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Fields, Gracie

Fields, Gracie (1898–1979). Music-hall artiste and film star. A Lancashire lass, born Grace Stansfield, Fields joined a touring music-hall company (1913) before eight years with Archie Pitt, gaining depth of experience in all aspects of revue work, to become a star overnight in the West End (1924). Talented, versatile, and dedicated, she could control her audience with merely a headscarf for a prop, switching easily from ‘Ave Maria’ to ‘The Biggest Aspidistra in the World’. As music-halls declined, ‘Our Gracie’ moved successfully into film-making, but when she followed her future second husband into exile in America in 1940 (unjustifiably accused of deserting Britain), public adulation turned to condemnation, and it was many years before she regained British favour. She settled in Capri after the war, but returned periodically for concerts, command performances, media work, and to record, gave generously to charity, and was created Dame (1979).

A. S. Hargreaves

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