Gracie Fields was not prepared for the drastic reform she would have to endure when she arrived in New York aboard the Queen Mary in 1937.
Sebastian Lassandro, who wrote his biography, said the actress was immediately transformed into a platinum blonde as soon as she got off the boat. But the transformation didn't stop there.
"She was sent to a photo shoot," the author told Fox News. "And the photographer wasn't happy with his teeth. So they had all their teeth pulled out. She said, 'The dentist was pretty brutal. He just stuck his new teeth in my mouth.
“I went to Charlie Chaplin's house that night for dinner. Your chef has prepared a traditional English-baked dinner. I tried to chew on roast beef and Yorkshire pudding with new teeth in my mouth and couldn't control it. & # 39; So there was definitely pressure to make it fascinating in 1937. "
Portrait of Gracie Fields, circa 1932.
(Photo by Culture Club / Getty Images)
Fields, who at one time was the highest paid star in Hollywood in the 1930s, died in 1979 at the age of 81 at his home in Capri, Italy, from pneumonia.
"It's been 40 years since Gracie died," Lassandro explained. “I felt that now was the perfect time to finally tell your story completely. Previous books have failed to properly research it and have misinformation about it. I took a careful look at Gracie from birth to death. Now we have an incredibly great story of a woman who lived a full life. "
Lassandro said he sought out Fields's family and had access to letters, messages, and other rare documents that captured Fields's public and personal life.
English actress, singer and comedian of music hall Gracie Fields (1898 – 1979).
(Silver Screen Collection photo / Hulton Archive / Getty Images)
And while Fields's attempts to court Hollywood were painful, it was apparently worth it.
"She kind of adopted this quasi-American personality," Lassandro said. “Your acting has changed. When you listen to her radio shows or watch the movies she made in the United States, it's not the same as Gracie Fields. I suspect that's what (the filmmakers) were expecting for Hollywood … But even if they dyed her hair and gave her a lot of teeth, she was still known as "our Gracie". She was still the same down-to-earth actress as one of us. "
However, Fields still managed to face some scandal in his native England. In 1940, the actress apparently left her country permanently during World War II for America – an action that angered the British press and even a member of parliament.
Fields was also married to his producer Monty Banks, who was born Mario Bianco. When Italy entered the war, Banks was considered an enemy alien. O New York Times He shared that once he left for his home in Santa Monica, California, Fields went with him.
Gracie Fields, circa 1938.
(Photo from Hulton Archive / Getty Images)
"A lot of people at the time thought she was a traitor and ran away because Britain was being bombed," Lassandro said.
However, Lassandro emphasized that this was far from the truth. Fields happened to leave the United Kingdom at the request of British Prime Minister Winston Churchill, who told him to "earn US dollars, not British pounds."
"She was doing charity work," he explained. “She was raising money for charities at Winston Churchill's insistence. Gracie worked during the war years without receiving a salary. She went bankrupt several times while winning all war charities.
Fields has toured extensively in America and Canada, as well as Africa, Australia and New Zealand. She would finally travel to Europe at the end of the war. She "entertained the troops in all theaters of operations during World War II," reported the New York Times. Fields would continue to give 10 commanding performances to British royalty.
December 15, 1945: During an ENSA tour in Italy, singer and comedian Gracie Fields (1898-1979) poses with members of the Allied Forces in Rome.
(Haywood Magee photo / Picture Post / Hulton Archive / Getty Images)
According to the agency, one of their tours lasted a year without interruption and raised more than $ 2 million for wartime charities.
"She devoted herself to the war effort," said Lassandro. “She knew she had this God-given talent to present herself and wanted to give back as best she could. She wanted to give hope to those in the trenches. That was her goal. "
According to Lassandro, the British press eventually apologized for the harsh media scrutiny she suffered.
The banks died in 1950 at 52 years of heart attack. After his death, the Times reported that Fields withdrew to Capri. In 1952, she married her third husband, Boris Alperovici, whom he met when he went to his house to fix a broken radio.
Lassandro said Fields had spent her last years pursuing what she loved most – entertaining her audience.
Queen Elizabeth II talks to actress and singer Gracie Fields before the Royal Variety Performance at the London Palladium.
(Photo by PA Images via Getty Images)
"She always came back to England to do variety shows, radio and television," he said. "When she wasn't working, she was in her beloved Capri and enjoying the sun. But even in the 70's and 80's, she was wanted. At 70, she had a two-week run in England. In 1978, she opened a theater And then, the year she died, she was named, the biggest prize you can give to a female artist. Until her death, she was wanted and kept busy.
Lassandro hopes that Fields, who is now seemingly forgotten in Hollywood, will be re-examined by curious new fans.
"I hope they appreciate Gracie's importance to the entertainment industry in both England and America," he said. "The British public may have turned her back a little during the war, but she persevered."