The Real Diana Dors – Anna Cale (2021)

Diana Dors (1931-84) was a British National Treasure.  It’s close to forty years from her death and still new material is being published about her, this time by film and TV writer Anna Cale.  The author seeks to re-evaluate the career of Diana Dors through her performances rather than the gossip and scandal which surrounded her throughout her professional career.

It could be said that Diana was the first British “celebrity” with the trappings with which we associate that word today.  She was certainly aware of the power of the press and played up to their interest but before we discount her as a 1950’s Gemma Collins we have to consider the range and scope of her work and the affection the British public had for her.  The notion of celebrity both made her and overshadowed her (there were so many stories made up about the extent of her wealth that tax departments hounded her).  Her Hollywood career was pretty much scuppered by what could have been a publicity stunt gone wrong and at the time she was known as much for being “the girl in the mink bikini” (it was actually rabbit); “Britain’s Marilyn Monroe” (a comparison she hated) and for Sunday newspaper “exclusives” on her love life as for her many TV and film appearances.   

An all-rounder, Diana would embark on variety tours, released records and was a regular talk show guest (and host) and game show regular when the film roles dried up.  A whole generation rediscovered her by her upstaging of Adam Ant in his “Prince Charming” video but whether the public loved her from the film “Yield Into Night” (1956) which established serious acting credentials; her 70’s hit sit-com “Queenie’s Castle”; the TV adaptation of “Just William” or in one of my favourite roles of hers as Mrs Wickens in “The Amazing Mr Blunden”(1972) she always made an impression.

Wickens!!! Diana with David Lodge

Cale is very factual and does not hang around for too much analysis (she does get fired up by Diana and husband Alan Lake’s need to do low-budget sex comedy films in the late 1970’s as that was all the British film industry could really offer at that time).  I would have liked a little more of the author’s voice and opinions in this re-evaluation as to be honest, there wasn’t much in this book that I hadn’t read before.  I think I favour a trashier publication from 1987 “Diana Dors: Only A Whisper Away” by Joan Flory and Damien Walne where the whole dichotomy of celebrity/actor is conveyed better.  That is a book I have read a couple of times and really enjoyed.  I was expecting more from Cale’s book with its greater hindsight expecting it to be the definitive word on the life and career of Diana Dors.

It wasn’t.  I’ve also read at least a couple of her autobiographical works and remember them being quite candid showing that Dors was not reluctant in keeping the scandalous side of her alive, knowing that this was what the public wanted and that it would sell books.  Amazon suggests three titles I haven’t read David Bret’s “A Hurricane In Mink” (2010): Niemah Ash’s “Connecting Dors” written in conjunction with Diana and Alan Lake’s late son, Jason (2012) and “The Shocking Truth” by Harry Harrison (2020) which shows that the interest in reading about her is without doubt still there.  I think Cale’s book may be the most restrained of these but that might not be what those wishing to find out more about this marvellous woman would want.

The Real Diana Dors was published in hardback by Pen and Sword in July 2021.

The Amazing Mr Blunden (1972) – A What I’ve Been Watching Review



An early morning Easter treat was on BBC2 on Bank Holiday Monday.  This is a film often tucked away in the off-peak schedules at holiday times.  When I first saw it as a child on its cinema release I became quite obsessed by it and have watched it quite a few times since and find myself looking out for it at Christmas and Easter.


Based on the book “The Ghosts” by Antonia Barber (it was republished with the film’s title on its release- I know this as I had a much thumbed Puffin copy) the screen version was written and directed by Lionel Jefferies whose profile was hot after his much praised appearance as Grandpa in “Chitty Chitty Bang Bang” and who had garnered much critical and popular acclaim with his previous job at directing “The Railway Children” in 1970.  At the time I wasn’t that excited about that film because it came out too soon after a BBCTV serialisation (which also starred Jenny Agutter) that I much enjoyed and I really didn’t see the point of them releasing a film.  In later years I’ve revised my opinion as it is a lovely family movie but I also still have a strong attachment to “Mr Blunden” which on its release I vociferously preferred.

Dating from 1972, it seems earlier, especially in the early sequences set in Camden Town.  The print that appears on television always looks a bit dodgy in this section (would they have been filming on videotape then?).  One evening in 1918 a strangely out of place elderly gentleman turns up at a depressed looking basement flat to offer its occupants the job of a caretaker of a large, deserted house in Langley Park with free accommodation in a nearby cottage.  The offer is taken up by the mother and her three children (baby Benjamin need bother us no more) but Lucy (Lynne Frederick) and James (Gary Miller) will.  There’s heavy hints that this gentleman, a solicitor named Mr Blunden, is a ghost but I can recall that on my first viewing I didn’t pick up on this until quite some way into the film- Oh the naivety of youth!


Once on the Langley Park estate we move into time-slip territory when two child ghosts from 1818 make an appearance and enlist the help of Lucy and James to try and change events.  This is what I would have loved as a child- anything to do with moving time fascinated me.  (“Tom’s Midnight Garden”, the truncated time of the Narnia Books.  Anyone remember the ITV series “Timeslip” with a barrier to different eras?  I adored all these).  The youngest boy, Georgie, is heir to a £30,000 fortune and in 1818 people want him out to the way.


                    Lynne Frederick & Gary Miller    


Madeline Smith & James Villiers

There’s familiar faces from the time – Lynne Frederick appeared regularly on television (this was her first film) and went on to marry David Frost and Peter Sellers.  James Villiers made a good living playing cads and Madeline Smith, a regular in everything from “The Two Ronnies” to Hammer horrors plays his child-like bride with aplomb.  There are two scene stealers, however, Deddie Davies as the put-upon cringing skivvy Meakin and an absolute revelation of a performance from ex-glamour puss and British national treasure, Diana Dors playing the hideous, warty and wicked Mrs Wickens.  This was her biggest part in a long time and reminded moviegoers who knew her more as a celebrity and via tabloid headlines that she was a great character actress.  If anything, I think she is underused in this film as she steals every scene she is in.


Diana Dors & Deddie Davies

Watching this again I had a wry smile at the Isle Of Wight being advocated as an ideal honeymoon resort (“Cor, Strewth! The Isle Of Wight!) exclaimed Arabella and anyone wishing to follow up on this could do worse than follow the links to my guesthouse found on the side of this post.


Wickens!!!!! Diana Dors and David Lodge

It all ends satisfactorily with a climactic fire scene which is better than the special effects capabilities of 1972 might suggest and I absolutely love the credits.  The fourth wall is broken down and the cast wave to us in turn and thank us for watching.  I adore this and think it should be the compulsory way to end things.  Even the near-perfect “Happy Valley” might have been improved by Sarah Lancashire, James Norton et al smiling and waving at us in the credits!  After watching this film I felt I’d had a real Easter treat and it helped me get over the disappointment of finishing all of my Rolo Chocolate Egg the day before.


The Amazing Mr Blunden was shown on BBC2 on Monday 28th March.  It is available to buy used and new  as a DVD from Amazon.