Gracie Fields gift is star of sale

A personal gift reputedly given by the 1930s silver screen icon Gracie Fields to the renowned English actor and director Basil Dean takes centre stage at Ripon’s Elstob Auctioneers’ next sale on April 10.

The splendid Art Deco silver tantalus is engraved ‘To Basil with love from Gracie’ and was made by George Betjemann & Sons Ltd, London, 1930. It holds three clear and amber cut-glass decanters and has a guide price of £1,500 to £2,500. 

An auctioneer with an Art Deco silver tantalus

Dame Gracie Fields (1898-1979) was one of the top ten film stars in Britain during the 1930’s and was reputedly the highest paid film star in the world in 1937. She starred in a number of films directed by Basil Dean, including the 1934 musical Sing As We Go and the comedy classic Look Up and Laugh (1935). The pair also came together during World War II, when Fields signed up for the Entertainments National Service Association headed up by Dean. 

Basil Dean (1888-1978) was an eminent actor, writer, producer and director for theatre and cinema. He founded the Liverpool Repertory Company in 1911 and in his later career produced and directed mostly in the West End. As well as Gracie Fields, he worked with an ‘A-list’ of stars including John Gielgud, Noel Coward and Vivien Leigh – many of whom spoke about his bullying and hardline ruthlessness that was often credited with drawing out excellent performances. 

“It is fascinating to think that this wonderfully preserved object was part of a world of bygone glamour and fame,” said, David Elstob, Director of the Ripon-based auction house. “Gracie Fields and Basil Dean were amongst the biggest names of their day and their memories still hold strong in the hearts of the British public.” 

The April sale showcases a particularly strong collection of silverware including an American sterling silver frying pan by Tiffany & Co. Marked and dated from March 1965, this sturdy object measures 43.5cm long and has a guide price of £1,500-£2,500. 

“This is not the sort of object that we expect to see from this renowned luxury jewellery design brand which makes it a little quirky,” said David Elstob. “It is also allegedly fit for use but it’s hard to imagine that it would ever get used for frying up an omelette!”  

Elstob auctioneer David Elstob with Spirit of Ecstasy

Another sale highlight is an Elizabeth II silver model of the Spirit of Ecstasy by GPS London 1997, signed Charles Sykes. Mounted on a wooden base, it measures 21.9cm high and is expected to reach between £1,200-£1,800.