From age 13 Gracie Fields worked as an entertainer in music halls; after 20 years in show business she soared to extraordinary popularity in the early '30s as a comedienne and singer, working onstage and debuting onscreen in 1931. For most of the '30s Fields was the top box-office draw and the highest-paid actress in Britain; her spirited, broad comedies were welcome relief from the Depression. Once described as England's Will Rogers, her British humor failed to excite American audiences. Married to actor and director Monty Banks, in 1940 Fields joined him in America after he was declared an alien in Britain (due to his birth in Italy and Italy's participation in the War). In Hollywood she co-starred with Monty Woolley in two successful films, played a supporting role in a third, then retired from the screen in 1945. Gracie Fields was created Dame Commander of the Order of the British Empire in 1979.