Roger Moore was a knitwear model, Dorothy Squires his superstar wife – whose lust for life was matched by her desire to make him famous. Then he cheated and her revenge was pyrotechnic
Dorothy Squires knew how to make an entrance. When she learned her estranged husband roger Moore had set up home with his italian mistress in North London, the singer dressed for the occasion. Picking an elegant dress from her walk-in wardrobe, she applied her make-up meticulously before pulling a fine gold chain from her overflowing jewellery box. She read the inscription across two entwined hearts: ‘From roger with love.’ then she clasped it round her ankle.
taking one last look at herself in the mirror, she turned to her secretary and said: ‘Come on, hilda, let’s get this f*****g show on the road.’ But when her powder blue Ford thunderbird rolled up outside Moore’s house, the future 007 star refused to answer the door.
in a rage, Dorothy proceeded to hurl stones, smashing every window she could see. her aim was good — her family were Welsh fairground folk and her grandfather had run the coconut shy.
roger dashed out to try to restrain her, but she grabbed him by the throat. ‘ your hand is bleeding,’ he croaked.
Brimming with Welsh drama, Dorothy cried: ‘ it’s my heart that’s bleeding.’
When Moore first met her, at a drunken party in her house — bought partly with money a lover gave her to buy a mink coat — Dorothy Squires was the most famous female solo star in the world.
Blessed with a massive voice and the ability to sing every word as if she’d lived it, she had a string of hits in the late Forties and early Fifties: Coming home, the Gipsy, i’ll Close My eyes, it’s A Pity to Say Goodnight, i’m Walking Behind you and more.
She was born edna May Squires in a gipsy caravan in Dafen, South Wales, in 1915. her father Archie was a gambler and a womaniser, and it was left to her mother to raise their three children.
As an adolescent she saw Al Jolson in the Jazz Singer, cinema’s first musical in 1927, and vowed to become a singer herself.
For six years she performed for anyone who would let her, and at 18 ran away to London where she changed her name to Dorothy and met the band leader Billy reid.
reid was 12 years her senior, but after Dorothy took over as his band’s vocalist, they moved in together. he was a prolific drinker and violently jealous.
Between 1939 and 1951, Dorothy became pregnant at least three times. Accusing her of affairs with musicians, he insisted she abort every pregnancy.
their life was a series of explosive rows, culminating in a scene in her home town, where reid had bought the theatre, and threw a gala opening night for all her family — before turning up with another woman on his arm.
She was, it transpired, his wife . . . even though they had been separated for 11 years.
REID and Dorothy finally parted and she moved her family — father, brother, sister and brother-in-law, together with an old schoolfriend and her husband — into St Mary’s Mount, a large Victorian mansion in Bexley, Kent.
She bought it using as a deposit the £2,500 Billy had once given her to buy a mink coat in an attempt to make amends after one of their many arguments.
her first intention had been to turn the house into a nightclub, but when neighbours protested she set about renovating it in palatial hollywood style, swimming pool and all.
She began throwing parties that were notorious for their excess even in the showbiz world.
it was at one of these wild parties, with couples having sex in every room and even in the bushes, that Dorothy met roger Moore.
Aged 24, Moore was an aspiring actor and part- time knitwear model for Woman’s own, who hadn’t even been invited — but an actress he knew was going, so he took a train to Bexley and then phoned the house to persuade Dorothy to add him to the guest list.
instantly intrigued by his voice and charm, Dorothy asked how she would recognise him. ‘i’m short, bald and fat,’ replied Moore.
WHEN he arrived, St Mary’s Mount was heaving with prize fighters, musicians, builders, record producers and underworld characters. Standing by a white grand piano, Dorothy was blasting out fragments of showtunes and holding court, her language as ripe as ever.
But when she saw Moore, she dropped her guard and became coquettish, as she always did when she saw an attractive man.
he followed her into the kitchen, flirting, and later seemed reluctant to leave. When she offered to arrange a lift to the station, he kissed her, then picked her up and carried her in his arms up the sweeping staircase.
‘he made me feel like Vivien Leigh in Gone With the Wind,’ swooned Dorothy, and from that moment Moore was the love of her life. Not that their affair was placid, naturally.
When she discovered he was married, to a former ice skater with a son by a previous lover, she hurled anything she could find at him, including a royal Doulton tea service.
Moore’s wife sued for divorce, naming the famous singer as co-respondent, which caused a brief scandal. But the quarrel was quickly forgotten, and on her next tour, Dorothy took Moore along as her master-of-ceremonies.
his laidback raconteuring was lost on audiences, but the star was scathing with anyone who criticised. ‘Shut up,’ she’d yell, ‘i’m gonna marry him!’ Frustrated that film producers in england were overlooking her man, Dorothy decided Moore’s problem was that he was too handsome.
So, in 1953, the couple set sail on the queen Mary for New york, and putting her own career on hold she embarked on an obsessional quest to make him a star.
Actor Charles Coburn was infatuated with her, and Dorothy used that advantage to plunder his contacts book. they went to every showbiz party and Broadway audition, but life in the States was expensive, and soon they were running low on funds.
Dorothy decided to return to Britain for a series of lucrative TV shows, but before she left she told Moore she was pregnant.
the couple married in a $25 ceremony at the New Jersey courthouse on June 6, 1953. their witnesses were Warren, Latona and Sparks — a vaudeville slapstick troupe who had worked with Dorothy 15 years earlier and who happened to be in town.
Sadly, she lost the child, and suffered at least two more miscarriages after that. She blamed the abortions that Billy reid had forced on her.
eventually, Moore landed a contract with MGM, making a movie with Lana turner, but failing to leave his mark on the box office. Just two years after the studio hired him, he was fired.
if cinema didn’t want him, Dorothy was determined her husband would succeed on Tv instead, and he won a leading role in the swashbuckling costume drama, ivanhoe.
that led to a Western series called the Alaskans, starring Moore as a gold prospector called Silky harris. With fame finally dawning, he began an affair with his leading lady, Dorothy Provine.
his wife Dorothy refused to
believe the rumours, until one night Moore cried out ‘Dorothy!’ in his sleep. Over a furious confrontation at breakfast, Moore pleaded: ‘I was dreaming of you.’
Dorothy swore at him. ‘ You always call me Dot,’ she shouted. ‘You’re poking her.’
Moore thought the histrionics and threats were all part of ordinary married life, but he came home that evening to find himself locked out. In a temper, he threw all the sun loungers into the swimming pool and slept on the wooden decking, wrapped in an overcoat.
His infidelity hit Dorothy hard. Descending into depression, she lost 3st. When a friend asked what diet she was on, she replied: ‘The my-husband-having-an-affair diet.’
The flamboyance and foul language that had won Moore’s heart in Britain became an embarrassment in Los Angeles.
One night, the couple went to see comedian Lenny Bruce, but when the stand-up made ade a sarcastic crack about the London Palladium, Dorothy erupted.
‘You’d like the talent to play there,’ she screamed, and as Moore threw her mink coat around her and bundled her away she was still shouting — ‘Get a gig? You couldn’t get arrested in London!’
The she turned on the staring audience: ‘What are you all looking at? I’m a f*****g star in England!’
With The Alaskans a hit show, by 1960 Moore was the centre of attention, the star of this glamour couple. She didn’t like that: at home, she was ‘Dorothy Squires, not Mrs Roger Bloody Moore’. Deciding that her husband could manage without her help, she reignited her career, and quickly won a residency at the Moulin Rouge in Hollywood.
But she couldn’t sustain the energy for performance. Her floundering marriage had left her drained, and she turned down offers of a run in Las Vegas and the chance to join The Andrews Sisters, one of the biggest acts in America.
She had too much talent, and too many fans, to slide into obscurity, however. When Moore finished The Alaskans, they returned to England where she recorded a number with pianist Russ Conway, called Say It With Flowers. As it climbed the charts, Moore had a film offer, to shoot Rape Of The Sabine Women in Yugoslavia. But Dorothy opted to stay in Britain and promote the single while he flew abroad.
It was a decision she would regret for the rest of her life.
After weeks of hearing nothing from him, Dorothy ordered her secretary to track her husband down: ‘ Ring the best hotel in Yugoslavia, he’s sure to be there.’
But to her shock she discovered that Moore had been forced off the film by illness, and had been back in London for weeks, undergoing treatment for a kidney infection.
He was out of hospital but hadn’t come home to Bexley. The hospital, however, was forwarding his mail — and that included a clutch of lettersle addressed in a woman’s hand. Suspecting they were love letters,e Dorothy opened them.
They were in Italian, which she didn’t speak — so she took them to the Neapolitan head waiter at the Astor Club. ‘You don’t want to know what’s in these, Dot,’ he said. ‘They’re pretty grim.’
THE calledand graphic writerthe Luisa reminiscencesletterswas an Mattioli, included actress of herh Luisa time made togetherit plain with that Moore.she expected Dorothy to find these letters,e and that Moore would be fo forced to leave his wife.
By now, the actor had started work on his biggest role to date, as Simon Templar in The Saint. Dorothy went to confront him on set. She offered to give him a divorce if he paid her £5,000 but he refused.
‘I got into my car and drove a little way,’ she said later. ‘I was so upset I was shaking so I pulled into a lay-by. Then I saw his car drive past. Luisa was with him. I put my head brokeSt belongings.him packedWeeks Mary’sin on my later,buthis the heart.’ Mount Dorothy suitcase,steering stormedMoore to refusedturned collectwheel opened upstairs,up to andhis letat a windowwith come the back!’ and words: The hurled ‘F*** suitcasethe off bag andhit at Moore don’t him on Later,the backshe of bitterlythe neck. regretted her outburst. ‘I should have fought for him,’ she accused herself.
‘It was like giving a kid sweets, then hitting him over the head for eating them. I knew Roger, I’d lived with him for nine years — the one thing I should never have done was to pack his bags.’ Instead, she sued him, under an ancient law, for ‘restoration of conjugal rights’.
The court found in her favour, but it was a hollow victory — Moore never came back to her bed.
She sued again, seven years later, when the actor Kenneth More referred to Luisa as ‘Mrs Roger Moore’ in a TV special. There was only one Mrs Roger Moore, Dorothy raged, and that was her.
‘What was I supposed to call her,’ More countered, ‘ Roger Moore’s mistress?’ The case was dismissed. Weeks later, the divorce came through.
Animosity simmered between Dorothy and her ex-husband for decades. But as she lay in hospital dying, after years of living as a recluse on the proceeds of her jewellery, she received a phone call from him.
It was too late: she was drifting in and out of consciousness, and did not understand who was calling to make his peace.
‘ It’s Roger Moore,’ a nurse whispered, pressing the phone into the hands of Dorothy’s niece, Emily. The actor told her to hold her aunt’s hand, and tell Dorothy that ‘Rog’ was thinking of her.
A few minutes later, Dorothy came round. With a glimmer of her old bravado, she announced: ‘That b*****d Roger has just rung.’
Nobody could pretend their marriage was one of hearts and flowers. It was nine years of sex and war, followed by a long and bitter truce. But it also produced moments of sheer dramatic magic.
One of Dorothy’s oldest friends was circus maestro Billy Smart, who challenged her one day to perform in a cageful of tigers, six of them, to raise money for the Variety Club.
She accepted eagerly, and the stunt proved the highlight of one of the biggest nights of her life.
In the audience were film stars, pop stars, Sir Billy Butlin, magicians and comedians, as well as Roger Moore. Bruce Forsyth strolled up to him and joked that he hoped Moore had taken out a life insurance policy.
‘Yes, I have,’ Moore retorted, ‘on the tigers!’
ADAPTED from My Heart Is Bleeding: the Life Of dorothy Squires by Johnny tudor, published by the History press at £14.99. © Johnny tudor 2017. to buy a copy for £10.49 (offer valid until April 8), call 0844 571 0640 or visit mailbookshop.co.uk. p&p is free on orders over £15.