John Mills

John Mills

Infobox actor
bgcolour = Silver
name = John Mills

imagesize = 200px
caption =
birthname = Lewis Ernest Watts Mills
birthdate = birth date|1908|2|22|df=y
location = North Elmham, Norfolk, England
deathdate = death date and age|2005|4|23|1908|2|22|df=y
deathplace = Denham, Buckinghamshire, England
spouse = Aileen Raymond (1927-1941)
Mary Hayley Bell (1941-2005)
academyawards = Best Supporting Actor
1970 "Ryan's Daughter"
goldenglobeawards = Best Supporting Actor - Motion Picture
1971 "Ryan's Daughter"

Sir John Mills CBE (born Lewis Ernest Watts Mills; 22 February 1908 – 23 April 2005) was an English actor, who made more than 120 films in a career spanning seven decades.

Life and career

Mills was born at the Watts Naval School in North Elmham, Norfolk, England, and grew up in Felixstowe, Suffolk. He was educated at Norwich High School for Boys (which since its move after World War II to Langley Park, Loddon, is known as Langley School), 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.

Mills took an early interest in acting, making his professional debut at the London Hippodrome in "The Five O'Clock Girl" in 1929. 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.

Mills joined-up in September 1939 at the start of World War II, and was posted into the Royal Artillery. He was later commissioned as a Second Lieutenant, and was discharged in 1941 due to medical reasons. He starred in his friend Noel Coward's "In Which We Serve".

He took the lead in "Great Expectations" in 1946, and subsequently made his career playing traditionally British heroes such as Captain Robert Falcon 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 judgement. Altogether he appeared in over 120 films.

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.

He also starred as Gus the Theatre Cat in the filmed version of the musical "Cats" in 1998.

In 2002 Mills released his extensive home movie footage in a documentary/film entitled "John Mills' Moving Memories", with interviews with Mills, his children Hayley, Juliet and Jonathon 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 Sir Laurence Olivier, Harry Andrews, Walt Disney, David Niven, Dirk Bogarde, Rex Harrison, Tyrone Power.


He was appointed a CBE in 1960. In 1976 he was knighted by Queen Elizabeth II.

In 2002, he received a Fellowship of the British Academy of Film and Television Arts (BAFTA), the highest award given by the Academy, and was named a Disney Legend by The Walt Disney Company.


His sister Annette Mills (1894–1955) was known for being the partner of the puppet "Muffin", in the BBC Television series "Muffin the Mule" between 1946 and 1955.

His first wife was the actress Aileen Raymond. They were married in 1927 and divorced in 1941.

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 by a church [ Obituary, "The Age", 25 April 2005, p. 9] . They had two daughters, Juliet, star of television's "Nanny and the Professor" and Hayley, a Disney child star noted for starring in "The Parent Trap", and one son Jonathan Mills. In 1947 he appeared with his daughters in the film "So Well Remembered".


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 at his home in Denham, Buckinghamshire following a chest infection. A few months after Sir John's death, Mary Hayley Bell died on 1 December, 2005.


*"Forever England" (1935)
*"Goodbye, Mr. Chips" (1939)
*"Cottage to Let" (1941)
*"In Which We Serve" (1942)
*"We Dive at Dawn" (1943)
*"This Happy Breed" (1944)
*"Waterloo Road" (1944)
*"The Way to the Stars" (1945)
*"Great Expectations" (1946)
*"So Well Remembered" (1947)
*"Scott of the Antarctic" (1948)
*"The History of Mr Polly" (1949)
*"Morning Departure" (1950)
*"The Rocking Horse Winner" (1950, also produced)
*"The Long Memory" (1952)
*"Hobson's Choice" (1954)
*"The Colditz Story" (1955)
*"Above Us the Waves" (1955)
*"Ice Cold in Alex" (1958)
*"Dunkirk" (1958)
*"I was Monty's Double" (1958)
*"Tiger Bay" (1959) — (with daughter Hayley Mills)
*"Swiss Family Robinson" (1960)
*"Tunes of Glory" (1960)
*"Flame in the Streets" (1961)
*"The Chalk Garden" (1964) - (with daughter Haley Mills)
*"King Rat" (1965)
*"The Family Way" (1966)
*"The Wrong Box" (1966)
*"Oh! What a Lovely War" (1969)
*"Ryan's Daughter" (1970)
*"Young Winston" (1972)
*"Oklahoma Crude" (1973)
*"The Thirty-Nine Steps" (1978)
*"Zulu Dawn" (1979)
*"Gandhi" (1982)
*"When the Wind Blows" (1986)
*"Who's That Girl" (1987)
*"Deadly Advice" (1993)
*"Martin Chuzzlewit" (TV) (1994)
*"Hamlet" (1996)
*"Bean" (1998)
*"Bright Young Things" (2003)
*"Lights 2" (2005)

tage performances

*"Great Expectations" (1976)
*"Cats" (1998)
*"Goodbye, Mr. Chips"
*"Of Mice and Men"


External links

* [ It's Not Just Michael Powell: British Films of the 30s 40s and 50s]
* [ Sir John Mills Theatre] - Eastern Angles
* [ - John Mills Profile at the Nigel Kneale & Quatermass Appreciation Site]

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