John Mills


Actor
John Mills

About

Also Known As
Lewis Ernest Watts Mills, Sir John Mills
Birth Place
North Elmham, England, GB
Born
February 22, 1908
Died
April 23, 2005
Cause of Death
Chest Infection

Biography

Although his has been knighted and won acting awards, John Mills has been seemingly overshadowed by his contemporaries (i.e., Alec Guinness, John Gielgud, James Mason) many of whom delivered showier performances in contrast to his more stoic, low-key turns. Whatever accounts for the discrepancy, when one reviews the extraordinary career of this actor (who continued to turn in neat cameos...

Photos & Videos

Family & Companions

Aileen Raymond
Wife
Actor. Married in 1931; divorced in 1940.
Mary Hayley Bell
Wife
Playwright, novelist. Born on January 22, 1911; married on January 16, 1941; mother of Mills' three children; renewed wedding vows in a church ceremony in January 2001; diagnosed from Alzheimer's disease.

Bibliography

"Still Memories: An Autobiography in Photography"
Jon Mills, Hutchinson (2000)
"John Mills"
Robert Tantich, Trafalgar Square (1983)
"Up in the Clouds, Gentlemen Please"
John Mills (1980)

Notes

Named Commander of Order of the British Empire in 1961

Knighted by Queen ELizabeth II in 1976.

Biography

Although his has been knighted and won acting awards, John Mills has been seemingly overshadowed by his contemporaries (i.e., Alec Guinness, John Gielgud, James Mason) many of whom delivered showier performances in contrast to his more stoic, low-key turns. Whatever accounts for the discrepancy, when one reviews the extraordinary career of this actor (who continued to turn in neat cameos after some sixty years in showbiz), one is amazed at the range and scope of the material and the dazzling versatility displayed by the actor.

Raised in Suffolk where his father was working as a school headmaster, Mills and his family (including older sister Annette who later found fame on British TV as a puppeteer) eventually settled in London. His mother managed the box office at the Haymarket Theatre and Mills was intrigued by an acting career. He began appearing in amateur theatricals while earning a living as a clerk and traveling salesman. After training at Zelia Raye's Dancing School, Mills made his stage debut as a chorus boy in the "The Five O'Clock Girl" (1929). Later that year, he joined the performing troupe the Quaints and toured India and Asian in such plays as "Journey's End," "Mr. Cinders" and "Hamlet." Returning to England, Mills continued his stage career offering a comic turn in "Charley's Aunt" then displaying his dramatic capabilities in Noel Coward's "Cavalcade." In 1939, he won plaudits for his dynamic turn as George in the stage adaptation of John Steinbeck's "Of Mice and Men." By then, the actor was well on his way to a successful film career.

After making his debut supporting Jessie Matthews in the lightweight but entertaining "The Midshipmaid/The Midshipmaid Gob" (1932), Mills first garnered notice as Lord Dudley in the period drama "Tudor Rose/Nine Days a Queen" (1936) and as one of the numerous Peter Colleys who were students of Robert Donat's in "Goodbye, Mr. Chips" (1939). The actor began a fruitful association with director David Lean with the acclaimed war drama "In Which We Serve" (1942), which was co-directed by and starred Noel Coward. Lean further used Mills' reliability and unprepossessing solidity in such efforts as "This Happy Breed" (1944, adapted from a Coward play), as the adult Pip in "Great Expectations" (1946) and as the competitive son-in-law of Charles Laughton in the delightful "Hobson's Choice" (1954). Among his other notable features of the period is the superb war drama "The Way to the Stars/Johnny in the Clouds" (1945, as a pilot unwilling to commit to his lover) and "The October Man" (1947), a tidy thriller about a man with a brain injury (Mills) who becomes the prime suspect in his neighbor's murder.

Mills added producer to his credits with a pair of films in which he starred under the direction of Anthony Pelissier, "The History of Mr. Polly" (1949) and "The Rocking Horse Winner" (1950). The latter is reputedly the first film adapted from a D.H. Lawrence work and offered a meaty role as a groomsman. The actor added another military man to his gallery as a POW in "The Colditz Story" (1955) then tackled the role of a Russian peasant (complete with British accent!) in "War and Peace" (1956). Mills acted opposite his real-life daughter Hayley in several efforts, most notably "Tiger Bay" (1959, as a detective questioning the child about a murder) and "The Family Way" (1966, as her father-in-law). He also made his feature directorial debut with "Sky West and Crooked/Gypsy Girl" (1966), starring Hayley.

Paired with Alec Guinness, Mills offered one of his greatest film performances as a British martinet who clashes with his rival over the comportment of a regiment in "Tunes of Glory" (1960). Despite this fine portrayal, much of his film work during the 60s was in subpar fare. Mills received a Tony nomination for his Broadway debut in "Ross," a play based on the life of T E Lawrence in 1961 and later made his American TV series debut in "Dundee and the Culhane" (CBS, 1967). The latter cost him a chance to direct the film version of "Oh! What a Lovely War" (1969), a series of vignettes about British involvement in the Great War. Turning over the reins of the film to Richard Attenborough, Mills did make a cameo in the film (as did his other actress daughter Juliet). Reteaming with David Lean for the disappointing would-be epic romance "Ryan's Daughter" (1970), the actor offered a scene-stealing turn as the drunken village idiot and earned a Best Supporting Actor Oscar that was as much for his career achievements as for that particular role. Still agile and capable as he aged, Mills continued to find challenging roles, although the overall quality of the vehicles varied wildly. He was at his best as men of rank and prestige (i.e., "The Quartermass Conclusion" 1979; "Gandhi" 1982). and continued to turn in incisive cameo appearances as the 90s wound down, most notably in the comedy "Bean" (1997) and as Gus the Theatre Cat in the direct-to-video release of the Andrew Lloyd Webber musical "Cats" (1998).

Filmography

 

Director (Feature Film)

Gypsy Girl (1966)
Director

Cast (Feature Film)

Cameraman: The Life and Work of Jack Cardiff (Do Not Use) (2011)
Himself
Bright Young Things (2004)
Gentleman
Bean (1997)
Hamlet (1996)
Grotesque (1995)
Deadly Advice (1994)
Jack The Ripper
Frankenstein (1993)
The Big Freeze (1993)
The Lady And The Highwayman (1989)
Who's That Girl? (1987)
Tribute to Her Majesty (1986)
Narration
When the Wind Blows (1986)
Voice
Agatha Christie's Murder With Mirrors (1985)
Sahara (1984)
Gandhi (1982)
Zulu Dawn (1979)
The Quatermass Conclusion (1979)
The Big Sleep (1978)
The 39 Steps (1978)
Colonel Scudder
Dr. Strange (1978)
Thomas Lindmer
The Devil's Advocate (1977)
Blaise Meredith
A Choice of Weapons (1976)
The Human Factor (1975)
Oklahoma Crude (1973)
Young Winston (1972)
General Kitchener
Lady Caroline Lamb (1972)
Canning
Dulcima (1971)
Mr Parker
Ryan's Daughter (1970)
Michael
A Black Veil for Lisa (1969)
Franz Bulov
Run Wild, Run Free (1969)
The Moorman
Oh! What a Lovely War (1969)
Field Marshal Sir Douglas Haig
Run Wild, Run Free (1969)
The Family Way (1967)
Ezra Fitton
Chuka (1967)
Col. Stuart Valois
Africa--Texas Style! (1967)
Wing Commander Hayes
The Wrong Box (1966)
Masterman Finsbury
The Truth About Spring (1965)
Tommy Tyler
Operation Crossbow (1965)
Boyd of M.I. 6
King Rat (1965)
Colonel Smedley-Taylor
The Chalk Garden (1964)
Maitland
Tiara Tahiti (1963)
Lieut. Col. Clifford Southey
The Singer Not the Song (1962)
Father Keogh
Flame in the Streets (1962)
Jacko Palmer
The Valiant (1962)
Captain Morgan
Season of Passion (1961)
Barney
Swiss Family Robinson (1960)
Father Robinson
Tunes of Glory (1960)
Lt. Col. Basil Barrow
Tiger Bay (1959)
The Vicious Circle (1959)
Dr Howard Latimer
Dunkirk (1958)
[Corp. "Tubby"] Binns
Ice Cold in Alex (1958)
Hell, Heaven or Hoboken (1958)
Major Harvey
Town on Trial (1957)
Superintendent Mike Halloran
Around the World in 80 Days (1956)
London cabbie with hiccoughs
War and Peace (1956)
Platon
Above Us The Waves (1956)
The Baby And The Battleship (1956)
Puncher Roberts
The End of the Affair (1955)
Albert Parkis
The Colditz Story (1955)
Pat Reid
Escapade (1955)
Hobson's Choice (1954)
William Mossop
The Long Memory (1952)
The Rocking Horse Winner (1949)
The History of Mr. Polly (1949)
Scott of the Antarctic (1948)
Captain R F Scott
So Well Remembered (1947)
George [Boswell]
The October Man (1947)
Great Expectations (1946)
Pip
The Way to the Stars (1945)
Peter Penrose
This Happy Breed (1944)
The Young Mr. Pitt (1943)
William Wilberforce
In Which We Serve (1942)
Old Bill and Son (1940)
Goodbye, Mr. Chips (1939)
Peter Colley as a young man
You're in the Army Now (1937)
Bert Dawson
Four Dark Hours (1937)
Nine Days a Queen (1936)
Lord Guildford Dudley
Born for Glory (1935)
Albert Brown
The Ghost Camera (1933)
The Midshipmaid (1932)

Producer (Feature Film)

The History of Mr. Polly (1949)
Producer
The Rocking Horse Winner (1949)
Producer

Misc. Crew (Feature Film)

Cameraman: The Life and Work of Jack Cardiff (Do Not Use) (2011)
Other

Cast (Special)

Hayley Mills (1999)
The Noel Coward Story (1999)
Cats (1998)
Charles Dickens' Martin Chuzzlewit (1995)
D-Day Remembered -- A Musical Tribute From the QE2 (1994)
The 18th Annual American Film Institute Life Achievement Award: A Salute to Sir David Lean (1990)
Performer
A Tale of Two Cities (1989)

Misc. Crew (Short)

Ryan's Daughter (Featurette) (1970)
Stock Footage

Cast (TV Mini-Series)

Ending Up (1993)
Harnessing Peacocks (1993)
Sidney Sheldon's "The Sands of Time" (1992)
Night of the Fox (1990)
Around the World in 80 Days (1989)
Hold the Dream (1986)
A Woman of Substance (1984)

Life Events

1929

London stage debut as a chorus boy in the musical "The Five O'Clock Girl" at London Hippodrome

1929

Toured India and Asia as a member of the performing troupe, The Quaints, acting in "Journey's End", "Mr. Cinders" and "Hamlet" among other plays

1930

First character part onstage, Lord Babberly in "Charley's Aunt"

1931

Acted in Noel Coward's "Cavalcade" in London

1932

Film acting debut in "The Midshipmaid", opposite Jessie Matthews

1933

Reteamed with Coward for "Words and Music"

1934

Signed contract with Gaumont-British

1936

Portrayed Lord Dudley in the historical drama "Tudor Rose/Nine Days a Queen", opposite teen actress Nova Pilbeam

1939

Breakthrough stage role as George in "Of Mice and Men"

1939

Had role as student Peter Colley going off to war in the drama "Goodbye, Mr. Chips", starring Robert Donat; first US film

1942

Acted in and co-directed (with Bernard Miles) "Men in Shadow", written by second wife Mary Hayley Bell

1942

Appeared in "In Which We Serve", co-directed by Noel Coward and David Lean

1944

Co-starred in "Waterloo Road"

1946

Reteamed with Lean to play Pip in "Great Expectations"

1947

Starred in the suspense thriller "The October Man"; first onscreen appearance with duaghter Juliet

1947

Directed and starred in the stage play "Angel", also written by Bell

1948

Had title role in the biopic "Scott of the Antarctic"

1949

Producing debut, "The History of Mr. Polly"; also starred

1954

Reprised role of Lord Babberly in revival of "Charley's Aunt"

1954

Co-starred as Charles Laughton's son-in-law in "Hobson's Choice", directed by Lean

1956

American TV debut in production of "The Letter", directed by William Wyler

1956

Played a cab driver in "Around the World in 80 Days"

1957

Formed John Mills Productions Ltd

1959

Appeared with daughter Hayley in "Tiger Bay"

1960

Offered one of his best performances as a British officer bent on restoring order to a regiment in "Tunes of Glory", co-starring Alec Guinness

1961

Made Broadway debut in title role of "Ross", based on the life of T E Lawrence; received a Tony Award nomination

1966

Acted with daughter Hayley in Roy Boulting's "The Family Way"

1966

Feature directorial debut, "Sky West and Crooked/Gypsy Girl", starring daughter Hayley and co-written by wife Mary Hayley Bell

1967

Starred in the CBS series "Dundee and the Culhane"

1970

Earned Best Supporting Actor Oscar playing the village idiot in "Ryan's Daughter", directed by David Lean

1971

Made guest appearance on "Nanny and the Professor", starring daughter Juliet

1972

Essayed role of General Kitchener in "Young Winston"

1973

Portrayed Faye Dunaway's father in the drama "Oklahoma Crude"

1975

Co-starred with Lilli Palmer and Barry Morse in the NBC series "The Zoo Gang"

1977

Headlined London revival of Terrence Rattigan's "Separate Tables"

1978

Acted in the remake of "The 39 Steps"

1979

Starred in the four-part British TV series "Quartermass"; episodes were re-edited and released theatrically under the title "The Quartermass Conclusion"

1982

Portrayed the viceroy in Richard Attenborough's "Gandhi"

1984

Had featured role as Henry Rossiter, advisor to Emma Harte (Jenny Seagrove and Deborah Kerr) in the syndicated miniseries "A Woman of Substance"

1986

Reprised role of Henry Rossiter in the syndicated sequel "Hold That Dream"

1986

Starred in the stage production "The Petition"

1987

Last Broadway role, co-starring in revival of "Pygmalion"

1987

Supported Madonna in the comedy "Who's That Girl"

1989

Co-starred in the multi-part adaptation of "A Tale of Two Cities" (PBS)

1989

Acted in the NBC miniseries version of "Around the World in 80 Days"

1993

Co-starred in the British TV-movie "Ending Up"; aired in USA on PBS (filmed in 1989)

1994

Portrayed Old Chuffey in the British miniseries "Charles Dickens' 'Martin Chuzzlewit'" (aired on PBS in 1995 in the USA)

1996

Made cameo appearance as Old Norway in Kenneth Branagh's full-length feture version of "Hamlet"

1997

Appeared as the Chairman in the comedy "Bean"

1998

Played Gus the Theatre Cat in the direct-to-video release "Cats", adapted from the successful Andrew Lloyd Webber stage musical; production also aired on PBS stations in USA

Photo Collections

Operation Crossbow - Comic Book
Here are a few pages from Operation Crossbow, a comic book adaptation of the 1965 thriller, as published by Dell Comics.
Great Expectations - Movie Poster
Great Expectations - Movie Poster

Videos

Movie Clip

Tunes of Glory (1960) - The Colonel's Here! The new commanding officer of a Scottish regiment, Colonel Barrow (John Mills), arrives early, interrupting the farewell party for acting-Colonel Jock Sinclair (Alec Guinness) in director Ronald Neame's Tunes of Glory, 1960.
Ryan's Daughter (1970) - Is No One Going To Kiss The Bride? At their wedding party in rural Ireland, 1916, the bride Rosy (Sarah Miles) is overwhelmed by attention, especially outcast Michael (John Mills), rescued by Charles (Robert Mitchum) her widower husband, her father (Leo McKern) and the priest (Trevor Howard) monitoring, in David Lean’s Ryan’s Daughter, 1970.
In Which We Serve (1942) - The Story Of A Ship Heady titles, dedication and credits, from creator Noel Coward and his colleague, sharing his first directing credit, David Lean, the technical and naval opening from In Which We Serve, 1942.
In Which We Serve (1942) - What A Bitter Blow Kinross (the writer, producer and co-director Noel Coward) addressing his crew, including John Mills, Michael Wilding and Bernard Miles, then hearing Prime Minister Chamberlain's announcement, from the government-backed propaganda hit In Which We Serve, 1942.
Run Wild, Run Free (1969) - Deep In The Black Peat One-sided conversation, as the Colonel (John Mills) shares his thoughts with his mute young friend Philip (Mark Lester), in Run Wild, Run Free, 1969, from the book and screenplay by David Rook.
Run Wild, Run Free (1969) - Come, Philip Mute Philip (Mark Lester) wandering the moors (on location in Dartmoor National Park, Devon, UK), meets the horse for the second time and appears to name it after himself, his first speech, the colonel (John Mills) observing at a distance,in Run Wild, Run Free, 1969.
Dunkirk (1958) - There's A Flap On! Tight opening with newsreels and comic shorts establishing late March, 1940, in Belgium British forces including John Mills as Corporal Binns, with Robert Urquhart as witty Mike, and privates Meredith Edwards and Ray Jackson, speculating about the folks back home, in Dunkirk, 1958, from Ealing studios, also starring Richard Attenborough.
Great Expectations (1946) - Your Liberal Benefactor The now-mature "Pip," (John Mills) while at work with blacksmith Joe Gargery (Bernard Miles) gets a propitious visit from the lawyer Jaggers (Frances L. Sullivan) in David Lean's Great Expectations, 1946.
Great Expectations (1946) - You Shall Not Shed Tears For My Cruelty The grown-up "Pip," (John Mills) visits Miss Havisham (Martita Hunt), whom he presumes to be the secret benefactor who has financed his career as a young gentleman, and sees Estella (now Valerie Hobson) for the first time since childhood in David Lean's Great Expectations, 1946.
Great Expectations (1946) - She Would Coldly Tolerate Me Young Pip (Anthony Wager) with Biddy (Eileen Erskine), now a fixture in the household of blacksmith Joe, seeking counsel before visits to Miss Havisham (Martita Hunt) and her ward Estella (Jean Simmons), his apprenticeship approaching, John Mills narrating, in David Lean’s Great Expectations, 1946.
Great Expectations (1946) - Do You Deceive And Entrap? Estella (Valerie Hobson) dances with Bentley Drummie (Torin Thatcher) then with "Pip" (John Mills), with whom she is cruelly candid in David Lean's Great Expectations, 1946.
In Which We Serve (1942) - Look At The Huns! Crete, 1941, battle scene from which flashbacks will ensue, Captain Kinross (Noel Coward, writer, producer and co-director with David Lean) commanding charges including Michael Wilding, Philip Friend and Bernard Miles, from In Which We Serve, 1942.

Trailer

Family

Lewis Mills
Father
Schoolteacher. Taught mathematics; also served as headmaster.
Edith Mills
Mother
Boxoffice manager. Worked at the Haymarket Theatre in London.
Annette Mills
Sister
Dancer, singer, puppeteer. Born in 1894; died in 1955; created puppet Muffin the Mule.
Juliet Mills
Daughter
Actor. Born on November 21, 1941; mother, Mary Hayley Bell.
Hayley Mills
Daughter
Actor. Born on April 18, 1946; mother, Mary Hayley Bell.
Jonathan Mills
Son
Screenwriter, producer. Born in 1949; mother, Mary Hayley Bell.

Companions

Aileen Raymond
Wife
Actor. Married in 1931; divorced in 1940.
Mary Hayley Bell
Wife
Playwright, novelist. Born on January 22, 1911; married on January 16, 1941; mother of Mills' three children; renewed wedding vows in a church ceremony in January 2001; diagnosed from Alzheimer's disease.

Bibliography

"Still Memories: An Autobiography in Photography"
Jon Mills, Hutchinson (2000)
"John Mills"
Robert Tantich, Trafalgar Square (1983)
"Up in the Clouds, Gentlemen Please"
John Mills (1980)

Notes

Named Commander of Order of the British Empire in 1961

Knighted by Queen ELizabeth II in 1976.

Along with his wife, named Boston Univeristy fellow in 1977