It was 1972, a year that began with a miners’ strike that led to widespread powercuts and disruption to industrial production; Britain joined the Common Market; The Duke of Windsor, ex- King Edward VIII, died aged 77; the Tutankhamen Exhibition attracted 1.6 million visitors to London; and a little nearer the Black Country, Prince William of Gloucester, a keen pilot who competed in amateur air show races, crashed his aircraft and was killed at Halfpenny Green whilst competing in the Goodyear International Air Trophy.
Bugle readers will certainly recall some, if not all of these historic events, but who went along to Quarry Bank Carnival at Stevens Park in the same year and can remember seeing Diana Dors on the rostrum, with the Mayor of Dudley, Edward Morris, addressing the crowd? Do you have any memories of the day? And are you one of the many people in the crowd captured on film by photographer Paul Willetts Crowley, who has given us permission to publish these exclusive pictures. In the main picture there are dozens of faces looking towards the camera, children at the front with one young girl (bottom left) wearing a slightly apprehensive look, and plenty of women, interspersed with a few men, stretching back as far as the view of the camera lens will allow.
Diana Dors was born in Swindon, Wiltshire, as Diana Mary Fluck on 23 October 1931, and as she grew up, like many other children of her age, the stars of the silver screen grabbed her imagination, with Hollywood greats Veronica Lake, Lana Turner and Jean Harlow her first cinematic heroines. At the age of 14 she lied about her age and became the youngest ever student at the London Academy of Music & Dramatic Art, appearing in several stage productions.
At 16 she was signed under contract to the Rank Organisation and subsequently appeared in many of their films, making her lead role breakthrough in 1949 in a film called Diamond City.
In July 1951 she married Dennis Hamilton Gittins, and from this point onwards, driven by Gittins' canny publicity focus on his wife, Diana was presented as a classical sex symbol — so successfully that within a couple of years she had risen to become known as the ‘English Marilyn Monroe’.
Diana Dors went to the US, but never enjoyed a Hollywood career, and although a few offers for film roles did come her way, they quickly disappeared and her early promising career was mainly restricted to British films.
According to film buffs her best work as an actress came when she played a murderess in the 1956 film Yield to the Night, and she showed increasing ability when she played repulsive characters in films such as The Amazing Mr Blunden, The Unholy Wife and Timon of Athens. The Amazing Mr Blunden was released in December 1972, so when Diana appeared at Quarry Bank she had either finished filming or was still in the process.
The early 1970s was also a time when Diana Dors hit the small screen, including the starring role in a Yorkshire based soap called Queenie's Castle, broadcast on ITV and aired from 1970 to 1972. After a lull in her career in the 1960s, Dors was once again a household name and a plum draw for the Quarry Bank 1972 Carnival Committee.
If you have any memories of Diana's visit to the carnival, please let us know here at Bugle House.