PERFORMERS: JOYCE GRENFELL

Born:  February 10 1910
Died:  November 30 1979

by Peter Tatchell (copyright 2012)

To fans of the revered series of St. Trinian’s movies she will always be identified as the gormless P.C. Ruby Gates, but that was only one persona in a gallery of colourful characters performed by Joyce Grenfell over four decades. Though appearing in two dozen films (with occasional forays into radio and television) Joyce was primarily a stage performer who, by the 1950s, was entrancing theatre audiences around the world with her multi-faceted one-woman show.

Though born Joyce Phipps in London in 1910, the lady who became such a perennial purveyor of English eccentricity was in fact the daughter of an exuberant American lady of wealthy antecedents and her British architect husband. She married one Reggie Grenfell in her late teens in a union that would last fifty years (until her death).

By 1935 Joyce was contributing humorous verses to Punch. Three years later she was amusing guests at a dinner party with a routine sending up a speaker at a Women’s Institute … one of those present was Stephen Potter who promptly recommended the novice to a producer friend, Herbert Farjeon. And within months Joyce Grenfell was appearing in the West End show The Little Revue and had become a fully-fledged professional entertainer.

In addition to being a skilled presenter of monologues (the sketch that launched her career was soon available as an H.M.V. record), Joyce Grenfell was also seen to be a talented musical performer, adept at singing novelty numbers and playing piano.

With World War 2 now underway, Farjeon presented Joyce in his follow-up production Diversion and B.B.C. radio featured her in their Forces Network series Hogsnorton Hobnobbing. Soon after, Grenfell’s association with Stephen Potter led to the start of twenty years of occasional radio talks under the title How, with the listener being humorously instructed on the correct method of involving oneself in such tasks as travelling abroad, looking for a job, going to the theatre, staging a party or even listening to the wireless itself.

It was a busy time for Joyce as she made many appearances for E.N.S.A. to entertain troops (at home and abroad) and also to appear in front of movie cameras and in the stage production Light and Shade.

At the conclusion of hostilities, Grenfell starred in the Noel Coward revue Sigh No More (singing such numbers as The End of the News and Mr. Du Maurier). She followed these with Tuppence Coloured (in 1947)and Penny Plain (1951).

The Fifties was a momentous time for Joyce Grenfell. On movie screens she could be seen in such cinema classics as Hitchcock’s Stage Fright and a parade of comedy classics like The Happiest Days of Your Life, Laughter in Paradise and Genevieve.  Then, in 1954 came the film adaptation of Ronald Searle’s legendary black cartoons about the notorious schoolgirls at St. Trinian’s.

The Belles of St. Trinian’s starred Alastair Sim in a dual role, with Joyce Grenfell and George Cole as the other lead characters. Playing a lovestruck policewoman forced to investigate the dastardly goings on at the school, Grenfell was a joy to behold with her physical antics and larger than life  characterisation. It was a part she repeated in two sequels (Blue Murder at … and The Pure Hell of …) despite having misgivings about the overall morality of the storylines. In fact, by the mid-1960s, she decided not to be involved in any future offerings in the immensely popular series.

The early 1950s was particularly notable for Joyce bringing together her favourite monologues and musical numbers in a one-woman stage revue called Joyce Grenfell Request the Pleasure. Apart from performing the new and classic routines, she was also the writer of the sketches and song lyrics. The show was a triumph and for the next two decades Joyce toured Britain, America and to far off Australia and New Zealand delighting audiences with her humour.

Particular favourites were the Nursery School teacher having to cope with a group of unruly infants (and to continually admonish one with “George … don’t do that”), an old girls’ school reunion told through the eyes of one “Lumpy” Latimer, recently returned from a lengthy stay in Kenya and a selection of musical items such as Songs My Mother Taught Me and Wrong Songs for Wrong Singers. New versions of many of these were included in subsequent editions of the show.

Beginning in 1946 Grenfell also made occasional B.B.C. television appearances performing extracts from her various stage productions and, happily, recordings survive of a number of these from the 1960s and early 1970s. Joyce could also be seen on the popular Ed Sullivan Show when her stage show was playing Broadway and as a panellist on the longrunning British game show Face the Music.

Her short 1972 series for BBC2 offered a selection of favourite Grenfell items, but it was to be something of a last hurrah in her performing career. A year later she suffered eye trouble and a cancerous growth resulted in it having to be removed. It was the start of a series of cancer-related health problems and Joyce curtailed future stage performances (though continuing to participate in the game show).

By late 1979 Buckingham Palace had decided to create her a Dame of the British Empire (Joyce had been awarded an O.B.E. in 1946), but it was not to be … she died before the investiture could take place.

Films

A Letter from Home (1941 short)
The Lamp Still Burns (1943)
The Demi-Paradise (1943)
While The Sun Shines (1943)
Designing Women (1948 short)
Alice In Wonderland (voice only, 1948)
Poet’s Pub (1949)
A Run For Your Money (1949)
The Happiest Days Of Your Life (1950)
Stage Fright (1950)
The Galloping Major (1951)
Laughter In Paradise (1951)
The Magic Box (1951)
The Pickwick Papers (1952)
Genevieve (1953)
The Million Pound Note (1953)
Forbidden Cargo (1954)
The Belles Of St. Trinian’s (1954)
The Good Companions (1957)
Blue Murder At St. Trinian’s (1957)
Happy Is The Bride (1958)
The Pure Hell Of St. Trinian’s (1960)
The Old Dark House (1962)
The Yellow Rolls Royce (1954)
The Americanization Of Emily (1964)

Radio

HOGSNORTON HOBNOBBING: Forces Network Wednesday 6-30pm October 1 to 22 1941
with Gillie Potter, Joyce Grenfell, Harry Hudson, Roderick Jones

HOW (to)
from 1942 to 1962, 29 editions were aired on the Home Service (unless noted), including …
Look At A Town (July 6 1943)
Apply for a Job (1943)
Talk To Children (June 8, July 27, August 3 1943, August 31 1944)
Argue (September 27 1943)
Give A Party (December 23 1943)
Keep A Diary (August 10 and 31 1944)
Learn To Speak French (August 1944)
Woo (September 12 1944)
How Not To and How They Used To (April 9 1945)
Go To The Theatre (April 1945)
Blow Your Own Trumpet (April 19 1945, March 14 1946, May 24 1947)
Be Good At Music (June 24 1945)
Talk To Young People (November 14 1945)
Make Friends (November 20 1945)
Deal with Christmas (December 19 1945)
Move House (April 4 1946)
Appreciate Shakespeare (Third Programme, April 20 1946)
Go To The Ballet (August 1946)
Listen (Third Programme, September 29 1946, new production: November 16 1946)
Cope With Christmas (Third Programme, December 22 1946, 45 min)
Salute the BBC (1947)
Be Good At Games (Third Programme, December 25 1947, December 25 1951)
Give A Party (Third Programme, March 26 1950)
Travel (Third Programme, July 19 1950)
Go To The Theatre (Third Programme, December 29 1950)
Broadcast (Third Programme, September 29 1951),
Lead A Really Full Life (August 19 1951)
Cross the Atlantic First Class (August 26 1951)
Deal With The New Year (January 1 1952)
Know America Really Well (September 2 1955)
How Now To Listen (November 10 1962)
with Stephen Potter, Joyce Grenfell

VICTORY NIGHT AT EIGHT
Home Service Monday 8-00pm May 14 1945 (60 min)
features Arthur Askey, Richard Murdoch, Kenneth Horne, Cyril Fletcher, Joyce Grenfell

ALL STAR PARTY
Light Programme Wednesday 4-30pm December 26 1945
with Tommy Handley, Leslie Henson, Joyce Grenfell, Hermione Gingold

JOYCE GRENFELL ENTERTAINS
Home Service Thursday 9-30pm September 22 1949

THE WORST YEARS … OR THOSE AWFUL SCHOOLGIRLS
Home Service Wednesday 1-00pm January 6 1954
with Ronald Searle, Arthur Marshall, Nancy Spain, Joyce Grenfell

THE HUNDREDTH BOAT RACE
Home Service Friday 7-45pm April 2 1954 (45 min)
with Jimmy Edwards, Dick Bentley, Arthur Askey, Joyce Grenfell, Terry-Thomas, The Goons, Jack Hawkins

THE LAUGHTERMAKERS: Joyce Grenfell
Home Service Friday 1-10pm March 26 1957

JOYCE GRENFELL
Home Service Tuesday 9-15pm December 24 1957

COMEDY PARADE: JOYCE GRENFELL
Light Thursday 8-00pm December 24 1964

Tributes

THE ENTERTAINERS : Joyce Grenfell
Radio 4 Friday 9-05am April 20 1973 (45 min)

FUNNY THAT WAY: Joyce Grenfell
Radio 4 Monday 12-30pm March 13 1989

THE COMEDIENNES: Joyce Grenfell
Radio 2 Thursday 7-00pm February 23 1995

TURNS OF THE CENTURY: Joyce Grenfell
Radio 3 Friday 4-20pm July 14 1995 (10 min)

CHOICE GRENFELL
R3 Monday to Friday 9-15pm March 2 to 6 1998 (20 min)
Joyce Grenfell monologues and songs performed by Maureen Lipman

 

Television

Ballet ‘How’: BBC August 18 1946 (10 min)

Starlight Joyce Grenfell: BBC September 11 1946, January 16 1947, May 11 1949 (10 to 15 min)

Joyce Grenfell at Home: BBC August 30 1950, January 5 1951, January 30 1953 (20 to 30 min)

Joyce Grenfell Requests the Pleasure: BBC July 13 and 27, August 10 and 24 1956 (4 x 30 min)

Joyce Grenfell: BBC2 August 8, September 26 1964 (2 x 50 min)

Show of the Week Joyce Grenfell: BBC2 December 15 1968, May 18 1969 (2 x 50 min)

Joyce Grenfell: BBC2 January 21 to February 11 1972 (4 x 30 min)

Tributes

I Like Life – a Tribute to Joyce Grenfell: BBC2 January 1 1981

Re-Joyce: BBC2 December 24 1991 (105 min) Joyce impersonated by Maureen Lipman

Heroes of Comedy Joyce Grenfell: C4 October 20 1995 (50 min)

Comedy with Breeding: BBC4, 2006

 

Video

Joyce Grenfell Entertains
BBC Video BBCV 7056/Castle Vision CVI CA 1009
Old Girls’ School Reunion
Sunday Morning
A Terrible 
Worrier
Wrong Songs For Wrong Singers
Mulgarth Street
Eng Lit
A Joyful Noise
An American Mother
Come Catch 
Me
Stately As A Galleon
First Flight
Nursery School – Story
Time
(From the 1972 BBC series Joyce Grenfell)

 

Recordings

Useful And Acceptable Gifts (An Institute Lecture Demonstration)/Two Character Studies (The American Mother/The Village Mother)
HMV 78rpm 8-8930 (1939)

I’m Going To See You Today/There Is Nothing New To Tell You
HMV 78rpm 8-9295 (1942)

Du Maurier/The End Of The News (from Sigh No More)
Decca 78rpm F-856i (1945)

Noel Coward – Vocal Gems
HMV 12″ 78rpm C-3635/3636 (2 discs) (1947)
Joyce appears on the following tracks:
One, Two, Three
A Room With A View
London Pride
Mad About The Boy
Parisian Pierrot

Keepsake/Maud (with Julian Orchard) (from Penny Plain)
Columbia 78rpm DB-2918 (1951)

All The Pretty Little Horses/Yellow Rose Of Texas
Columbia 78rpm DB-2947 (1951)

I Don’t ‘Arf Love You/Narcissus (both with Norman Wisdom)
Columbia 78rpm DB-3161 (1952)

I’m Going To See You Today/Drifting
Columbia 78rpm DB-3192 (1952)

Joyce Grenfell
Elektra LP EKL 184 (1953)
Hello Song
Two Songs My Mother Taught Me
Thee Brothers
I Like Life
Mediocre Waltz
Life And Literature
Thought ForToday
Nursery School
Life Story
Time To Waste
Artists’Room
Committee

Joyce Grenfell Requests The Pleasure
Philips LP BBL 7004 (1955)
Welcome
The Music’s Message
Mrs. Mendlicote
Understanding Mother
Three Brothers
Palais Dancers
Ordinary Morning
Shirley’s Girlfriend
Folk Song
Songs My Mother Taught Me (Hand Me Down My Bonnet, The Yellow Rose Of Texas, Since Bacon Has Gone Up, Night-Sit Down, Sister)
Hostess
Farewell

Ordinary Morning/Three Brothers
Philips 78rpm BB 2004 (1955)

Joyce Grenfell At Home
HMV LP CLP 1155 (1958)
Opening Numbers
Ballad
Nursery School – Free Activity Period
London Scottish
Boat Train
Joyful Noise
Woman On The Bus
Songs My Mother Taught Me (Old Joe Clark, Step Light Lady, All The Pretty Little Horses)
Shirley’s Girlfriend – Fun Fair
Time
It’s Almost Tomorrow

Joyce Grenfell
HMV LP CLP 1810 (1964)
Encores
Nursery School – Flowers
Picture Postcard
What ShallI Wear?
Visitor
Dear Francois
I’m Going To See You Today
Shirley’s Girlfriend – Picnic
Songs My Mother Taught Me (IHear A Voice, Snowball, All The Pretty Little Horses)
WriterOf Children’s Books
Oh! Mr Du Maurier
Telephone Call
Olde-Tyme Dancing

Joyce Grenfell At Home
HMV EP 1EG 8787
Nursery School
Joyful Noise

I’m Going To See You Today/Flowers
HMV single POP 1407

Olde Tyme Dancing
HMV EP 7EG 8936
Olde-Tyme Dancing
Telephone Call
Nursery School – Flowers
I’m Going To See You Today

The Words And Music Of Noel Coward
HMV LP CLP 1928/CSD 1640 (1965)
Joyce appears on two tracks:
If Love Were All
The Party’s Over Now

Nursery School
HMV single POP 1617
Going Home Time
I Wouldn’t Go Back To The World I Knew

Joyce
Columbia LP S(C)X 6362 (1969)
Bring Back The Silence
Old Girls School Reunion
Three Brothers
Nicodemus
Hostess
Lally Tullett
Hymn
Wrong Songs For Wrong Singers (or Songs To Make You Sick)
The Wedding Is On Saturday
Fan
I Wouldn’t Go Back To TheWorld I Knew
Thursdays
Duet
(with William Blezard)
Nursery School – Going Home Time
Slow Down

Reissues (from Columbia and H.M.V. recordings)

The Joyce Grenfell Collection
EMI One-Up LP OU 2149
I’m Going To See You Today
Encores
Picture Postcard
Dear Francois
Old Girls School Reunion
Joyful Noise
Nursery School – Flowers
Time
Three Brothers
Shirley’s Girlfriend – Fun Fair
Oh! Mr Du Maurier
Boat Train
I Wouldn’t Go Back To The World I Knew
Songs My Mother Taught Me (Old Joe Clark, Step Light Lady, All The Pretty Little Horses)
Nursery School – Free Activity Period
Olde-Time Dancing

The Second Joyce Grenfell Collection
EMI Encore LP ONCR 524
Opening Numbers
Nursery School – Going Home Time
Hymn
The Wedding Is On Saturday
If Love Were All
Thursdays
Fan
Slow Down
Bring Back The Silence
Shirley’ s Girlfriend– Picnic
Wrong Songs For Wrong Singers (or Songs To MakeYou Sick)
Telephone Call
Hostess
London Scottish
Lally Tullett
The Party’s Over Now

George – Don’t Do That
EMI Starline LP SRS 5199 (1977)
(includes the three Nursery School tracks previously issued, plus three newly recorded)
Nursery School – Story Time
Nursery School – Going Home Time
Nursery School – Flowers
Nursery School – Free Activity Period
Nursery School – Nativity Play
Nursery School – Sing-Song Time

The New Joyce Grenfell Collection
EMI Double-Up 2LPs DUO 128 (1978)
There’s Nothing New To Tell You
Ethel
Opera Interval
Learn To Loosen (The Music’s Message)
Mulgarth Street
I Like Life
Life Story
Eng. Lit. I
Green Summer (In The Green Time OfMoon Daisies)
First Flight
Irish Folk Song
Life And Literature
I’m Going Away
One Is One And All Alone
Not In The Mood For News
A Terrible Worrier
Gypsy
Time To Waste
Unsuitable
Visitor
Drifting
Two Songs My Mother Taught Me (I’ll Lend You My Horse, Hand Me Down MyBonnet)
Artists’ Room
Leonie
Security Song
Ferry Boats Of Sydney
Committee
Come Catch Me

Joyce Grenfell Talking
Cube Records LP HIFLY 34, Dakota LP (1979)
Familiar Faces
Looking Back
Theatre
Women’s Institute
Speeches
Characters And Monologues
Writing Monologues
American Tour
Writing Books And Retirement
Second Book– “In Pleasant Places”
Films, TV, Radio and Radio Games
Favourite Characters – Best Moments

The following compilations comprise tracks from the LPs
Joyce Grenfell At Home, Joyce Grenfell, The Words And Music of Noel Coward, Joyce, George – Don’t Do That and The New Joyce Grenfell Collection.
Also included are earlier singles not previously included on LPs (*) plus two previously unissued tracks (#).

Requests The Pleasure – The Best Of Joyce Grenfell
EMI 3CD Set 0777 7 80552 2 8 (1992)
I’m Going To See You Today
Nursery School – Flowers
Learn To Loosen (The Music’s Message)
Visitor
Old Tyme Dancing(Stately As A Galleon)
I Wouldn’t Go Back
Committee
Green Summer (In The Green Time Of Moon Daisies)
The Wedding Is On Saturday
Narcissus *
The Old Girls’ School Reunion
Wrong Songs For Wrong Singers (or Songs To Make YouSick)
Shirley’s Girlfriend – Fun Fair
Dear Francois
Nicodemus
Drifting *
Nursery School – Sing-Song Time
Ballad
Hostess
Artists’ Room
Lullaby #
Opening Numbers
Oh! Mr Du Maurier
Nursery School – Free Activity Period
ILike Life
A Terrible Worrier
Hymn
Writer Of Children’sBooks
Picture Postcard
Boat Train
Duet
Shirley’s Girlfriend– Picnic
Ethel
Opera Interval
Three Brothers
Nursery School- Story Time
Slow Down
Two Character Studies: TheAmerican Mother, The Village Mother *
Unsuitable
One Is One And All Alone
It’s Almost Tomorrow
Encores
Nursery School – Nativity Play
The Woman On The Bus
Fan
Time
First Flight
There’s Nothing New To Tell You
Shirley’s Girlfriend – Foreign Fella #
I Don’t ‘Arf Love You *
Telephone Call
Bring Back The Silence
Life And Literature
Maud *
Eng.Lit I
Joyful Noise
Life Story
Ferry Boats Of Sydney
Nursery School – Going Home Time
London Scottish
Useful AndAcceptable Gifts
*

George Don’t Do That – The Best Of Joyce Grenfell
EMI CD 7243 8 28713 2 3
I’m Going To See You Today
Nursery School – Flowers
Old Tyme Dancing (Stately As A Galleon)
Visitor
The Woman On The Bus
Telephone Call
Narcissus *
The Wedding Is On Saturday
Dear Francois
Shirley’s Girlfriend – Fun Fair
Hostess
Fan
Picture Postcard
Nursery School – Free Activity Period
Three Brothers
Nicodemus
I Wouldn’t Go Back
Shirley’s Girlfriend – Picnic
Oh! Mr Du Maurier
Boat Train
London Scottish
Writer Of Children’s Books
Bring Back The Silence
Useful And Acceptable Gifts *

Joyful Joyce
EMI Double cassette ECC 18 (A777 7 96778 4 9)
Opening Numbers
Nursery School – Free Activity Period
Joyful Noise
Picture Postcard
What Shall I Wear
Visitor
Dear Francois
Nursery School – Flowers
I’m Going To See YouToday
Shirley’s Girlfriend – Picnic
Oh! Mr Du Maurier
Writer Of Children’s Books
Old Tyme Dancing (Stately As AGalleon)
Telephone Call
Bring Back The Silence
The Old Girls’ School Reunion
Three Brothers
Nicodemus
Hostess
Lally Tullet
Hymn
Wrong Songs For Wrong Singers (or SongsTo Make You Sick)
The Wedding Is On Saturday
Fan
l Wouldn’t Go Back
Thursdays
Duet
Nursery School – GoingHome
Slow Down

More Joyful Joyce
EMI Double cassette ECC 31 (7243 8 28632 4 3)
Encores
Nursery School – Nativity Play
The Woman On TheBus
Time
First Flight
There’s Nothing New To Tell You
Shirley’s Girlfriend – Fun Fair
Learn To Loosen (The Music’sMessage)
Narcissus *
Nursery School – Sing-Song Time
I Like Life
It’s Almost Tomorrow
Boat Train
Ballad
London Scottish
Artists’ Room
If Love Were All
(from Bitter Sweet)
Not In The Mood For News
Nursery School – Story Time
Unsuitable
Life Story
Gypsy
Time To Waste
Two Songs MyMother Taught Me (I’ll Lend You My Horse, Hand Me DownMy Bonnet)
Opera Interval
Lullaby #
I Don’t ‘Arf LoveYou *
Mulgarth Street
Ethel
Life And Literature
GreenSummer (In The Green Time Of Moon Daisies)
Shirley’sGirlfriend – Foreign Fella #
Leonie
Drifting *
One Is One AndAll Alone
The Party’s Over Now
(from Words And Music)

Books

JOYCE GRENFELL REQUESTS THE PLEASURE
by Joyce Grenfell (Macmillan, 1976)

GEORGE – DON’T DO THAT
by Joyce Grenfell (Macmillan, 1977)

IN PLEASANT PLACES
by Joyce Grenfell (Macmillan, 1978)

JOYCE – BY HERSELF AND HER FRIENDS
by Joyce Grenfell (Macmillan, 1980)

AN INVISIBLE FRIENDSHIP – AN EXCHANGE OF LETTERS 1957 – 1979
by Joyce Grenfell (Macmillan, 1981)

TURN BACK THE CLOCK
by Joyce Grenfell (Macmillan, 1983)

STATELY AS A GALLEON
by Joyce Grenfell (Macmillan, 1983)

DARLING MA – LETTERS TO HER MOTHER 1932 – 1944
by Joyce Grenfell (Hodder and Stoughton, 1988)

THE TIME OF MY LIFE – ENTERTAINING THE TROOPS – HER WARTIME JOURNALS
by Joyce Grenfell (Hodder and Stoughton, 1989)

HATS OFF – POEMS AND DRAWINGS OF JOYCE GRENFELL
compiled by Janie Hampton (John Murray, 2000)

JOYCE GRENFELL
by Janie Hampton (Hodder Headline/John Murray, 2002)

Advertisements

Comments are closed.

%d bloggers like this: