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Joyce Grenfell

b. Joyce Irene Phipps, 10 February 1910, London, England, d. 30 November 1979, London, England. An actress, singer and author, and a brilliant exponent of the monologue and witty song. The daughter of American parents - her mother’s sister was Nancy Astor - Joyce Phipps used to describe herself as ‘three fourths American’. She became interested in the theatre at an early age, and spent a term at RADA before marrying Reginald Grenfell in 1929. Subsequently, she worked for a time in commercial art, contributed to Punch and Country Life, and spent over three years as radio critic for the Observer. After impressing the humorist Steven Potter with her own charming recollection of a lecture that she had recently attended at a Women’s Institute, she was engaged by the theatrical producer Herbert Farjeon for The Little Revue (1939). In the early 40s she appeared in other Farjeon revues, Diversion, Diversion No. 2 and Light And Shade, and then, in 1944, toured extensively with ENSA, in the Near and Far East, and in India, entertaining the troops in British forces’ hospitals, with comic monologues and songs. Two years later she was awarded the OBE. In Sigh No More (1945), at London’s Piccadilly Theatre, Grenfell dressed as a schoolgirl for Noël Coward’s witty ‘That Is The End Of The News’, and, in the same show, introduced ‘Du Maurier’, a song she had written with composer Richard Addinsell. They collaborated again on material for the revues, Tuppence Coloured (1947) and Penny Plain (1951), in which Grenfell also appeared. It was the beginning of a significant and enduring professional relationship.

By the late 40s and early 50s, Grenfell was working more and more in radio - as a panellist on We Beg To Differ, and as the British host of Transatlantic Quiz. She made a couple of propaganda films during the war, but her movie career proper began in 1943 with a comedy, The Demi-Paradise, which starred Laurence Olivier and Margaret Rutherford. Grenfell appeared with Rutherford again, in The Happiest Days Of Your Life (1949), which also starred the lugubrious Alastair Sim. He and Grenfell managed to emerge unscathed from the St. Trinians film series. during the late 50s. Grenfell’s other film roles, some of them highly telling cameos, included appearances in Here Comes The Bride, The Galloping Major, Pickwick Papers, The Million Pound Note and The Americanization Of Emily

It was on stage, however, that she really came into her own. In 1954 she wrote the book and lyrics, with Addinsell’s music, for Joyce Grenfell Requests The Pleasure, which ran for nearly a year in London before transferring to Broadway in the following year. In America, Grenfell developed her one-woman show, toured US cities, and appeared on the Ed Sullivan Show several times in the late 50s. One Sullivan date saw her on the same bill with Elvis Presley (‘a pasty-faced plump boy’, as she recalled). She presented her solo effort in London for the first time in 1957, at the Lyric theatre, under the title of Joyce Grenfell - A Miscellany, and later took the show to Australia where it was called Meet Joyce Grenfell. Throughout the 60s she continued to tour extensively at home and abroad, and went back to Australia three times. In the early 70s she lost the sight in one eye and retired from the stage.

During the next six years she published two volumes of autobiography, Joyce Grenfell Requests The Pleasure and In Pleasant Places, before cancer affected her other eye, and she died in 1979.

Always an effective broadcaster, from 1966 Grenfell was an essential panel-member on television’s Face The Music, a general knowledge quiz about music, and had her own television series on UK’s BBC2 for a time. As a performer she was unique, and impossible to pigeonhole. Despite her ‘terribly English’ image, she was incredibly popular around the world, particularly in America. With the gentle ‘I’m Going To See You Today’, which became her theme, the pomp of ‘Stately As A Galleon’, and many other favourites such as ‘Maude’, ‘Nursery School’, ‘A Terrible Worrier’, ‘Time’, ‘Three Brothers’, ‘It’s Almost Tomorrow’, and two recorded duets with Norman Wisdom, ‘Narcissus’ and ‘I Don’t ’Arf Love You’, she presented a refined, humorous, perceptive, yet never unkind, view of society. One of her best-remembered pieces is ‘I Like Life’, which accords with her own philosophy: ‘I am not interested in the pursuit of happiness, but only in the discovery of joy’. Her companion on that journey, Reginald Grenfell, who edited some of her books, died in 1993. In 1988, the revue Re: Joyce!, ‘a diverting and engaging mixture of anecdotal biography and quintessential sketch material’, starring Maureen Lipman with Denis King, opened in London and continued to be presented at intervals into the 90s.
full bio

Selected Discography

x

Track List: 100 Of The Greatest Comedy Skits

1. Football Results

2. Nursery School

3. Pass That Peace Pipe

4. Meet Fred MacMurray

5. Brave Elevator Operator

6. Going To The Broadcast

7. The Best Of The Worst Of... (Excerpt)

8. Get It Right Corporal!

9. Marriage And Girlfriends

10. Max Is Now A Swimming Instructor But Is Never Out Of His Depth

11. More About Courting & Married Life

12. Cupid On Valentine's Day

13. Is There No End To His Cleverness?

14. Bill Cosby Goes To A Football Game

15. The 'Had It Tough', Poor, Contest

16. Opening A Jail

18. A Letter From Bill

19. Jack Banny Competes

20. Bad Reviews

21. He Now Recites

22. Drats

23. Lovely Lunch

24. Happy Anniversary Eddie

25. Jerry's System For Dating Girls

26. Women In Paris

27. Ravelli In Court

28. Ton Up Boy

30. The Sunshine Boys

31. Financial Expert

32. Porn Shop

33. Telling A Good Story

34. Shirley's Girlfriend "Picnic"

35. Little Blue Riding Hood

36. The Ups And Downs Of Brenda Scutltebutt, Girl Yo-Yo

37. The Cheeky Chappie Picks From The White Book & The Blue Book

38. Harpo Marx Ace Reporter

39. Morgan On Wagner

40. Max Gives Jean Some Chocolates

41. Jack And Groucho Play Checkers

42. Pre Show Jitters

43. One Leg Too Few

44. Impressions

45. The Cheeky Chappie Tella A Few More

46. The Morning After The Night Before

47. Albert Evacuated

48. Heine's And Moe's

49. The Astronaut

50. Danovitch Kayoff

51. Charles Laughton As Santa

53. The Fleabo Company

54. Me An' Old Charlie

55. Radio Quizz

56. The Funniest Woman In The World

57. The Society Wedding Stakes

58. Some Enchanted Evening

59. The Cheekie Chappie Tells One

60. At The Hungry I (Excerpt)

61. Civil Defense (No Talking)

62. The Great Train Robbery

63. Sam And Henry At The Dentist's

64. Hope In Russia (Excerpt)

65. Take A Pew

66. Lies, Lies, And More Lies

68. The Royal Box

69. The Beauty Parlor

70. Telephone Call

71. The Voice And Philosophy Of W.C. Fields

72. A Hillbilly Baseball Story

73. A Date After The Show

74. Dr. Kronkite And His Ownly Living Patient

75. Writer Of Children's Books

76. The Temperance Lecture

77. All Good Things Come To An End

78. The Cheeky Chappie Goes On Picking 'Em

79. Cohen At The Telephone

80. Who's On First

81. Max Tells Of His First Arp Experience

83. Over The Gate

84. Point Of View; Ku Klux Klan

85. Harpo's Girl Problen

86. Get A Horse; Lost

87. Old Girls' School Reunion

88. Women Take Over

89. A Tour Of 20th Century Fox

90. Selling Jolson Anything

91. Chico Plays On Bob's Show

92. An Assortment Of Yarns; Morris Of Arabia; Matzo Ball Soup; Cohen, Goldberg And Lipshitz; The Friendly Bench

93. Jean Carr Asks Some Questions, But Max Knows All The Answers

94. The Horse Show

95. Uncle Josh In A Barber Shop

96. Two Black Crows Part 1

97. Have You Ever Seen Betty Grable?

98. The Diet

99. The Cool World

100. Stop Press

x

Track List: Classic Comedy Box

Disc 1

1. Get It Right Corporal

3. Hospital Food

4. One Leg Too Few

5. The Day That Gareth Was Dropped

6. Take A Pew

7. Porn Shop

8. The Hole In The Ground

9. Ernie (The Fastest Milkman In The West)

10. Lovely Lunch (From 'the Establishment')

11. Wormwood Scrubs Tango

12. I Spy

13. President Of America

14. Goodness Gracious Me

15. Hello My Darlings

16. Blackpool To Jamaica

17. The Yellow Rose Of Texas

18. Drive In

Disc 2

2. I Am An Entertainer

3. Old Girls School Re-Union

4. Bangers And Mash

5. Bad Reviews

6. Bob Geldof

7. Famous Peoples Cars

8. Right Said Fred

9. Notice To Quit

10. The Horse Show

11. Jerry's System For Dating Girls

12. Cultural Attache

13. Stanislavsky

14. Sitting On The Bench

15. Edinburgh Festival

16. Ning Nang Nong

18. Boom Oo Yata-Ta-Ta

Disc 3

1. A Hard Day's Night

2. Television Programmes

3. Programme Not Broadcast

5. Royal Box

6. Me And My Shadow

7. Green Grow My Nadgers Oh!

8. Women Take Over

9. Happy To Be Here

10. Stop Press

11. Making A Commercial

12. A Date After The Show

13. Pheasant Pluckers Son

14. Financial Expert

15. A Tour Of 20th Century Fox

16. Going To The Broadcast

17. The Gnu Song

x

Track List: The Driving Instructor: 20 Comedy Classics

1. The Driving Instructor

2. Poisoning Pigeons

3. Fight Fiercely, Harvard

4. The Kid In The Well

5. Nursery School (George, Don't Do That...)

6. Max At The Met - Excerpt

7. Sunday Afternoon At Home

8. Phonetic Punctuation

9. Darktown Poker Club

10. Balham - Gateway To The South

11. Suddenly It's Folk Song

12. Trail Of The Lonesome Pine

13. A Transport Of Delight (London Omnibus)

14. The Hippopotamus Song (Mud, Mud...)

15. Let's Do It (Birds & The Bees...)

16. Don't Let's Be Beastly To The Germans

17. Cocktails For Two

18. Laura

19. Hooray For Captain Spauding

20. The Lion And Albert

x

Track List: Vintage Comedy Best

1. Public Transportation

2. Delegate From Muffart

3. Chloe

4. Ladies, Grab Your Seats

6. Fat Chance

7. Aunt Lillian

8. Monkey Mating Season

9. Little Kids

10. The Funniest Woman In The World

11. Embarrassing Moments

12. What A Cajun Is

13. Rehabilitation Of Prisons

14. Answering The Door

15. Understanding Mother

16. Calling The Auto Club

17. Jack Benny Competes

18. Best Foot Backward

20. Because You're Mine

21. Meet Fred MacMurray

22. Boostin' Hub Caps

24. Criminologist

25. Civil Rights Bill

26. The Mashuganishi On Love

27. Shakespeare

28. Super Service Station

29. Football Results

30. Brave Elevator Operator

31. The Best Of The Worst Of...

32. Max Is Now A Swimming Instructor But Is Never Out Of His Depth

33. A Letter From Bill

34. Lovely Lunch

35. Morgan On Wagner

36. The Ups And Downs Of Brenda Scuttlebutt, Girl Yo-Yo

37. One Leg Too Few

38. The Diet

39. Stop Press

40. Press Conference

41. Mr. Gold At The Golden Age Retirement Home

42. Have You Ever Seen Betty Grable?

43. College

44. Uncle Josh In A Barber Shop

45. An Assortment Of Yarns

46. Valentine's Day At Duffy's Tavern

47. Tarzan

48. Breakfast With John And Blanche

49. Things Are Movin' Up For The Black People

50. Confessional

51. My House

52. Campaign Promises

54. Interesting Facts

55. Solomon

56. Maudie The Racehorse

57. What Does It Matter?

58. Trains

59. The Ides Of March

60. Civil Defense (No Talking)

x

Track List: Vintage Comedy Tracks

1. Evils Of The Weed

2. Department Store

3. Take My Wife, Please

4. Ike, Sherm, And Nick

5. Recumbent Posture

6. The Funniest Woman In The World

8. Nursery School

9. Maudie The Racehorse

10. What Does It Matter?

11. Trains

12. Pass That Peace Pipe

13. Concert In Comedy

14. Going To The Broadcast

15. The Best Of The Worst Of... (Excerpt)

16. Max Is Now A Swimming Instructor But Is Never Out Of His Depth

17. Komodo Dragon

18. Drats

19. Women In Paris

20. Get A Horse

21. The Astronaut

22. One Leg Too Few

23. Education

24. Shiksehs For Jews (My Three Wives)

25. The Hospital

26. Judgment Day

27. Charles Laughton As Santa

28. The "Had It Tough", Poor, Contest

29. Civil Defense (No Talking)

30. The Great Train Robbery

31. The Beauty Parlor

33. Rocket To The Moon

34. The Musical Director

35. A Tour Of 20th Century Fox

36. The Diet

Comments

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