Television Review

IT'S ODD that so many films have been based on the premise that blondes have more fun, when the biographies of the blondes who appear in the films hardly ever bear that out: look at Brigitte Bardot (animal freak) or Marilyn Monroe (suicide) or Veronica Lake (ended up as a waitress). Or look at our own Diana Dors, who ended up as a kitsch joke.

One thing to be said in favour of The Blonde Bombshell (ITV), a two-part drama about "Britain's answer to Marilyn", is that it at least tries to take her seriously. Another is that it started well, with a small but clever reversal of expectation: in a classroom, a teacher called on Diana to read out her essay on what she wants to be when she grows up. The camera roved across the classroom to a ringleted blonde moppet with a knowing smile; then, behind her, a mousy girl with glasses and a patch over one eye stood up to announce that she wanted to be a Hollywood star.

After that, though, it was a feast of corn: drama school turned out ill- equipped to cope with our heroine's free spirit; her first love found himself edged out in favour of a fast, glamorous lifestyle; she fell for a charming conman who broke her heart and wrecked her chances in Hollywood. Presumably this wasn't miles away from the facts of Dors's life, but the treatment showed the same paucity of imagination that afflicted her career. At one point a series of clapperboards flashed by: Man Bait, A Kid for Two Farthings, My Wife's Lodger, The Weak and the Wicked - it's hardly a catalogue of celluloid classics. It was implied that her failure to make it really big was down to her husband, Dennis Hamilton (played by Rupert Graves as a kind of psycho-spiv-rodent). But it surely says something about Britain's postwar exhaustion, and our historical confusion about sex, that nobody knew how to use Dors's plush sensuality.

The casting was peculiar, too: Keely Hawes, as the young Diana, gave off an air of watchful self-containment; whereas what you associate with the real thing is a lack of restraint. Flirting with the press ("Hello boys"), Hawes couldn't help sounding slightly sarcastic; re-creating film scenes, she had an air of thoroughly modern naturalism. It's not really Hawes's fault, but watching her isn't any fun at all.

In an edition of Equinox (C4) called "Sweden, Sex and the Disappearing Doctors", Fisher Dilke went off to explore the Swedish eugenics scandal. Between 1935 and 1974 around 63,000 Swedes were sterilised, often because they were "feeble-minded" or "anti-social" - which might mean no more than being a juvenile delinquent, or a pregnant teenager. Unfortunately but understandably, few Swedes wanted to talk about this aspect of their past, which led to some shots of blondes having very little fun as Dilke badgered them. It probably didn't help when he went around making careless comparisons to the Holocaust: I don't want to excuse the project or minimise the grief of its victims, but nobody was put to death here. The programme ended up as a clumsy hybrid of a proper documentary and a Nick Broomfield- style film about not making a film. Dilke would have done better to have cut his losses and not make a film at all.

Comments