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Joyce Grenfell (1910 - 1979)

A 2004 British television poll to find 'The Comedian's Comedian' named Joyce Grenfell as one of the most influential humourists of all time. Grenfell was not only a hugely successful radio, film and television comedian, but also an accomplished singer. Unusually for a woman of her era she wrote most of her own material, and though three-quarters American her gentle comedy was definitively English.

Born Joyce Irene Phipps in London in 1910, her father was the architect Paul Phipps, her mother the socialite Nora Langhorne. She was partly educated at Clearview, a Christian Science School, and remained a Christian Scientist through her life. At 17 she studied briefly at the Royal Academy of Dramatic Art, and met Reggie Grenfell, whom she married in 1929.

Having begun her professional career writing for Punch, Joyce made her performing debut with the monologue 'Useful and Acceptable Gifts' in The Little Review in 1939. When WWII began Joyce joined ENSA (Entertainments National Service Organisation), entertaining the armed forces in Britain, the Middle East and India, for which she received an OBE. In 1941 Joyce began a long collaboration with the composer Richard Addinsell, best known for his Warsaw Concerto. One of their songs, "I'm Going to See You Today" became her signature tune.




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