Swingin’ Dors

In 1956, British blonde actress Diana Dors headed to Hollywood. Her husband Dennis Hamilton was determined to further his wife’s career and arranged a press party on Sunset Boulevard to launch Diana Dors stateside and announce her imminent signing to RKO Pictures. In attendance were top gossip columnists Hedda Hopper and Luella Parsons and a celebrity guest list that included Lana Turner, Ginger Rogers, and Doris Day. Apparently 30 minutes into the party, Dors, Hamilton, and two others were pushed into the pool, prompting a drenched and furious Hamilton to punch the first photographer in sight before he was restrained. News of the incident spread fast, and crushed any chance of Diana Dors’ future in the US. The press was brutal, with headlines that read: “Miss Dors Go Home – And Take Mr. Dors With You.” Ouch. 

Like her American contemporaries, Marilyn Monroe and Jayne Mansfield, Diana Dors’ life was riddled with bad luck, one too many husbands, and a premature death. Her first husband, Hamilton was a particularly nasty character. When the couple split in 1958, Hamilton held Diana at gunpoint, forcing her to turn all of her assets over to him. She hit the British cabaret circuit to dig herself out of debt. It was a hot ticket, and earned Diana her own TV show, The Diana Dors Show and a record deal with Pye. She had cut one record in 1954– the flirty “I Feel So Mmm….” for HMV, but Pye were offering a full-length LP, red vinyl, and a gatefold sleeve with a drop-dead gorgeous Diana in a dazzling gown. 

On Swingin’ Dors, Diana re-works hits by Billie Holiday (“Crazy He Calls Me”) and standards by Rodgers and Hammerstein (“The Gentleman Is A Dope”) with unexpected confidence. She snaps, straight talks, taunts, and teases, often borderlining on the downright saucy. “Your mouth’s a roller coaster. Baby, I wanna take a ride,” she sings on “Roller Coaster Blues,” written originally in 1954 for a musical called Walk Tall. The album bombed, and is still written off as a fairly unremarkable swing album. But I doubt any of the reviewers have given it more than one listen. Diana Dors was tabloid fodder, lauded for her bra size and personal troubles. Not exactly the type to be taken seriously as a recording artist. Swingin’ Dors may be a collection of covers, but Diana owns each and every song. You’d swear they were written with her in mind. It’s one of the most played albums in my collection. Perfect for every occasion. My go-to record for the first hour of a cocktail party. There isn’t a dud on the album, and it’s almost impossible to pick a favorite. Listen out for the naughty lyrics and Diana’s playful put-downs, set to what can only be described as one swinging big band, arranged impeccibly by Wally Stott (who, after a sex change, became Angela Morley). 

swinging dors

Diana cut a rather awesome and offbeat single “So Little Time” for Fontana in 1964 and her final single for Polydor (“Gary”, named after her son) two years later. But the ’60s were not kind to her career. The singles garnered little attention, and by the end of the decade she found herself divorced for a second time, and struggling to find worthy acting roles. Despite the difficulties, she continued acting into the ’70s, and remained in the tabloids thanks to more marriages, divorces, children, TV appearances, and film work. She passed away in 1984 at the age of 53, after a long battle with ovarian cancer.



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