|Sir John Mills|
|Born||Lewis Ernest Watts Mills |
22 February 1908
North Elmham, Norfolk, England
|Died||23 April 2005 (aged 97) |
Denham, Buckinghamshire, England
|Spouse||Aileen Raymond (1927-1941) |
Mary Hayley Bell (1941-2005) 3 children
Life and career
Mills was born at the Watts Naval School in North Elmham, Norfolk, England, and grew up in Belton, where his father was the headmaster of the village school and in Felixstowe, Suffolk. He was educated at Norwich High School for Boys, where it is said that his initials can still be seen carved into the brickwork on the side of the building in Upper St. Giles Street. He made his acting debut on the stage of the Sir John Leman School in Beccles in a performance of A Midsummer Night's Dream when he played the part of Puck. Upon leaving school he worked as a clerk at a corn merchants in Ipswich.
Mills took an early interest in acting, making his professional debut at the London Hippodrome in The Five O'Clock Girl in 1929. He also starred in the Noël Coward revue Words and Music. He made his film debut in The Midshipmaid (1932), and appeared as Colley in the 1939 film version of Goodbye, Mr Chips, opposite Robert Donat.
In September 1939, at the start of World War II, Mills enlisted in the Royal Engineers. He was later commissioned as a Second Lieutenant. But in 1942 he received a medical discharge because of a stomach ulcer. He starred in Noël Coward's In Which We Serve.
Mills took the lead in Great Expectations in 1946, and subsequently made his career playing traditionally British heroes such as Captain Scott in Scott of the Antarctic (1948). Over the next decade he became particularly associated with war dramas, such as The Colditz Story (1954), Above Us the Waves (1955) and Ice-Cold in Alex (1958). He often acted in the roles of people who are not at all exceptional, but become heroes due to their common sense, generosity and right judgment. Altogether he appeared in over 120 films.
From 1959 through the mid-1960s, Mills starred in several films alongside his daughter Hayley. Their first film together was the 1959 crime drama Tiger Bay, in which John plays a police detective investigating a murder that Hayley's character witnessed. Following Hayley's rise to fame in Pollyanna (1960) and the 1961 family comedy The Parent Trap, John and Hayley again starred together, in the 1965 teen sailing adventure The Truth About Spring, the 1964 drama The Chalk Garden (with Deborah Kerr in the lead role), and the 1966 comedy-drama The Family Way, in which John plays an insecure, overbearing father and Hayley plays his son's newlywed wife.
As Col. Barrow in Tunes of Glory, Mills won the best Actor Award at the 1960 Venice Film Festival. For his role as the village idiot in Ryan's Daughter (1970) — a complete departure from his usual style — Mills won an Academy Award for Best Supporting Actor. His most famous television role was probably as the title character in Quatermass for ITV in 1979. Also on the small screen, in 1974 he starred as Captain Tommy "The Elephant" Devon in the six-part television drama series The Zoo Gang, about a group of former underground freedom fighters from World War II, with Brian Keith, Lilli Palmer and Barry Morse.
In 2000, Mills released his extensive home movie footage in a documentary film entitled Sir John Mills' Moving Memories, with interviews with Mills, his children Hayley, Juliet and Jonathan and Richard Attenborough. The film was directed and edited by Marcus Dillistone, and features behind the scenes footage and stories from films such as Ice-Cold in Alex and Dunkirk. In addition the film also includes home footage of many of John Mills' friends and fellow cast members including Laurence Olivier, Harry Andrews, Walt Disney, David Niven, Dirk Bogarde, Rex Harrison and Tyrone Power.
Mills' last cinema appearance was playing a tramp in Lights 2 (directed by Marcus Dillistone); shot at Pinewood Studios, he was photographed by cinematographer Jack Cardiff. They had last worked together on Scott of the Antarctic in 1948. Their combined age was 186 years, a cinema record.
His second wife was the dramatist Mary Hayley Bell. Their marriage on 16 January 1941 lasted 64 years, until his death in 2005. They were married in a rushed civil ceremony, due to the war, and it was not until 60 years later that they had their union blessed in church. They had two daughters, Juliet, star of television's Nanny and the Professor and Hayley, a Disney child star who starred in Pollyanna, The Parent Trap and Whistle Down the Wind and one son, Jonathan Mills. In 1947 Mills appeared with his daughters in the film So Well Remembered. Mills's grandson by his daughter Hayley, Crispian Mills, is a musician, best known for his work with the alternative rock group Kula Shaker.
In the years leading up to his death, he appeared on television only on special occasions, his sight having failed almost completely in 1992. After that, his film roles were brief but notable cameos.
He died aged 97 on 23 April 2005 in Denham, Buckinghamshire, following a chest infection. A few months after Sir John's death, Mary Hayley Bell (Lady Mills) died on 1 December 2005. Sir John and Lady Mills are buried in Denham Churchyard.
Principal television performances
- Dundee and the Culhane (1967)
- The Zoo Gang (1974)
- Quatermass (1979)
- Young at Heart (1980–1982)
- Martin Chuzzlewit (1994)
- ^ Jonathan Mills (2000). Sir John Mills' Moving Memories (film).
- ^ Mills, John. Chapter one Up in the Clouds, Sir John Mills Gentleman Please Published by Orion. What page?
- ^ a b "British actor: Lewis Ernest Watts Mills". Encyclopaedia Britannica. 2009-10-22.
- ^ Obituary, The Age, 25 April 2005, p. 9
- ^ Deaths England and Wales 1984-2006
- John Mills at Find a Grave
- John Mills at the Internet Movie Database
- It's Not Just Michael Powell: British Films of the 30s 40s and 50s
- Sir John Mills Theatre - Eastern Angles
- Quatermass.org.uk - John Mills Profile at the Nigel Kneale & Quatermass Appreciation Site
- Photographs and literature
Martin ChuzzlewitBuy this Movie Buy this Movie Buy this Movie
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