Trust Kenneth Tynan to get it right. Reviewing Diana Dors in one of her early stage outings, he opined: "Miss Dors is a landmark rather than a performer, and I expect the National Trust already have their eyes on her". Throughout her 52 years, Dors remained a landmark, a beacon on the English landscape instantly identifiable even to those who would be hard pushed to name a single film in which she starred, a star with no visible means of stardom.
As Damon Wise tells it, her story was a litany of wastrel and violent men, abortions, debts, constant run-ins with the law and an early death. It should have produced a tragic figure, a Monroe or Garland, but the nearest comparison is Jayne Mansfield, a vaguely ridiculous creature. Dors, née Fluck, was a self-created, much cantilevered titillator, a glamorous spendthrift in the post-war austerity years, an early manipulator of English tabloid mentality--and, naturally, one of its first victims. But what comes across clearly in this lucid, readable biography is the woman's capacity for hard graft, which kept her going when West End opening nights declined into Home Counties village fêtes, paid for upfront in cash. Wise shies away from passing comment on Dors' much-maligned talents--which is perhaps a canny move. After all, landmarks don't need artistic justification. --Alan Stewart