Birthdate: Thursday, February 10th, 1910
Location: London, UK
Died: Friday, November 30th, 1979
Location: London, UK
Cause of death: Eye cancer
Best known for: Much-loved comedy actress and writer who was something of a pioneer in the UK for performing her own comedy songs and monologues, something Victoria Wood would popularise in the 1980s and 90s. Joyce's best known acting work is for her role as Ruby Gates in the St Trinian's series of British comedy films. She was awarded an OBE in 1946.
After being such a mainstay of British comedy films in the 1950s and 60s, it's somewhat surprising to learn that Joyce's final acting credit was actually a whole 15 years before she died. In 1964 she played Hortense Astor in The Yellow Rolls-Royce, a Golden Globe-winning film starring Ingrid Bergman and Rex Harrison. Joyce's role was modest, but at the age of just 54, she had so much more to offer which the acting profession ultimately missed out on.
|In The Yellow Rolls-Royce, aged 54|
There were only a handful of personal appearances throughout the next decade - an appearance on The Dick Cavett Show in the US in October 1970, a couple of turns on The David Frost Show the same year, as well as a performance at a birthday gala tribute to Noel Coward. Intermittently throughout the 1970s Joyce had appeared as a panellist on the BBC classical music quiz show Face the Music, making her final appearance on Christmas Day 1979 - a month after her death.
|A 68-year-old Joyce looked|
unwell on the cover of her
latest LP in 1978
However, in 1973 - shortly after a comedy performance at Windsor Castle for Queen Elizabeth II - Joyce was taken ill with an eye infection which resulted in the partial loss of sight in her left eye. The eye began to shrivel but she refused surgery, preferring an uncomfortable glass cosmetic contact.
In 1979, upon the request of her husband Reggie, Joyce sought treatment for the rheumatic pains she was suffering in her eye. It was discovered that the eye was now cancerous, and that the cancer had spread to her spine. Reggie was told his wife had less than a year to live. Years later, Janie Hampton - who as a child had benefited from Joyce's philanthropy and altruism - said: "She never knew she had cancer. She was not interested in medical diagnosis. She bought new clothes, had a new eye fitted, and accepted invitations to preach in churches the following year."
|A portrait of Joyce in|
later years, by Allan
It was revealed that Joyce was due to be awarded a damehood in the 1980 New Year Honours List for her services to entertainment, to be added to the OBE she received 34 years previously for the same reason.
Before her death Joyce had been interviewed for the Southern Television documentary Chaos Supersedes ENSA, about the Entertainments National Service Association which entertained the troops during World War Two. Joyce's posthumous appearance was broadcast on August 27th, 1980.
For a reminder of just how clever a writer and performer Joyce was, here's a routine called "Eng Lit" she performed for the BBC...