong when I say that. I mean, Hollywood, er... and Hollywood films and producers, I think, are the greatest showmen in the world. I think America has a natural flair for showmanship and always, there is usually a blonde, who is a kind of sex symbol of the... of the country, of the industry, for a time; and then she moves out and somebody else moves in. Er... apart from that, there... there are a lot of other very glamorous stars in Hollywood and, er... they... they seem to build stories around the stories that the public would like to go and see. They need not necessarily be classics, but they are box office.

WALLACE: Well, about the same token now, we were in Europe fairly recently, and I must say that Jane Mansfield was accepted by your public.

DORS: Oh yes, they love her!

WALLACE: And did they... Do you think that England has any more restrained an attitude towards sex than in the United States?

DORS: No, I don't at all. Uh, England, I think..., I think that the facts show that probably the fans and the public in England are just as enthusiastic as they are in the United States or anywhere else in the world.

WALLACE: Diana, how do you personally like all that your career demands, day in and day out? I mean appearing in daring gowns and striking provocative poses for newspaper photographers, even sailing down Venice's Grand Canal on a gondola while clad on a mink bikini. How do you really feel about doing all that?

DORS: Well, Mike, er..., at the time that I did all those things, I felt that it was an essential part of the... of the work that I was doing. Er..., although some people may have frowned on it, especially when I called it work, it may sound a very silly word. But, as far as the Venice incident with the mink bikini was concerned, er... I did that because so many columnists were ringing me up and saying, "Well, what are you going to wear at the festival this year?" They expected me to wear something outstanding, something spectacular, and I dreamed up the mink bikini because I thought it might be just what they wanted.

WALLACE: I can understand your doing this..., but what I'm asking is what Diana Dors really feels inside? Do you like making an exhibition of yourself in that fashion?

DORS: No, I don't. You see, we're really talking about two different people: we are talking about the Diana Dors that the world knows, as a kind of publicity, film actress, who... who only faces things, likes to go out, and be seen at premieres and nightclubs, and wearing low-cut gowns and striking provocative poses as you say. But the... the other Diana Dors, which is the one that I... I am inside, really doesn't like any of these things at all.

WALLACE: Well, now, what things do you dislike most. This seems like the conventional thing to say. So, if you will, tell me what you dislike most and what you'd really like to do?

DORS: Well, the things that I dislike, er... although it may sound strange, I hate going out. In fact, in England I never go out at all. I don't like nightclubs, I don't like going to premieres, or going around what is commonly known as the sort of smart places to be. Uhm... the only time that I have ever showed up at these places has been, when there is a premiere, or when there is something that publicity-wise they say you should be seen. The other side of me would much rather stay at home, er...invite friends down, talk, swim, play tennis, and generally just loaf around and not have to get dressed and made-up or anything.

WALLACE: Well now, how long have you been doing this other thing?

DORS: Oh, this other thing I have been doing ever since I started in the business. Because, I...

WALLACE: You started at a fairly early age. I believe that you started, did you not?, in the same way that Marilyn Monroe started. You posed in the altogether for photographers and, er... as a model, did you not?

DORS: No, I didn't Mike. No... I... I started when I was fourteen; I was given a part in a film. And by the time I was fifteen I was under contract to the Rank Organization, and then I had made something like 23 pictures by the time I was seventeen.

WALLACE: Well, then you obviously have more money than you know what to do with, why don't you decide to chuck the whole thing, and be the person that you say that you would like to be?

DORS: Well, I haven't got more money than I know what to do with. (CHUCKLES) I wish I had, because if I had, I probably would do just that, Mike. But, I am going towards the goal. And, how long it will take me, I don't know. I hope it will be soon.

WALLACE: What's your goal?

DORS: My goal is to have a farm in England and settle down, and raise a family, and forget the whole thing.

WALLACE: Really?

DORS: Really and truly.

WALLACE: There's a book called Hollywood, the Dream Factory, by a woman by the name of Hortense Powdermaker. She quotes this about stars: she says that "The motion picture industry stresses the 'look-at-me' and 'look-at-my-body' types, their life at home, their parties, even the details of their sleeping attire, pajamas and no pajamas. Everything accents 'look-at-me.' It's a way of life, not just the means of earning a living." Now do you disagree when Miss Powdermaker says that you've not just chosen a profession but a way of life, it must be so ingrained into you now.

DORS: No, not at all. I don't... I don't think, I... I think she is wrong when she says it's a way of life. I think that the sort of things that people read about film stars, and what they sleep in,and what they do, and that kind of thing, is usually the work of... of publicity departments, and er...

WALLACE: Oh, but Diana, how can you disassociate yourself from this? This is the fabric of your life, day in and day out.For instance, just a few days back, you and one of our reporters went to a restaurant here in New York...

DORS: Uhmmmm...

WALLACE: during the lunch hour, and I'm told that as you stepped into the restaurant a couple of hundred people looked up and opened their mouths and stopped eating, and remarks were passed, one thing and another. And you mean to say that you don't really get some honest satisfaction out of that?

DORS: I get a satisfaction out of the fact that people recognize me because, when I started in this business, er... it was my general ambition to become er... a well-known film actress. And this part of it, I get a terrific kick out of. And they say, there is a saying, that when people don't recognize you, don't ask you for your autograph, that's the time you should worry. And I quite agree. But, er... at the same time, you know, it can..., after a while you begin to realize the... the tremendous uh... strain of being a well-known personality. I mean, when... when I started I had no idea of the sort of things that would... that would happen, and would entail as far as not being able to go to places that I really would like to go to because people stare and people maybe make remarks. And maybe I wouldn't be expected to be seen in the place anyway. And...

WALLACE: Do you like the way you look?


WALLACE: Uhmmmm...

DORS: Well, not all the time I don't, but... (CHUCKLES)

WALLACE: Generally speaking, you... Do you find yourself attractive?

DORS: Oh, I wouldn't say that. No, I... I get so... so bored with looking at myself in the mirror every day (CHUCKLES).

WALLACE: Well, I think that's probably true of all of us. But, when I say do you like the way you look, do you like the long hair...

DORS: I try to make the most of myself.

WALLACE: ...the blonde hair, and you obviously play up what attributes that you have. You...

DORS: Oh, I do. Yes.

WALLACE: You are proud of the way you look

DORS: I am not proud of the way I look, Mike, but I... I try to make the most of myself, and I try to appear in the... in the best way possible.

WALLACE: Do you ever yearn to look, or act, or be, and now please understand the sense in which I say this to you, you're what is commonly known as a lady, do you ever have the yearning to cut your hair and be, and wear tailored things and be a little tweedier?

DORS: (LAUGHS) No, I don't want to be tweedier at all (CHUCKLES). But, I don't think that being a lady has anything to do with cutting one's hair (CHUCKLES). I have my hair long, really and truly,because it suits me, and if it were short it would look terrible. And in my wardrobe, uh... if you were beginning to look hard enough you'd find an awful lot of tailored things.

WALLACE: Do you think the average, ordinary-looking woman watching this program tonight has any real reason to envy you or your appearance?

DORS: Well, that's a very difficult question: you know, I find that some people do, and a lot of people just... just loathe the way I look and everything I represent.

WALLACE: Why do you think the... the average man or woman is so fascinated by people like yourself? Fascinated by your clothes, with what you say, with stunts like wearing the mink bikini. What... what is it that... that makes this so interesting to so many of us?

DORS: Well, uh... I don't know. I... I think maybe it's because I am representing a larger-than-life kind of character, one that is completely detached from the everyday normal kind of life that most people lead, and maybe some people, er... have a secret yearning to... to do the things that I do, and wear the kind of clothes I wear. Maybe it's, maybe it's a kind of dream. I don't know.

WALLACE: Is it possible that's, that a good many of us are so bored with our own lives that we crave the vicarious excitement of reading and hearing about the high jinks of people like yourself?

DORS: (CHUCKLES) I don't know. There are probably a lot of people who say they couldn't care less anyway. But I do know, that people, er... in films the word 'film star' and 'glamorous blonde,' and that kind of thing, fascinates a lot of people. And..., and I think, in... in many, many people there is a hidden desire to be, to be famous, and to be glamorous, and... and to do all the things that they've only ever dreamed about.

WALLACE: Well, this obviously was the case with you.

DORS: Uhmmmm... yes, I was very young. In fact, all my life I... it was a childhood dream of mine to become a film star.

WALLACE: Now... now that you are a film star, is it all that it is cracked up to be?


WALLACE: All right, tell us why? But really tell us.

DORS: All right, well. When I... when I first began I had dreams of being a glamorous film star, like the film stars that I had seen on the screen and I had read about. And I thought, what a wonderful life it must be; you don't work hard, you lie around in satin and silks all day, and you have everybody sort of fawning over you. But, when you have been in the business for a certain length of time, you first of all come to realize that nobody gets there in the first place without a lot of hard work, disappointments, and heartbreaks...

WALLACE: Compromises?

DORS: Yes.

WALLACE: Compromises with your own honesty?

DORS: Yes.

WALLACE: Have you... have you done things, frankly, over the past, let's say, ten years uh... of which you are ashamed in order to achieve this success that you now have?

DORS: Er...

WALLACE: I am not asking for any true confessions.

DORS: No, no, no, no. No I... I am not ashamed of anything I've done, oh no, far from it. I think that my publicity, although some of it has been colorful, and some of it, as in the case of this Hollywood swimming-pool incident, which I'm sure everybody knows about by now, was certainly unwanted and... and I could have done without. But I am not ashamed of anything I've done. I would hate to be ashamed of anything. I would hate to look back on my life and say, "Oh, if I only had it over again, I would be different, and I would do this differently".

WALLACE: But you, I... I interrupted you, you were saying that there are many things, or certain things, that just make it not worth the candle.

DORS: Not all of it's cracked up. But, of course, everything in life has a price. I mean, there have been times when I've been very unhappy, and people have said to me, "Well, that is the price you pay for your swimming pool, and your Cadillac, and all the good things of life that you have."

WALLACE: Your, your unhappiness, what, specifically, what kinds of unhappiness?

DORS: Oh, I don't... Well, when I say unhappiness I mean, you know, personal problems and, and... uhm... worries about the future, and about security, and growing old, and all those little things that people worry about.

WALLACE: Does growing old really concern you?

DORS: No, it doesn't. No. I don't mind it very much. I can't really imagine myself old, maybe that's why (CHUCKLES).

WALLACE: Uhmmmm. When I say growing old, I mean, does becoming less attractive, losing the... your... your figure a little bit, and getting wrinkles...

DORS: Well, you know, in many ways I think one day, when it finally happens, I'm going to rather enjoy that, because then I won't have to bother how I look anymore.

WALLACE: I would imagine there'd be a tremendous amount of tension and anticipation.

DORS: Oh, it is, it is. Because all the time, you know, you are on show, you have to be absolutely impeccably dressed, and not a hair out of place.

WALLACE: You know, we've been reading scores of newspapers clippings about you that date back several years, and a hint of disillusion appeared back in November '56, in an interview with syndicated columnist Joe Haens, speaking of your five month's stay in Hollywood you said, "I just don't know what it is about Hollywood that's so upsetting; they speak English there, but it's like being in a foreign country." What you mean by that?

DORS: Well, Mike. Er... I'm going to start with, much as I... I like and respect Joe, I owe him his writing, I didn't exactly say that very statement. I certainly didn't say that I found Hollywood upsetting. I probably said that, "Although..." - and I was referring to America when I said this - "Although we all speak the same language, I think that we are... we are, in many ways, er... troubling to one another in our... in our ways." I mean, what you were saying earlier about the British being cool and reserved, I mean the Americans are far from being that. I think we have a different way of life, different senses of humor, and generally are different. But I certainly didn't find that Hollywood upset me, on the contrary.

WALLACE: You came here, I remember so well, you came here, how long ago was it, for the first time?

DORS: Er... about a year and a half.

WALLACE: Little about a year and a half. You came with such a tremendous publicity, and so much good will. And, I rather felt, that when you left, it had not been a totally satisfactory experience for you.

DORS: No, it hadn't.

WALLACE: Now, do you blame that on Diana Dors or do you blame that on Hollywood?

DORS: I blame it on both.

WALLACE: What did Diana Dors do wrong?

DORS: Well, I don't know whether I did anything wrong, but I suppose coming here with this terrific blaze of publicity, and being the kind of sex symbol blonde, I..as not only in the case of Hollywood, but everywhere in the world, set myself up in a position to be knocked down, like a skittle. And, uhm, yes, I was in Hollywood, more than... more than anywhere else I had ever been. Er...

WALLACE: Uhmmmm... Do you resent Hollywood for doing it to you?

DORS: No! No, I think everybody has a perfect right to say exactly what they feel and what they think, and er... I don't resent Hollywood for... for saying a lot of the things that it did about me. I don't mind constructive criticism.

WALLACE: What did Hollywood do wrong to Diana Dors?

DORS: Well, first of all, there was the swimming-pool incident, which was a terrible thing. And, which upset me a great deal because, apart from anything else, everybody thought that it was a publicity stunt on my part.

WALLACE: Uhmmmm...

DORS: And it wasn't. And, I thought that the way the photographer, who actually pushed us all in, behaved, was very bad, considering he was in our house, accepting our hospitality.

WALLACE: I believe that's in litigation right now, so it's probably just as well not to talk about it...


WALLACE: Uh... but aside from that...

DORS: Uh... aside from that...

WALLACE: Didn't you in a sense, ask for what you got?

DORS: No, I don't think so. No.

WALLACE: Why do you resent being called England's answer to Marilyn Monroe? Last year Louella Parsons quoted you as saying, "I wish I could be called something other than England's Marilyn Monroe." What's wrong with being England's Marilyn Monroe?

DORS: Well, to start with, I think that there is only one Marilyn Monroe, there could never be any other. And therefore I don't want to sort of be a carbon copy of Marilyn Uh... I want to be England's Diana Dors, (CHUCKLES) which I am at home (CHUCKLES).

WALLACE: Perfectly understandable. Diana, in a moment I'd like to ask you about something you said recently about the private lives of film stars. You said"Any star who gets involved in politics is a fool." And in a moment I'd like to know why you think that? We'll get the answer to that question in less than sixty-seconds.


WALLACE: (Get with Philip Morris, the natural smoke, with a man's kind of mildness.) Now then Diana, a few days ago, you told our reporter, quote, "In my opinion any star who gets involved in politics is a fool." Truly you wouldn't want to entrust our politics exclusively to a professional politician?

DORS: No, I think that it is perfectly alright for actors to have their own private opinions about politics, but I think it's... it's a very bad thing for their careers to start getting heavily involved in them. As in the case of the new people who have become involved in this communistic thing and have finished their wonderful careers completely stone dead.

WALLACE: Now, what do you mean ahead with that people have gotten involved in this communist thing and have finished their careers?

DORS: Well, er... would you like me to mention some names?

WALLACE: Mmmmm... it depends because, obviously, we don't want to tag anybody unnecessarily.

DORS: No, of course not. Or shall we say that I mean, - in particular - I am thinking of... of two, big, and very wonderful Hollywood stars, who have openly confessed to becoming communists, or being communists, and because of this, their talent, their genius, and everything has been completely side-stepped. And now, their... their careers are all washed up.

WALLACE: Well, uh... just because one gets involved in politics doesn't necessarily mean that one has to wind up in becoming a communist.

DORS: Oh, I agree, I agree, I am taking things a little too far this way, what I do is...

WALLACE: Certainly every citizen has a... has a right...

DORS: Yes.

WALLACE: and really the duty, to express himself or herself politically.

DORS: Yes, Uhmmmm.

WALLACE: Uhm... again we come to what seems to be, er... if I may go on for just an instant, the unhappy story of Diana Dors who has devoted herself so exclusively to her career that she has left a certain part of her life follow. And, what you are suggesting is that in the effort for your career you forget about everything else, or not everything else, but you forget about the fairly important other things that make a human being.

DORS: No, I don't think you forget them. But I think, er... if you are thinking about the public and the effect that you are having on the public, you should be a little careful before you start saying things openly, because...

WALLACE: Well, you mean to say that you would disaffect the part of your public if you were to announce that you were either on the side of the Labour Party or you are on the side of the the Conservative Party in England?

DORS: I think so. I think if I suddenly announced that I was Conservative, I would probably lose thousands and thousands of Labour fans. Because people are funny, I find. Politics brings out the worst in people, more than anything else, for some strange reason, I don't know why. I'm not terribly interested in politics, anyway.

WALLACE: Really?


WALLACE: Have you ever voted in a British election?

DORS: No, I haven't. I've only... I've only been old enough to vote once which was, I think, well, the... the last general election. And, at the time, I had never... I had never studied politics, er... at all, and I didn't really see the reason why I should go and put a sign down for something that I didn't understand and didn't know.

WALLACE: Aside from your profession Diana, what interests you? what excites you?

DORS: Oh, everything, I love to talk, I love to...

WALLACE: Well, of course you like to talk, but what do you like to talk about? What...

DORS: Anything, anything rather than the profession (CHUCKLES).

WALLACE: Uhmmmm... Have you ever studied anything? Have you ever really been involved in anything?

DORS: No, I haven't, unfortunately, because it hasn't left me time to be involved, or to take up anything seriously. But alongside, when I'm not, when I'm not appearing anywhere, and when I'm not working on a film, I like to sort of creep around and find out things, and... find out things about people...

WALLACE: Well, now, I imagine that, in as much as you're going to turn farmer shortly, that you'll be reading agriculture books.

DORS: That's for sure (CHUCKLES).

WALLACE: Diana, I thank you so much for coming and spending this time with us and continue...

DORS: Thank you Mike.

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