British Variety Artists of the 1930's & 1940's

TOMMY FIELDS & NINO ROSSINI

TOMMY FIELDS, (Tom Stansfield), was born in Rochdale on 28th June 1908, the youngest of four children of Fred and Sarah Stansfield.  His first stage appearance was in 1921 at Oldham, no doubt encouraged by his elder sister Gracie Fields who was already making a name for herself as a singer and comedienne. By 1924 he was working alongside Gracie and their two sisters Edith and Betty in Archie Pitt’s famous revue “Mr Tower of London”.  He continued to work for Archie Pitt's company and in late 1924 and early 1925 he toured with "A Week's Pleasure", singing a comedy duet with his sister Edith.    By September 1925 he had signed up for Archie's latest production, "By Request".

 

When Tommy met NINO ROSSINI (Lawrence or Lorenzo Rossini) they were destined to become lifelong friends. They shared the same sense of humour which was also a sense of the ridiculous.   Nino was born in London on 4th December 1901 to Luigi and Angelina Rossini who were Italian immigrants.   He had spent up to eight hours a day practising the piano accordion and was making a living playing  in nightclubs and theatres.   On 11th January 1927 he joined Gracie and Tommy Fields in the revue “By Request”. Co-incidentally, both Tommy and Nino  fell in love with dancers from the show who were eventually to become their wives.   Nino married Babs Griffiths in 1928 and Tommy married Dorothy Whiteside in 1930.

After spending the year of 1927 in “By Request” they formed the double act FIELDS AND ROSSINI in early 1928. They combined their talents – Nino continued to play the piano accordion while Tommy excelled at eccentric dancing, and then comedy and singing were added to the mix to provide a varied act.  After a couple of months touring the U.K., they joined Gracie Fields on her  six month tour of South Africa, leaving England  on 16th March 1928. By mid. September they were back in London, working in a variety show at the Alhambra. They continued to tour the variety theatres, playing all the major venues including the London Palladium, the London Coliseum, the Hackney Empire and the Holborn Empire.  They often appeared alongside Gracie Fields and accompanied her on another South African tour in 1935.

Many variety artists worked in pantomime during the festive season and Tommy and Nino appeared in Jack and the Beanstalk at Brixton Empress in December 1937. Tommy played the part of Dame Trot, while Nino played King Bumble.  They also appeared in several films, the most famous of which was "Keep Smiling" (1938).  It was directed by Monty Banks and starred Gracie Fields. They can also be seen online in a short Pathe newsreel film called “The Sound Ribbon”, in which they helped to demonstrate the latest invention for recording sound.   Their act broke up at the end of 1938 when Tommy decided he wanted to pursue a solo stage career and this he did until he retired in the late 1960’s.  He toured America with Gracie in 1949, appearing at night clubs and concert halls as well as making numerous broadcasts. He became well remembered for his regular appearances as pantomime dame and also for his leading roles  in several West End musical comedies.  

Nino carried on as a solo artist for a while and then worked in ENSA during the war.  He decided not to return to the theatre after the war ended  and started a specialist company in the construction industry in 1947.  His two sons Paul and Mervyn joined the firm and it continued to trade until 1994.  He remained in contact with the Fields  family,  and Tommy's first wife Dorothy was the Godmother of Nino's youngest son Mervyn. 

Nino Rossini died on 13th January 1965, aged 63, and was buried at Richmond cemetery.

Tommy Fields passed away in Brighton on 3rd June 1988, just a few days before his 80th birthday, and was buried in the churchyard at Telscombe Village in Sussex.

 Many thanks to Nino's son Mervyn Rossini for providing information and photographs for this article.