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When the 'new Monroe' found her perfect man


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She took Hollywood by storm ... but it was the off-camera life of Diana Dors which made the biggest headlines

He was a moody "method" actor who had outshone Brando in On The Waterfront. She was "Britain's answer to Marilyn Monroe", a shapely blonde who made news where ever she went.

But even 27-year-old Diana Dors was amazed by the headlines she generated in the summer of 1957. But she shouldn't have been ... she had arrived in Hollywood with a retinue of hangers-on, a wildly-jealous husband and a three-movie contract worth $500,000 — and had immediately fallen in love with Rod Steiger.  

Maybe it was inevitable. Diana Dors had been unhappy for years with Dennis Hamilton, the publicity man who had transformed her from a bit-part actress into a major star, married her and made her life miserable with his violence and jealousy, for seven years.

RKO had been desperate to sign the girl who was being dubbed the new Monroe, but Hamilton struck a hard bargain. He wanted a top-money contract, a rented mansion, a hired Rolls-Royce.... and a salary as Diana's manager and adviser!

He got them all, and the couple sailed for America in the stateroom of the Queen Elizabeth and Hollywood rolled out its best red carpet.
When RKO studio head William Dozier heard that she didn't own a mink he sent a $2,000 silver-blue mink coat as a "welcome to Hollywood" present.

Hamilton soon tired of living in a rented house and persuaded Diana to buy a Spanish-style mansion in exclusive Cold Water Canyon. He threw a house-warming party for 250 celebrities and flew a hairdresser from London at a cost of $6,000 to style his wife's hair for the occasion.

But the guest that Hamilton would later deeply regret inviting was Rod Steiger, married to Claire Bloom and Diana's co-star in the forthcoming thriller The Unholy Wife. Almost as soon as she met Steiger, Diana Dors fell in love with him. Steiger, a darkly-handsome 32, was everything the brash Hamilton was not: sophisticated, considerate, sensitive and humorous.

But above all, he treated her as a woman rather than a piece of marketable merchandise and Diana Dors couldn't believe her luck. "He's the perfect guy," she told a friend.

Soon Steiger was telling Diana he would leave his wife and she felt it was only fair to tell Hamilton that their marriage was over. Despite his past history, she was not prepared for his reaction: in a blind fury he chased Steiger around the studio with a loaded shotgun until restrained by police and security men.

Next day, Hamilton told Diana he was flying back to England, and his departure was a great relief to everyone — his behaviour had become increasingly violent, rampaging around the studio and smashing everything in sight.

With Hamilton out of the way the love affair could proceed unhindered. The press had a field day and soon pictures appeared in the world's press of the couple hand-in-hand, bathing together in Diana's pool and embracing at a mountain retreat.

Back in London, Dennis Hamilton put on a brave face. "They are all movie publicity shots" he said when confronted with the pictures. By now RKO was doing its best to cover up the scandal and summoned Hamilton back to Hollywood.

William Dozier told the couple: Pretend to be happy together or I'll cancel the contract. We're a family studio. No one has affairs at RKO..."

Indeed condemnation of the affair was coming from all sides. The Los Angeles Times declared: "Go home Diana and take Mr Dors with you."
 
As filming of The Unholy Wife continued, RKO made life as difficult as possible for the lovers. When Steiger wasn't needed on set he was sent to a hideaway in Malibou while Diana stayed in Beverly Hills. And even on set, conversation between shots was forbidden — they were made to wait in separate caravans.   

When filming came to an end, Diana demanded to know what the future held for her and Steiger. Now her co-star was becoming evasive. The novelty of an affair with the "new Monroe" was wearing off and he was looking forward to seeing his wife and children in New York.
 
And Claire Bloom had indicated that, despite all the newspaper gossip, she was prepared to give their marriage another go.So the affair ended but Diana Dors never forget Rod Steiger and, apparently, he never forgot her.

When Diana Dors died of cancer nearly three decades later, among the wreaths at the lavish funeral at Sunningdale, Berkshire, was a bunch of red roses.

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