J Arthur Rank was considered a bit of a joke. He made his millions from flour, and as a devout Methodist wanted to make religious films. He bought a studio called Pinewood and later a string of cinemas to solve the problem of distributing his films. During the Second World War people flocked to the cinemas to escape into a world of Hollywood fantasy and Rank found his business going from strength to strength.
The Rank School for young actors was formed in 1946, and was established to recruit young stars.
Here Come the Huggetts 1948
Diana, just so happened to be in the right place at the right time, she had completed a year and a half at LAMDA, with a gold medal and the Alexander Korda cup to her name. She now had a to start all over again with a handful of other young hopefuls, all being groomed to the 'Star' image that Rank had so clearly defined for them
Diana now had a very lucrative film contract and this made all the 'behavioural lessons' in charm, etiquette and grace worth while. Diana was now adding to her list of 'Films I have Appeared in'. She played a delinquent in Good Time Girl with Flora Robson telling her the fact of life. Then It's Not Cricket, where Diana had a scene applying for an office job and The Calendar, where she played a prim and proper maid serving tea to Greta Gynt. My Sister and I followed quickly with Diana wearing her hair in pigtails delivering a script to Sally Ann Howes.
Good Time Girl 1948
Diana's next film was one she hated. They had cut a great deal from the length of her hair, 'simply', she felt, because the hairdresser could not be bothered to attend to it! Diana's first real challenge as an actress came through Sydney Box. In a film Here Come the Huggetts, inspired by a family portrayed earlier in Holiday Camp, Diana played the Huggetts niece, a real modern-miss who for her time was very outspoken. There was also a follow up film, Vote for Huggett.
Diana received a lot of publicity and took her mother along to the press review. Although Mary loved it, the critics did not. Diana never went to another press screening!
A Boy, A Girl and a Bike 1949
A Boy, A Girl and a Bike 1949
Diana's next film was about a cycling club and was titled, A Boy, A Girl and a Bike. Diana was cast again in the 'bad girl' role, this time as top supporting actress. In the cast was sixteen-year-old Anthony Newley, who had played the Artful Dodger in Oliver Twist. Diana fell in love making this film, but to Anthony's annoyance it was to a tall attractive blonde cameraman. The film was shot in the Yorkshire dales; the sun shone, the setting was heavenly, and Diana was in love!
Gil was nineteen, a Norwegian and brother to Greta Gynt. They began to spend time in each others company. The local village hall became the venue for cast parties, to relieve the tensions of filming. At one of these dances another young actress who had the eye for Gil, conveniently fainted in front of him in the hope that he would make a fuss of her and escort her home. Diana was furious because the ploy had worked.
Diana, who had lost many boyfriends in the past because she was not prepared to go further than a bit of petting, was pleased when the knock at her door was from that of Gil. At first she refused to let him in, but with his charm and telling Diana she was the only girl for him, Diana relented and let him in. If there was ever a time to take her first steps into becoming a real woman Diana was ready. What an anti-climax it was, no doubt on finding out that Diana was still a virgin had put him right off his stroke!!