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Great re-telling of Britain's Tragic Blonde Bombshell
jrb180217 January 2001
A very well made series about Diana Dors, who was Britain's answer to Marilyn Monroe and Jayne Mansfield in the 50s and early 60s. Both actresses who played the lead role (Keeley Hawes, as the young Dors, and Amanda Redman as the elder Dors), are very good. The only criticism I've got against the series, is they should have got a better actor to play Rod Steiger. The actor who portrayed Steiger, looked nothing like the real Steiger! Dors led a tragic lifestyle in some ways (as did Monroe), and Redman playing the elder Dors achieves this very well. After taking beatings from her alcoholic husband, she threatens to leave him, and this makes him stop drinking. Dors died from Cancer, and her husband were so heart broken, he took his own life soon after. This is strongly portrayed in the series also, and it does bring a lump to your throat at the end.
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6/10
Where Did It All Go Wrong?
JamesHitchcock9 January 2010
Warning: Spoilers
To my generation, growing up in the seventies, Diana Dors was something of a joke, a blowsy, overweight actress who was well past her prime but refused to admit it, the sort of woman for whom the phrase "mutton dressed as lamb" could have been invented. To my father's generation in the fifties, however, she was one of the world's most beautiful women, an authentic sex symbol who could have been Britain's answer to Marilyn Monroe or Brigitte Bardot. (Interestingly, all three actresses had alliterative initials- MM, BB and DD). She never, however, quite made it to the top. She briefly worked in Hollywood in the late fifties, but did not prove a success, and after a period appearing in Las Vegas returned to Britain where she spent much of the latter part of her career appearing in dire sex comedies. (Which doubtless explains, in answer to another reviewer's question, why she was never made a Commander of the British Empire).

Yet in real life Dors was far from being a dumb blonde. She was a classically trained actress, a product of Britain's Royal Academy of Dramatic Art. In her early career in Britain she appeared in some critically acclaimed films, notably J. Lee Thompson's anti-death penalty film "Yield to the Night" in which she played a convicted murderess. So where did it all go wrong? The answer, at least according to this film, lay in her chaotic private life, particularly in her first marriage to Dennis Hamilton. Hamilton was a handsome young man who claimed to be an actor himself but who never seemed to appear in anything. As a husband he proved a disaster, being unfaithful, frequently drunk, violent and abusive. He also had a baleful influence on Dors' professional career, talking her out of making a film with Laurence Olivier (at the time the greatest name in British acting) and unsuccessfully trying to dissuade her from doing "Yield to the Night". In Hollywood, Hamilton's loutish and aggressive behaviour alienated many influential people. When Dors, provoked beyond endurance by Hamilton, started an affair with Rod Steiger, her studio, RKO, invoked a "morality clause" in order to terminate her contract. This may seem unfair; she was doubtless far from being the only Hollywood star of the time to have been guilty of adultery, but RKO had been deeply embarrassed by Hamilton's conduct and wanted any excuse to be rid of her.

In the second part of the film, which covers the period from the early sixties until Dors' death in 1984, the emphasis is on her relationship with her third husband, Alan Lake. (Her second husband, the comedian Dickie Dawson, would appear from the film to have been a rather dull fellow). Lake was another actor, considerably younger than Dors herself, who appears to have been something of a wild young man. Like Hamilton, he was an alcoholic, and soon after his marriage to Dors served a jail term for his part in a pub brawl. The marriage, however, was ultimately more successful, as Dors persuaded Lake to give up drinking and they remained married until her death. Indeed, Lake was so grief-stricken when she died that he committed suicide soon afterwards.

This film was originally made as a two-part mini-series for British television. Dors is played by two actresses, Keeley Hawes and Amanda Redman. Hawes plays the younger Dors of the forties and fifties, but I felt that she struggled under the burden of bearing very little resemblance to the woman she was portraying. She was never able to convey the seductive glamour which was the young Diana's hallmark and which shone out of her even in her most second-rate films. Amanda Redman as the older Dors was better, but the best acting came from Rupert Graves as Hamilton. Graves made Hamilton seem convincingly unpleasant and yet was also able to bring out the character's dangerous fascination for women, persuading us that an intelligent woman like Dors could have fallen for him even though she knew him to be a cad.

Screen biographies may be telling a story based upon fact, but they way they tell that story often has much in common with works of fiction, and this one has an underlying narrative structure that could essentially be that of a novel. The heroine has a troubled, turbulent youth, but then finds the love of her life and achieves and true happiness with him after helping him overcome his own problems. That could almost be the plot of "Jane Eyre". As is common with biopics of this type, details that do not fit in with the film's quasi-fictional plot tend to be sidelined. (The film ignores, for example, the fact that many of Dors' later films were fairly seedy, and allegations that she had a lesbian affair with her co-star in one of those films, the porn star Mary Millington). Dors may have aroused admiration for her charitable work and for her brave fight against the cancer that was eventually to kill her, but she never quite achieved the status of National Treasure that the film suggests. 6/10
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Not bad for a TV movie
stargazer2420 February 2003
Of all the lie-ridden Made for TV biopics I've seen, I think this one sticks to the truth quite nicely. It gave me a nice insight to the life and times of Miss Dors, a public figure I honestly knew nothing about. All of I really knew her as was the ex-Mrs. Richard Dawson (quite a twist, don't you think?) In fact, the part I really liked was the positive portrayal of him. Before I watched, I honestly expected the writers to trash him. It always seems like the main subject of the movie gets away scotfree no matter what they did, and the husbands or wives get crapped on. Not so in this pic, and as a big fan of Mr. Dawson's, that was nice to see.

To comment on an earlier comment- the reasons the kids were never seen is because Diana didn't spend a whole lot of time with them. She was always working or playing around with other men. Her own sons have said that.
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9/10
I'll still watch it again
Sylviastel6 March 2002
I have seen this miniseries twice on American Women's Movie Network. I never even heard of Diana Dors and I am saddened to know about her too late and her difficult life. Diana Dors never even earned a British National Honour like a C.B.E.(Commander of the British Empire) which is sad enough and tragic too. She deserved it for being an actress, singer, and model. We watch her grow up from a young pretty girl to the British version of Marilyn Monroe. Diana married and was widowed before she met husband number two and had two sons with him. When she returns to England, she is paired up with a young actor, Alan Lake, and the two are truly soul mates despite his alcoholism. It is nice to see one celebrity marriage to last as long as they did.
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Five years between Dors #1 and Dors #2. (Those must have been a brutal 5 years.)
Lt Wolf Maker29 August 2001
Part 2 of this mini-series just goes to illustrate why the British are not [and never will be] taken seriously in film.

Part 2 probably had the stupidest movie scenes I've ever seen. Hippie Lake and grandma Dors (Dors #2) as their marriage flourished from the swinging sideburns and flower-child 60s to the polyester and Norma Arnold from The Wonder Years of the me-generation 70s. Dors' death scene, with her gagging last breath, mingling with complete melodrama and the abuse of illegal artistic license via the director....all of it had a horribly ludicrous effect.

BUT besides the sham of Part 2, I'd like to express the slick easiness of Part 1. It was quite the charming extended 90 minute episode of Diana's rise [the most interesting part of any biography -- how they go from diamond in the rough to ringmaster of their own historical circus of fame, incomparability and glamour]. Dors #1 was incredible. Perky, intriguing, talented and fresh. Confident and secure in her own body (what a body). The cinematography sets the mood of the 50s with respectable authenticity. It is fun to see Dors #1 comprehending her dream and handling it when it finally arrives full force. Stereotyped personalities in the forms of her mother [happy-go-lucky "Diana" enthusiast] and father [humorless yet harmless suppresser] contaminated some parts, and yet...couldn't help but amplify the overall cuteness of Dors #1 and her youthful solutions to every problem. Sleek and sophisticated and worth the watch.

Part 2, though, should be avoided. It falls into a mountain of hopeless confusion that loses the innocent faith of Part 1. Diana's biography takes control and suddenly children and pregnancies pop up. Husbands come from nowhere, and so do poorly explained reasons to marriages and divorces. An ensemble of events that lead up to...something, yet nothing. Alan Lake didn't seem convincing as being so madly in love with Dors #2 as to justify his own conclusion. Jill became that tedious character that popped up to move the plot along [a tired concept, the "friend serving as the audience" script ingredient]. Decades change. Lake's sideburns change. There are some dinner parties thrown in (what for?). And then that infamous death scene. Her....children? The movie didn't seem to like the fact that she even HAD children, so they conveniently just forgot those little kidlets all together. Actually, Diana's last son was eventually omitted from the entire movie altogether. Of course. Why wouldn't he?

The British filmmakers got lost in their own network of Diana portrayal. Was it fear in not representing the truth correctly? Something was obviously wrong with something, but nobody spoke up and the gears became over-lubricated. The thin slice of elegant pie caked over into a toppled mess of aged make-up and hokey drama. Silly representations that made Diana Dors seem oblivious and in a personal stupor about her own cancer. Didn't anybody tell her she was dying?

Part 2 seems insulting towards Ms Dors. The bio gets transformed into some

audience-demographic, cartoonized, British-stylized soap opera fest that reveals the temperament of the British people an assumed guess of their temperament thanks to the production studio]. This system can only stain England's credibility to their approach of cinema television [and perhaps even film]. But then again maybe a solution is impossible, since 99% of all decent British talent ends up immigrating to Hollywood. Even Diana Dors eventually moved to America.

Maybe she was the one who started the trend.
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4/10
Poorly planned, overly omissive biography
Hollywoodshack5 February 2011
Warning: Spoilers
This TV bio is often a word for word reading of Diana's own biography book. The actors take their places and put the machinery through. A tall, thin gent is miscast as Rod Steiger and neither the older or younger actress look very much like Diana Dors. Her battle with cancer during the last years of her life took backstage to a tabloid account of her marriage to Alan Lake: his brawls, his alcoholism and his tremendous love for her. It's just sad that reaction to her death only focused on him when an entire nation of Brits was cheering for Diana to win her battle with cancer once more after surviving her first infection. The film makers must've run out of money for at least a funeral scene or an outpouring of grief from others who knew and loved her. Instead five minutes goes to see Lake strip down to bikini shorts, burn his clothes and later shoot himself while a rerun of Diana's plays on the TV (not even a real picture of her there, either) It was unworthy of her, the most beautiful woman that ever lived or close to it.
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