Singer, actress and philanthropist.

Born: December 25, 1923. Died: March 11, 2011.

Celia Lipton Farris, who has died at the age of 87, rose from relatively humble beginnings in the Bruntsfield area of Edinburgh to become a popular singer and film star, marry an American millionaire, inherit a fortune worth more than £100 million and end up as one of the leading society hostesses and philanthropists in Palm Beach, Florida.

Over the years she rubbed shoulders with the rich and famous and included pictures of herself with the Royal Family, Bob Hope, Clint Eastwood and the Kennedys in her autobiography to prove it.

She styled herself Dame Celia Lipton Farris, though she was not a dame of the British Empire – it was an honorary title from the chari-table order the Order of St John, which would normally entitle the holder to put the initials D.St.J. after their name. She was accused of being on an ego trip.

But she did raise millions for charities in the United States, United Kingdom and elsewhere. She attributed her values to her Scottish background and beneficiaries included the National Trust for Scotland.

“There are a lot of silly, socially competitive, frivolous women in this town who gossip, go out to lunch every day and dinner every night and that’s it,” she said. “I’m delighted that I know what hard work is and proud of my Scottish mother and the good Scottish common sense she taught me.”

Celia May Lipton was born on Christmas Day 1923 at the family home in Leamington Terrace, Edinburgh, just a short walk from where Sean Connery was born.

Her father, Sydney Lipton – a violinist who would become one of the top bandleaders in London – was English, her mother was Scottish and was a dancer and singer.

As a child she was seduced by the glamour and excitement of showbiz, and spent hours copying the breathy delivery of the young Judy Garland. She would later be known as “the British Judy Garland”.

Her earliest memories included visits to her maternal grandparents in Lauder, Berwickshire, where the family sang and played and her aunt danced a sword dance, using pokers instead of swords. After moving to London, she went on her own to an audition for a BBC radio production of Babes in the Wood, though she was only about 10 at the time. She got the part.

At 15 she made her debut at the London Palladium. “My father was leading the orchestra,” she said. “He didn’t tell the audience who I was, he just said, ‘There’s a little girl coming out, her name is Celia.’ I sang I’m Just In Between. It didn’t faze me. Everyone cheered, and then my father said, ‘That was my daughter’. It was thrilling.”

During the Second World War she appeared as Peter Pan on the London stage, she was in a Palladium revue with Vera Lynn and Max Miller and she did concerts for the troops.

Her version of Maybe It’s Because I’m a Londoner became very popular, although not with its composer Hubert Gregg who considered it the worst version of the song he had ever heard, “and that includes the Omsk-Siberian Choir, in Russian”.

After the war she spent some time in France and had a date with the young Prince Philip, who took her to one of the local casinos on a bicycle.

She branched out into films in 1948 with supporting roles in the British thrillers Calling Paul Temple and This Was a Woman. In the early 1950s she moved to New York, appeared in revue and played Esmeralda in a television adaptation of The Hunchback of Notre Dame (1954).

It was in New York that she met her future husband Victor Farris. She went round to a friend’s house and he was up a ladder fixing a skylight. She came to the conclusion he was a plumber, which seems somewhat illogical. He disabused her of that notion and did his best to convince her he was really a gangster.

He was in fact a successful inventor and businessman. Farris invented the milk carton, he was divorced and 12 years her senior and he was very, very rich. They married in 1956 and she retired from showbusiness.

They lived in a mansion in Palm Beach that had previously been owned by the Vanderbilts and she became a famous hostess. With her hair stacked high on top of her head, her lips painted bright red and her white trouser suits, she might have walked straight off the set of Dynasty.

But money did not guarantee happiness. She had two children who died shortly after being born and also had a series of miscarriages. The marriage had its ups and downs, but they remained together until his death in 1985.

She inherited more than £100m and then doubled it through investment. She worked tirelessly for Aids research and for charity. She brought out a series of CDs, which she financed herself, and an autobiography My Three Lives in 2003. She is survived by two adopted daughters.