Rising star


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Rising Star

Before LAMDA was due to commence its spring term of 1947, Diana was summoned back to London to begin another film, in which she played a dance hall hostess. Dancing With Crime, starring a young actor who was showing great promise, Richard Attenborough, began shooting at Twickenham Studios in what proved to be the coldest winter for nearly fifty years.

So cold was it that Diana wore slacks under her evening dress! To make matters worse there was an electricity strike, and when everyone arrived in the mornings at 6:30, frozen and weary, the make-up men were often obliged to apply their cosmetics by candle light! Yet despite the lack of arc lamps and the general misery, filming went on. Diana’s salary had been fixed at £10 a day, and so by the time the two full weeks were completed she had in her possesion about £150, having been paid in cash at the end of each days filming.

Working for it was not as easy as it once seemed, however, and any ideas she ever cherished about the glamorous life of film stars were swept away during that time. Her day started at four-thirty when the alarm clock pierced her dreams with its shrill ring. Shivering she would dress, brush her teeth and creep down the seventy eight stairs to the dining room at the YWCA for a bowl of cornflakes, which had been left out for breakfast, and make her way to the studios using public transport.

The last morning of filming saw her creeping in total terror down the Earls Court Road, clutching her green suitcase containing all the money she had earned and in a frenzy wondering whether she would make it to the tube before thieves grabbed the suitcase first. She arrived home in Swindon that night with her money safely intact.

Diana had said she never forgot the sight of her mother’s face when she nervously counted it all on the drawing room sofa. Nor for that matter her father’s. “Ridiculous”, he mumbled. “A fifteen year old girl earning more money than I do at my time of life!”


Dancing With Crime 1947

And so with yet another film under her belt it was back to LAMDA. The term had already started, and although she enjoyed the acclaim that came her way as a result of being employed professionally in a film, there was something obviously wrong with Geoffrey, the boy she had started to date last term and who had sworn his undying love for her. The reason was soon apparent in the shape of a blonde named Pat, a new student. There was work to do and Diana’s acting diploma had to be won, so she tried to ignore Geoffrey’s affair with Pat, consoling herself that at least she was getting somewhere with her career, which is more than could be said for either of them. The climax to that term came when Wilfred Foulis, having decided that his previous doubts about Diana were unfounded, announced that he was awarding her with the London Films Cup, which had been presented to LAMDA by film-making Sir Alexander Korda. The presentation was made at the academy’s theatre, in front of an audience, and to make the occasion worthwwile, for publishing purposes, a leading star, Greta Gynt, was invited to present the cup to ‘the girl most likely to succeed in British Films’. Diana recited the speech of thanks her father had written for her, finishing by saying that she would keep the banner of LAMDA flying high in the world of films, which it seemed she had now entered officially.

Diana’s life was moving along very quickly now. The Shop At Sly Corner had been released, and for the first time Diana was able to watch herself on the screen, ‘an incredible experience’, she recalled. It was duly distributed in Swindon, and there was much fuss over the fact that their ‘own Diana Dors’ was appearing in it. Diana’s name was featured in all the posters around town and she was asked to make a personal appearance at the opening. Come the night, dressed in a white evening-dress trimmed with silver sequins and wearing a beaver-lamb coat that her mother had bought for her at vast expense, she was driven to the cinema, with her father, suavely dressed in evening suit and black bow-tie, acting as escort. The manager greeted them and took Diana onto the stage, where once again, as her parents watched proudly from the stalls, she recited the speech written by her father.


Shop at Sly Corner 1947