July 14, 2003 by

Dee Wells


Categories: Media

Alberta Constance Chapman Wells, a controversial broadcaster and best-selling author, died on June 24. Cause of death was not released. She was 78.
Although she was an American, Dee Chapman served in the Canadian Women’s Army during World War II. Instead of returning to the states when the war ended, she moved to Paris, got a job at the American embassy and married Al Wells, a diplomat. They were posted in Burma, but divorced two years later.
Wells then moved to London and began freelancing for several newspapers. In 1958, the Sunday Express made Wells its books editor. Two years later, Wells married philosopher Freddie Ayer. Their on-again, off-again relationship would also involve a divorce and a second wedding in 1989.
During her journalism career, Wells established herself as a “progressive” writer. When she started making appearances as a commentator on television, her outspoken nature and controversial opinions earned her both fans and critics.
In 1973, Wells published the novel, “Jane,” a semi-autobiographical story about a tough, American movie critic living in London and juggling three men. “I was idle and I had a perfectly good typewriter and half a box of paper,” Wells once said. The book sold 2 million copies.

13 Responses to Dee Wells

  1. Robert Thompson

    I knew Dee in 1944 and 45. We were both stationed in Kingston, Ontario. Dee was a corporal in the CWAC (Canadian Womens Army Corps) and I was an
    infantry officer. We met at a wedding of mutual friends.We started casual dating and I found her very bright, most interesting and a lot of fun. Our dating became serious, which was against army regulations because of the difference in rank, but we both enjoyed the intrigue. We fell in love and Dee wished to consider marriage, but for a number of reasons I was reluctant. I went overseas in early 1945, intending to marry when I returned. When I came back late in 1945 we decided that we should not marry. I last saw her sometime after that and we
    corresponded when she was in France.
    Dee was a very challenging and stimulating person to be with. Dee could be hard but showed compassion and warmth. She was the most remarkable
    woman I met until I found my wife.

  2. Robert Harland

    I first met Dee Wells in London in the early 70s and we became good friends. I was a young PR ‘wallah’ and used to travel with Dee and husband Freddie in the summer to their home in France where I often took charge of son Nicholas.
    Both Dee and Freddie had a profound influence on my life. They didn’t reckon I’d amount to much intellectually — they were correct — but said they could see me as a captain of industry. Well, I didn’t quite make that, but I did OK.
    Regrettably, we lost contact. I was living in Asia and for 20+ years travelled almost non-stop, but Dee was never far from my thoughts.
    I am very sorry she has gone. I have fond memories of Dee and Freddie. I shall always treasure the time I was privileged to spend with them.
    Robert Harland
    Bacolod City
    Philippines 6100

  3. Andrea Drever

    I just read Jane for the second time, and searched the Internet for information about this remarkable writer. I am terribly sad that Dee Wells has died. I admire her greatly.
    Andrea Drever
    Santa Monica, CA

  4. Jeffrey O'Keefe

    Dee Wells, I am a london cabby and was hailed by an american couple in there sixties,who wanted to go to Olympia in London,but had to stop of to pick someone else up.While we were waiting the american chap said his wife was knocking on the door of Dee Wells,did i remember her,it was a shock,it took me back so many years so quick.When she approached the taxi she even still had her Sandie Shaw style hairdo,and was obviously ill.But it was great to see her again,i heard later she had lost a leg,and had the song I GET A KICK OUT OF YOU,played at her funeral.I think she was once described as The thinking man’s crumpet(respectfully)She lived in a street opposite Marylebone station.

  5. Leslie Kensill

    I found a copy of Dee Wells’ book Jane over 20 years ago and read it at least 10 times. I loved her book and the episode of one of her men watching the housekeeper destroy the spider’s web permanently changed my awareness and has been repeated by me over and over again in my interactions with children. I am so glad she wrote.

  6. MJ

    I lived with Dee for 2 years in Paris before her marriage to Al Wells. It was a defining experience, believe me; I have rarely found such wit and fairness. Her taste was sound (literature, art, theater), and she helped educate my political judgments. This is my first notion that she has died – having just turned 80 I wanted to try to find her. I am awash with memories! That throaty, sardonic laugh! Men were mad for her. In the 60s I stayed with her and Freddie in the Midi, once with my two sons. I did so want to see her again.

  7. Alexander Foges

    I am Dee’s grandson, as my mother, Gully Wells, is her daughter. I have recollections of her from many years back, such as going to her house in the South of France. She had a very interesting collection of dead animals, and I hope she’s happy wherever she is with them. I’m glad you’re all so interested in her!
    Alexander Joshua Foges

  8. jenna orkin

    hi alexander (whenever you happen to see this)
    dee was on the panel of a tv show in the sixties, ‘not so much a program, more a way of life’ with my father, harvey orkin. the show, which was done live, was yanked off the air when kenneth tynan said a word beginning with f which i can’t repeat now for fear of having my comment deleted from this site. a few weeks later, the same cast of characters reappeared in the guise of a supposedly new show called bbc 3. i believe they lasted until they insulted the royal family.
    beneath dee’s legendary wit was a deep kindness. she epitomized for me the intense liveliness of the period in which i knew her. as you can see, i still think of her.
    jenna orkin

  9. Kathy Bailey

    I have loved the novel every since first reading it decades ago when we were both young. Besides being immensely entertaining, it helped to shape my view of life. I am here because I recently reread it and wanted to find some information about Ms. Wells.
    Her trenchant commentary about people and society rings true today. I’m handing the book on to my daughters, who I’m sure will love it as I do; and I have no doubt that my granddaughters will, as well.
    The world could definitely use a few more authentic characters such as hers.
    Godspeed, Ms. Wells. Condolences to Mr. Foges and family.

  10. mary Mimi Ballance Whitlock

    I knew Dee Wells in the early 50’s in Rangoon. I remember was she wild and would say outrageous things and we children (I was age 6 to 8) loved and feared her. She never ignored us.

  11. Lucia Davies

    I first read “Jane” in 1979, and it has never ceased to be one of my favorite books. Is it a literary masterpiece? No. But there is such wit, energy and optimism to be found in its pages that I have returned to it at least a half dozen times since the first reading. I have to say that Dee Wells’ voice imparts the comfort and joy you experience during a delightful visit with the kind of friend you meet once in a lifetime. Jane’s independence inspired me to live a very BIG life – and I am so grateful. Although I’ve been a wife and mother, today, I’m a writer and a single woman happily living life on my terms. In short – I’m Jane! Dee Wells, God bless – I’ll never forget you!

  12. Lev Raphael

    I read Jane when I was a teenager and it was one of the books that confirmed my goal of becoming an author. I read it, studied it, devoured it, loved it. And here I am, 19 books along, and wanting to thank her. I’m very sad to find that Wells is dead. She inspired me.

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