Cult 60s Films Reviewed Part Two - Articles - Soundblab

Cult 60s Films Reviewed Part Two

by Ian Johnston Rating: Release Date:

DIANA DORS
Is Your Honeymoon Really Necessary and My Wife's Lodger.


Buxom movie star Diana Dors embodied British rock'n'roll flash before such an entity as British rock'n'roll even existed. By the early 1950s, the bottle blonde 'Miss Tits and Lips' Dors brought more glamour, acidic sass and saucy sexiness to British cinema than seemed almost decent in the drab, dour days after Britain's pyrrhic victory in World War Two.

Yet the graduate of the Rank Charm School had been born mousey Diana Mary Fluck on October 23 1931 in Swindon, hardly the glamour capital of the world. But as the larger than life Diana Dors, she could more than match the star wattage power of America's Mamie Van Doren, Jayne Mansfield or Marilyn Monroe.

Castigated by the Church of England, the tabloids and high society, the blonde bombshell Diana Dors was both of her time (the 1950s) and a harbinger of the new open sexual attitudes and public frankness of swinging london in the 1960s. Consequently, Diana Dors was loved by the musicians who went on to create British rock'n'roll. She was a featured figure on the front of The Beatles' iconic Sgt Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band LP, The Kinks would dedicate a song to her ('Good Day') and The Smiths' 1995 compilation Singles would feature Dors in a scene from her most celebrated dramatic movie and performance, as a convicted murderess in Yield to the Night (1956). Dors would issue her own classic lounge core easy listening album in 1960, Swinging Dors.

Even proto-punk legends The New York Dolls would acknowledge a kindred flaming spirit by name checking Diana Dors on their song 'It's Too Late', on their appropriately entitled second 1974 album, Too Much Too Soon. Disastrous marriages, doomed attempts to 'make it' in Hollywood, links with the Kray twins, bankruptcies, common distain for her 'tacky' taste and endless tales of sleazy parities made Dors a punk idol too: Adam Ant used the actress, playing his shimmering fairy godmother, in his 1981 pantomime style video for 'Prince Charming'.

The black and white films that are featured on this dual format edition DVD & Blu-ray disc are from the beginning of the then 21-year-old Dors' career. My Wife's Lodger dates from 1952 and is really not much more than an old curio piece, a weak 'trouble up north' slapstick farce in which hangdog solider Willie Higginbottom (Dominic Roche) finally returns from the war to find that sleazy spiv Roger the Lodger (Leslie Dwyer - apart from Dors, the best thing in the picture) has designs on his wife and that his daughter (Dors) is a jitterbug raver looking for American servicemen.

In his book, Come By Sunday - The Fabulous, Ruined Life of Diana Dors, Damon Wise relates how My Wife's Lodger was shot at Viking Studio, a small building in a cul-de-sac just off Kensington Church Street. One afternoon a break was taken for lunch at one pm. By two pm, Dors was still not back on set. The third assistant director found her "having it off with her husband (Svengali/failed actor/door-to door salesmen Dennis Hamilton)" in their Rolls Royce. The first assistant director was sent to the Rolls, in the middle of a square surround by residential houses. He rapped on the window and ordered, "Come on Diana, let's get cracking". Ten minutes later, Dors would be back on the studio floor, acting as if nothing had happened. Unfortunately, nothing as interesting as this transpires in My Wife's Lodger but the film's characters fixation with America and its ultimate salvation are a sign of the dire, hard times in the UK. The scene where Dors tries to teach father Roche how to jitterbug is also worth the price of admission.

Made a year later, Is Your Honeymoon Really Necessary is a much better film, also directed by movie veteran Maurice Elvey and produced by David Dent. US airman Commander Laurie Vining (Bonar Colleano) wants some r'n'r with his new wife (Diana Decker) in London; however, his glamorous ex-wife, Candy (Dors) insists that they are in fact still married. Vining's friends, wise guy co-pilot Hank Hanlon (Carry On regular Sid James, sporting a truly horrendous American accent) and shy English lawyer (David Tomlinson, at his embarrassed upper class Englishman best), try to help with predictably disastrous results. Despite strong contributions from Tomlinson and Colleano, Is Your Honeymoon Really Necessary derives most of its strength from Dors' energetic, funny, knowing and lusty performance.

Though Is Your Honeymoon Really Necessary was a well above average sex comedy, it was the typical racy bedroom farce that Dors' agent/ first husband Dennis Hamilton would lock her into producing. Hamilton, for Dors, was like a cross between Colonel Tom Parker and Malcolm McLaren. He introduced Dors to a scene of sex parties featuring two-way mirrors and blue movies. The standard of the pictures in which she appeared was of no consequence, just as long as her face and name kept appearing in the tabloid newspapers and that she performed in high paying variety shows and light entertainment packages. Dors evident thespian talent was sacrificed for Hamilton's credo; "To hell with all that acting rubbish!"

It is such a terrible pity that Dors really attained so few heavyweight roles, including J Lee Thompson's Yield to the Night, another prison drama for Thompson, The Weak and the Wicked (1954), and Carol Reed's A Kid for Two Farthings (1955). Or that she didn't star in a British rock'n'roll picture like Jayne Mansfield's The Girl Can't Help It. But the British motion picture business never produced a rock'n'roll picture to rival The Girl Can't Help It. The year in which Is Your Honeymoon Really Necessary was released, 1953, Marilyn Monroe was in Hollywood shooting Gentlemen Prefer Blondes, the picture that would make her an international star, eclipsing Dors for good.

By the end of the 1950s, Dors' attempt at a Hollywood career lay in ruins. This was primarily due to Dennis Hamilton beating up a Hollywood photographer, who Hamilton thought had thrown himself and his wife into the swimming pool. The event was a Dors housewarming party that was meant to welcome the couple into Hollywood's inner circle. The result was Diana Dors was given the unflattering nickname Marilyn Bovril. A steamy affair with method actor Rod Steiger, on the set of The Unholy Wife further damaged her stateside image. And when the film was released in 1956, the critics thundered as one: "An unholy mess!"

However, to watch her effervescent comedic performance in Is Your Honeymoon Really Necessary is to be reminded that Diana Dors had her own stoic, sardonic, humorous outlook on her whole career, very different from the self-pity of Monroe's. In 1964, Diana Dors issued her first rock'n'roll single for the Fontana label. The record, which was heavily influenced by the currently fashionable Mersey beat sound, was ironically entitled, 'It's Too Late'/'So Little Time'. Diana Dors died of cancer on May 4 1984, aged 52. At the time of her death, she had not made a successful film for nearly 30 years.

Diana Dors BFI DVDs Is Your Honeymoon Really Necessary and My Wife's Lodger. (Released together on 21st June 2010, on dual format edition DVD & Blu-ray).

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