Before she could move from the microphone, dozens of British sailors jumped up on the platform and begged for autographs. It was several minutes before she could be rescued by her husband, Monty Banks.
Even then she was followed into her dressing-room sailors who wanted autographs.
“I’m not dead yet. but I’ll have to lie-down soon.” said Gracie as she signed leave passes, bits of paper and pound notes before going on to the Anzac Buffet, where she was mobbed again.
Hundreds of people stood in the park in pouring rain waiting to hear Gracie’s voice, which was relayed.
Seaman Martin Lyons, of Liverpool so excited at seeing her again that he jumped up on the platform and gave her a hearty kiss. She grabbed his cap and put on while she wrote her autograph for him.
There was a wild scramble when Gracie threw an orange from a presentation basket of fruit into the audience.
The sailor who caught it called out. “I will never eat it, but will keep it as long as I can.
In the afternoon Gracie spent more than an hour with sick and wounded Servicemen at the Prince of Wales Repatriation Hospital, sang more than twenty songs, many of them request numbers, and kissed a young sailor with his leg in plaster who looked dazed and said his heart “sort of jumped up and down.”
At 4.30 pm. she was mobbed by a crowd outside the Town Hall, and had her hat nearly knocked off by an outsized bunch of celery clutched by a woman who tried to grab her as she arrived to attend a reception given by the Lord Mayor and Lady Mayoress, Alderman and Mrs. Neville Harding.
SANG 18 SONGS
After being cut off from the rest of the party by a crowd of women – mostly relatives and friends of Service-men -at the Prince of Wales Hospital Gracie Fields eventually reached the Red Cross recreation hall.
She hopped on to a chair from which she sang 18 songs, pausing only to crack a joke or to tell of the last time she sang the song. She said that the last time she had sung “When a Boy from Alabama meets a Girl from Gundagai” it had beep to a gathering of R.A.A.F. boys in Australia House, who were intrigued by her pronunciation of “Goondagai.”
She went from one song to another, whether her accompanist had the music of not. “Ave Maria” and “Sally”were by far the most popular.
In the naval ward she took off her¡ shoes and stood on a bed so that the men could see her. She sang four or five songs, and danced up and down the ward.
A first A.I.F veteran, Sergeant J.Roberts. D.S.C.. M.M.. presented a scarf which he had woven for her and timidly asked for her autograph. “Of course, as many as you want. Line up on the right boys.” she said and sat at a table to sign.
In the audience she discovered a man to whom she had sung during the last war-Sergeant Patrick O’Hara, who heard her sing at the Portsmouth submarine depot in 1918.
MERRY BLUE EYES
To those who have seen Gracie Fields only on the screen she looks slimmer, shorter, and younger, though none the less vivacious.
Her fresh pink and white complexion, her merry blue eyes which, off-guard, look wistful and sad, and her soft fair hair with its blue ribbon bow on the roll at the nape of then neck all combine to give a picture which is lost in th black and white of the screen.
Nor does she speak all the time in Lancashire dialect. Her English, some-times
clipped, dropping h’s and g’s, sometimes broad with lengthened vowels, is always good.
She lapses into her native idiom only to point a phrase or suggest a character. She moves her hands a great deal in gestures to act out a story. Her alert mind is reflected in her quick tongue, and her eyes miss nothing of what goes on around her. The whistle which she uses with such tremendous effect in her stage work is characteristic of her: she uses it almost as other people use a spoken commentary.
At her Press interview Miss Fields said she arrived in Sydney feeling like “a dead dook” but she didn’t look it. She told how she had been trying to come to Australia for 10 years, and had been keeping in practice until she could get here. Once having made up her mind, she told her representative in America, “Turn down everything, we’ll make a proper job of it.”
Miss Stewart -“the boss” – told how Gracie had turned down concert offers, film offers, radio offers, and a 7,500-dollar-a-week Broadway contract.
“Silly, isn’t it?” said Miss Fields, cupping her laughter behind her hand.
Her new film, “Molly and Me,” with Monty Woolley-“he’s good to work with” – she described as light and charming.
Asked her opinion of the ban on the broadcasting of records by English comedians such as Ronald Frankau. Miss Fields said she hadn’t heard of it, but asked: “Why? Because they’re mucky?”
Gracie Fields described the pro-gramme for her concert on Thursdays as “a pennyworth of all sorts.” but her repertoire contains many new songs as well as old favourites.