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Joyce Grenfell

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Joyce Irene Grenfell, OBE (née Phipps; 10 February 1910 – 30 November 1979) was an English film and television actress, comedienne and singer-songwriter.

Born in London, she was the daughter of architect Paul Phipps (the grandson of Charles Paul Phipps and a second cousin of Ruth Draper) and an eccentric American mother, Nora Langhorne, the daughter of Chiswell Langhorne, an American railroad millionaire. Nancy Astor, neé Nancy Witcher Langhorne, was her mother’s sister.

As such, Joyce Phipps grew up around money and privilege. She attended the Francis Holland School in Central London. Wanting to pursue a career in the theatre, she made her stage debut in 1939 in the “Little Revue.” In 1942 she wrote what became her signature song, “I’m Going to See You Today.”

During World War II, Grenfell toured India, North Africa, and the Middle East with a company performing for British troops. In 1989 her wartime journals were published under the title The Time of My Life: Entertaining the Troops. Her singing and comedic talents on stage led to offers to appear in motion picture comedies. Although she performed in a number of films, she continued with her recording career, producing a number of humorous albums as well as books.

As a writer at the BBC during and just after the war, she collaborated with Stephen Potter in writing the “How” series of 30 satirical programmes from How to Talk to Children to How to Listen. During the 1950s she made her name as a sidekick to such comedy greats as Alastair Sim and Margaret Rutherford in films such as The Happiest Days of Your Life (1950) and the St Trinian’s series.

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