Gracie Fields (1898 - 1979)

Gracie Fields
1898 - 1979
updated June 09, 2019
Gracie Fields was born on January 9, 1898 at United Kingdom. She died on September 27, 1979 at Capri, Italy at age 81.

Dame Gracie Fields DBE
Born Grace Stansfield
9 January 1898 Rochdale, Lancashire, England
Died 27 September 1979 (aged 81) La Canzone Del Mare, Capri, Italy
Nationality British
Occupation Actress, singer
Years active 1924–1978
Spouse(s) Archie Pitt (m. 1923; div. 1939) Monty Banks (m. 1940; his death 1950) Boris Alperovici (m. 1952; her death 1979)
Dame Gracie Fields, DBE (born Grace Stansfield; 9 January 1898 – 27 September 1979) was an English actress, singer and comedian and star of both cinema and music hall. She spent the later part of her life on the isle of Capri, Italy. Fields was made a Commander of the Order of the British Empire (CBE) for "services to entertainment" in 1938, and in 1979, seven months before her death, she was invested a Dame by Queen Elizabeth II.
Fields was born Grace Stansfield, over a fish and chip shop owned by her grandmother, Sarah Bamford, in Molesworth Street, Rochdale, Lancashire.
Fields met the comedian and impresario Archie Pitt and they began working together. Pitt began to manage her career and they began a relationship; they married in 1923 at Clapham Register Office. The title of her first film, Sally in Our Alley (1931), which was a major box office hit. She went on to make several films initially in Britain and later in the United States (for which she was paid a record fee of £200,000 for four films).
In the 1930s her popularity peaked and she was given many honors: the Officer of the Venerable Order of St. John (for charity work), the Commander of the Order of the British Empire (CBE) (for services to entertainment) in 1938 and the Freedom of the Borough of Rochdale in 1937.
She donated her house, The Towers, 53 The Bishops Avenue, London, N2 0BJ (which she had not much cared for and which she had shared with her husband Archie Pitt and his mistress) to an orphanage after the marriage broke down. In 1939, she became seriously ill with cervical cancer. The public sent over 250,000 goodwill messages and she retired to her villa on Capri. After she recovered, she recorded a very special 78 rpm record simply called Gracie's Thanks, in which she thanks the public for the many cards and letters she received while in hospital. During World War II, she paid for all servicemen/women to travel free on public transport within the boundaries of Rochdale. In 1933 she set up the Gracie Fields Children's Home and Orphanage at Peacehaven, Sussex for children of those in the theatre profession who could not look after their children. She kept this until 1967, when the home was no longer needed. This was near her own home in Peacehaven, and Fields often visited, with the children all calling her 'Aunty Grace'.World War II. Fields, accompanied by an RAF orchestra, entertains airmen at their 1939 Christmas party.Fields shares a joke with troops in a village near Valenciennes, France, April 1940. In 1939, Fields suffered a breakdown and went to Capri to recuperate.[9] World War II was declared while she was recovering in Capri, and Fields – still very ill after her cancer surgery, threw herself into her work and signed up for the Entertainments National Service Association (ENSA) headed by her old film producer, Basil Dean. Fields travelled to France to entertain the troops in the midst of air-raids, performing on the backs of open lorries and in war-torn areas. She was the first artist to play behind enemy lines in Berlin.
Following her divorce from Archie Pitt, she married Italian-born film director Monty Banks in March 1940. However, because Banks remained an Italian citizen and would have been interned in the United Kingdom after Italy declared war in 1940, she went with him to North America, possibly at the suggestion of Winston Churchill who told her to "Make American Dollars, not British Pounds", which she did, in aid of the Navy League and the Spitfire Fund. She and Banks moved to their home in Santa Monica, California. Fields occasionally returned to Britain, performing in factories and army camps around the country. After their initial argument, Parliament offered her an official apology. Although she continued to spend much of her time entertaining troops and otherwise supporting the war effort outside Britain, this led to a fall-off in her popularity at home. She performed many times for Allied troops, travelling as far as New Guinea, where she received an enthusiastic response from Australian personnel.[10] In late 1945 she toured the South Pacific Islands. After the war, Fields continued her career less actively. She began performing in Britain again in 1948 headlining the London Palladium over Eartha Kitt who was also on the bill. The BBC gave her her own radio show in 1947 dubbed Our Gracie's Working Party in which 12 towns were visited by Fields, and a live show of music and entertainment was broadcast weekly with Fields compering and performing, and local talents also on the bill. In 1951, Fields opened the Festival of Britain celebrations. She proved popular once more, though never regaining the status she enjoyed in the 1930s. She continued recording, but made no more films, moving more towards light classical music as popular tastes changed, often adopting a religious theme. She continued into the new medium of LP records, and recorded new takes of her old favourite songs, as well as new and recent tracks to 'liven things up a bit'.
Monty Banks died on 8 January 1950 of a heart attack while travelling on the Orient Express. On 18 February 1952 in Capri, Fields married Boris Alperovici, a Romanian radio repairman. She claimed that he was the love of her life, and that she couldn't wait to propose to him. She proposed on Christmas Day in front of friends and family. They married at the Church of St. Stefano on Capri in a quiet ceremony before honeymooning in Rome.
She lived on her beloved Isle of Capri for the remainder of her life, at her home La Canzone Del Mare, a swimming and restaurant complex which Fields' home overlooked. It was favoured by many Hollywood stars during the 1950s, with regular guests including Richard Burton, Elizabeth Taylor, Greta Garbo and Noël Coward.
Her UK tours proved popular, and in the mid-1960s she performed farewell tours in Australia, Canada and America – the last performance was recorded and released years later.
In 1956, Fields was the first actress to portray the title character in Miss Marple in a US TV production of Agatha Christie's A Murder is Announced The production featured Jessica Tandy and Roger Moore, and predates the Margaret Rutherford films by some five years. She also starred in television productions of A Tale of Two Cities, The Old Lady Shows Her Medals – for which she won a TV Award – and Mrs 'Arris Goes to Paris.
Fields regularly performed in TV appearances, being the first entertainer to perform on Val Parnell's Sunday Night at the London Palladium. Fields had two Christmas TV specials in 1960 and 1961, singing her old favourites and new songs in front of a studio audience. 1971 saw A Gift For Gracie, another TV special presented by Fields and Bruce Forsyth. This followed on from her popularity on Stars on Sunday, a religious programme on Britain's ITV, in which well known performers sang hymns or read extracts from the Bible. Fields was the most requested artist on the show.
In 1968, Fields headlined a two-week Christmas stint at the West Riding of Yorkshire's prestigious Batley Variety Club. "I was born over a fish and chip shop – I never thought I'd be singing in one!" claimed Fields during the performance recorded by the BBC.[19]
In 1975, her album, The Golden Years, reached No. 48 in the UK Albums Chart.
In 1978, she opened the Gracie Fields Theatre, located next to Oulder Hill Community School, in her native Rochdale, performing a concert there recorded by the BBC to open the show. Fields appeared in ten Royal Variety Performances from 1928 onwards, her last being in 1978 at the age of 80 when she appeared as a surprise guest in the finale, in which she appeared and sang her theme song, "Sally".
Her final TV appearance came in January 1979 when she appeared in a special octogenarian edition of The Merv Griffin Show in America, in which she sang the song she popularised in America, "The Biggest Aspidistra in the World".[20] Fields was notified by her confidante John Taylor while she was in America that she had the invitation to become a Dame Commander of the Order of the British Empire, to which she replied: "Yes I'll accept, yes I can kneel – but I might need help getting back up, and yes I'll attend – as long as they don't call Boris 'Buttons'."
Fields' health declined in July 1979, when she contracted pneumonia after performing an open-air concert on the Royal Yacht which was docked in Capri's harbour.[citation needed] After a spell in hospital, she seemed to be recovering, but died on 27 September 1979.[21] The press reported she died holding her husband's hand, but in reality he was at their Anacapri home at the time, while Gracie was home with the housekeeper, Irena. She is buried in Capri's Protestant Cemetery in a white marble tomb. Her coffin was carried by staff from her restaurant. Her husband Boris died on 3 July 1983.
Honors and popular culture
In February 1979, she was invested as a Dame Commander of the Order of the British Empire seven months before her death at her home on Capri, aged 81.
Gracie Fields was mentioned in the 1987 film Wish You Were Here and the 2006 film The History Boys.
On 3 October 2009 the final train to run on the Oldham Loop before it closed to be converted to a tramway, a Class 156, was named in her honour.[24]
Fields was granted the Freedom of Rochdale. The local theatre in Rochdale, the Gracie Fields Theatre, was opened by her in 1978.

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Gracie Fields
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Gracie Fields was born on at United Kingdom,
Gracie Fields died on at Capri, Italy,
Gracie Fields was born on at United Kingdom,
Gracie Fields died on at Capri, Italy,
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Famous songs
Gracie Fields 1937
"We're All living at the Cloisters", You didn't want me when you had me
"Sally", The Kerry Dance
"Sing As We Go"
Gracie Fields in Stage Door Canteen (1943)
Sally in Our Alley (1931)
Looking on the Bright Side (1932)
This Week of Grace (1933)
Love, Life and Laughter (1934)
Sing As We Go (1934)
Look Up and Laugh (1935)
Queen of Hearts (1936)
The Show Goes On (1937)
We're Going to Be Rich (1938)
Young and Beautiful (1938) – short Jinx Falkenburg feature, in colour
Keep Smiling (1938)
Shipyard Sally (1939)
Stage Door Canteen (1943)
Holy Matrimony (1943)
Molly and Me (1945)
Paris Underground (1945) aka Madame Pimpernel

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1898 - 1979 World Events

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In 1898, in the year that Gracie Fields was born, on February 15th, the USS Maine exploded and sank in Havana harbor. The reason for the explosion has never been found, but it killed 266 men. "Remember the Maine" became a rallying cry and precipitated the United States' declaration of war on Spain two months later - the beginning of the Spanish-American War. On December 10th, the war ended with the signing of the Treaty of Paris. The Treaty gave the U.S. Puerto Rico, the Philippines, Guam - for $20 million - and, temporarily, Cuba.

In 1915, at the age of 17 years old, Gracie was alive when The Birth of a Nation opened in February. A silent film, it was the most ambitious film to date and is considered a classic. Three hours long, it starred Lillian Gish and was directed by D. W. Griffith. The movie was based on the book The Clansman and told the story of two families (one pro-Union and one pro-Confederate) and their relationship during the Civil War and Reconstruction. The KKK was shown as "a heroic force".

In 1928, she was 30 years old when aviatrix Amelia Earhart, age 31, became the first woman to fly solo across North America and back in August. In June, she had been part of a 3 man crew that flew the Atlantic Ocean but since she had no instrument training, she couldn't fly the plane - she kept the flight log. The North American flight became one of her many "firsts" as a female pilot.

In 1960, when she was 62 years old, on May 1st, an American CIA U-2 spy plane, piloted by Francis Gary Powers, was shot down by a surface-to-air missile over the Soviet Union. Powers ejected and survived but was captured. The U.S. claimed that the U-2 was a "weather plane" but Powers was convicted in the Soviet Union of espionage. He was released in 1962 after 1 year, 9 months and 10 days in prison.

In 1979, in the year of Gracie Fields's passing, on November 4th, Iranian militant students seized the US embassy in Teheran and held 52 American citizens and diplomats hostage for 444 days. They were released at the end of the inauguration speech of the newly elected Ronald Reagan.

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