This Halloween weekend I spent part of my Saturday morning watching one of my favorite horrorflix, 1973's Theater of Blood
. A grisly murder comedy starring Vincent Price in his hammiest Dr. Phibes mode, the movie revolves a mad Shakespearean thespian named Edward Lionheart, who is murdering a cabal of theater critics in ways that are meant to parallel memorable killings from the Bard's plays. To accomplish one of these, he deceives a married critic named Psaltery (Jack Hawkins) into believing that he’s been cuckolded by his platinum-haired wife Maisie. Busting in on what he’s led to believe is an adulterous tryst, Psaltery smothers his zaftig spouse, quoting from Othello
as he does so. Like most of the movie, it's a darkly funny scene (you just know
that these established British actors got off on the idea of wholesale critic slaughtering), but what most drew my attention to it was the casting of Diana Dors as victim Maisie.
Diana Dors isn't a name most young American moviegoers remember, but at one time she was one of an army of would-be Marilyns – a platinum-tressed British bombshell who starred in 50's B-movies like Man Bait
and Lady Godiva Rides Again
. Possessing a classic cheesecake hourglass figure, she was an exemplar of sexy glamour in the fifties and early sixties, but then something happened . . . she got fat. By the early seventies, when Theater
was lensed, she'd already been relegated to more matronly parts: cat house madams and overweight housewives. One of her last roles was as the fat fairy godmother in an Adam Ant video – what a comedown.
To many Dors fans, the woman's weight gain ended her career as a glamour queen. But to an FA, this is the time when she gets to be interesting. As a college student in the early seventies with too much time to go to movies and an abiding love of horror, I first took note of the fuller-bodied former Mrs. Richard Dawson in Theater
, but I also remember seeing her in other low-budget Brit scare flicks like From Beyond the Grave
Even when she was playing a harridan, I enjoyed watching her simply because whatever her limitations as an actress (and, to be honest, they were considerable), she was a damn good-looking mid-sized woman.
I think of Diana Dors whenever I reflect on the appeal that celebrity weight gain has for many fat admirers. Go to most of the Dors Internet fan sites – and it's lotsa luck, finding a photo of her from the Fat Years. Too bad, since the BBW version of Dors can be far more uniquely gorgeous than the carbon copy pin-up queen of her youth. I could watch her limited screen-time in Theater
repeatedly (there’s a marvelous comic bit where Price, impersonating a masseur, attends to Maisie as she lies in bed: all you can see of her is head, plump arms and shoulders, but it's enough). Seeing her, I can definitely understand how that poor sap Psaltery was driven to his jealous doom. . .