Hobson's Choice


1h 47m 1954
Hobson's Choice

Brief Synopsis

A widower father fights to control the lives of his three strong-willed daughters.

Film Details

Genre
Comedy
Romance
Drama
Adaptation
Release Date
1954
Distribution Company
Public Media Inc.; United Artists Films
Location
Shepperton Studios, Shepperton, Middlesex, England, United Kingdom; Salford, Greater Manchester, England, United Kingdom

Technical Specs

Duration
1h 47m
Sound
Mono
Color
Black and White

Synopsis

Henry Horatio Hobson is the prosperous owner of a boot shop and the father of three women. Hobson, a widower, refuses to consent to the marriage of any of his daughters in order to retain their help and dowries. His daughter Maggie defies him by marrying a bootmaker and setting up a rival shop which takes away most of her father's business.

Film Details

Genre
Comedy
Romance
Drama
Adaptation
Release Date
1954
Distribution Company
Public Media Inc.; United Artists Films
Location
Shepperton Studios, Shepperton, Middlesex, England, United Kingdom; Salford, Greater Manchester, England, United Kingdom

Technical Specs

Duration
1h 47m
Sound
Mono
Color
Black and White

Articles

Hobson's Choice


A "Hobson's choice" is a 17th century expression that means the illusion of choice where there really is no alternative. It's made for an apt title for Harold Brighouse's 1915 play, a domestic comedy set in the north of England in the late Victorian era, though it's not apparent until the story winds its way to its third act. The play, beloved in England and regularly revived, had been adapted to the screen twice, in 1920 as a silent film directed by Percy Nash and as an early talkie by Thomas Bentley in 1931, before David Lean released his definitive version in 1954.

Hobson's Choice (1954) opens with the seriousness of a drama, with the camera quietly taking inventory of a quaint 19th century boot shop on a rainy night. The stillness shattered by the sound thump and a whip pan to the skylight, where a branch is thrashing in the wind. A dark shape casts a shadow on the shop door. It's a moment right out of Lean's Great Expectations (1946), until that shape belches and stumbles drunkenly through the door, loudly slurring his protestations as his daughter tries to whisk him off to bed. The entire tone of the film is set in that reversal of expectations.

Charles Laughton stars as the blustery Henry Hobson, a widower with a thriving business in boots and shoes and three daughters who work his shop without wages. Alice (Daphne Anderson) and Vicky (Prunella Scales) are young, pretty, empty-headed things with flirtatious natures who are actively courted by the sons of local businessmen. Maggie (Brenda De Banzie), the eldest, runs the shop and the home with hardheaded practicality. When Hobson dismisses Maggie's desire for a husband, branding her an old maid (at the age of thirty) and sentencing her to a life looking after him and running his shop, she rebels against his blithe tyranny and takes her future into her own hands. She sets out to remake her life and embark on her own business, one in direct competition to her father's boot shop. She also lets no man dissuade her otherwise, neither her father or the timorous Willie Mossop (John Mills), the shop's brilliant boot-maker and partner in her plan, whether he knows it or not. "My brains and your talent will make a working partnership," she promises, and proceeds to build his confidence, draw out his potential, and inspire his ambition. Along the way, she finds his way into his affections and reveals her own, and in the final act, offers Henry Hobson the "Hobson choice" that gives the film its title.

Alexander Korda had been approached by the screenwriting team, Frank Launder and Sidney Gilliat, who were developing a screen adaptation for a radio comic but had different ideas. So did Korda, who bought the screen rights from under them and offered the project to David Lean, whose career was riding high but had previously directed only a single comedy, Blithe Spirit (1945). Lean saw the opportunity as a great change of pace, a miniature next to the big canvas of his previous film, The Sound Barrier (1952, aka Breaking the Sound Barrier). He started his adaptation from scratch with his associate producer and longtime production manager Norman Spencer. Wynyard Browne, a nom-de-theatre for a husband-and-wife team of playwrights brought in at the beginning of the writing process, share screen credit but left the project after only a few meetings. They weren't needed, as it turned out. "There was a tight little play with everything there," Spencer explained to Lean biographer Kevin Brownlow.

Lean had Roger Livesey in mind for the showcase role of Henry Hobson. Spencer pushed for Charles Laughton. Korda, who had worked with Laughton on The Private Life of Henry VIII (1934) and Rembrandt (1936), as well as the ill-fated and never completed I, Claudius, knew that Laughton could be difficult and obsessive, but realized he would be perfect for the outsized character and told the actor that the part had been written for him. Laughton got on famously with Lean, often socializing with the director after hours, and he has cited the role of Hobson as one of his favorite screen performances, but he was otherwise unhappy during the production. Robert Donat was originally cast in the role of boot-maker Willie Mossop but was in ill health and forced to drop out. Laughton threw a fit, claiming he had only agreed to the film to work with his old friend and that the production was thus in breach of contract. Korda countered by threatening Laughton with a scandal, which could reveal the actor's well-concealed private life (he was homosexual, which was illegal in England). Laughton returned to the set but remained frustrated. He didn't like his accommodations, was unhappy with playing so many drunk scenes and he loathed his co-star, Brenda De Banzie, a stage actress with only a few films to her credit.

She proved to be a difficult actress in her own right, tangling with the director on the set, and Laughton complained to Lean that: "She doesn't understand the part in the least." On the other hand, David Lean biographer Gene D. Philips suggests that Laughton's dislike was, at least in part, a result of her sharp performance. Brighouse's play is set in the era of the first stirrings of the Suffragist movement and the adaptation keeps the dramatic focus on Maggie's brazen odyssey. Whether or not you see Maggie as an early feminist (as Lean biographer Gene D. Philips suggests), she is a driven, determined, talented woman who defies her ne'er do well father and his patronizing arrogance, as well as prejudices of class and privilege. Though third billed to the male stars, Maggie is the story's engine and the most dynamic character in the film, and De Banzie threatened to upstage the grand theatrical ham, playing her scenes crisply and with elan as he huffed away with indignation at the disrespect served up by his daughters and blustered in his cups at the local pub. She went on to play such major roles as the ambiguous Lucy Drayton in the 1956 The Man Who Knew Too Much and Laurence Olivier's wife in The Entertainer (1960), but never really became a leading screen actress.

John Mills, so marvelous in Lean's Great Expectations eight years earlier, was the last-minute replacement for Donat in the role of Willie. The 45-year-old Mills, whose career had shifted from romantic leads to heroic leaders, was initially uncertain about taking the role of a shy, passive, working class bloke, but delivers a marvelously attenuated comic performance as the timorous Willie, a man who has aged into a sense of inferiority that Maggie has to literally drive out of him. And if Prunella Scales (as the youngest of the Hobson sisters) looks familiar, it might be for a role she played decades later: John Cleese's tart-tongued wife in the cult TV comedy Fawlty Towers.

Lean creates a vivid sense of place and atmosphere and fills it with a colorful cast of Dickensian folk. This is no picaresque cobblestone and quaint storefront recreation of an idealized past, but a ruddy industrial town where a walk in the park ends by a river scummy with pollution and lined with acres of industrial plants sprouting smokestacks into the sky. Many of the exteriors were shot on location in Salford, including the couple's first attempted kiss, a sweetly romantic moment played against a squalid slum, and the canal scene (which Lean and company proceeded to pollute with rubbish and detergent powder when they discovered the town had cleaned it up for the shooting). Jack Hildyard's rich photography manages to make even this squalor look stunning.

The rest was built in the studio by Wilfred Shingleton. His delightfully detailed sets include not just the cramped quarters filled with evocative décor (from the cozy but overstuffed quarters in back of Hobson's shop to the dank, dark basement apartment and shop of Maggie and Willie) but the central cobblestone lane where the film's signature set piece, The Dance of the Puddles, takes place. On a stumbling walk home from Moonrakers, Hobson "chases" the moon from puddle to puddle on the wet cobblestone street, trying to catch the reflection that keeps outrunning him (the effect was accomplished with a simple backlit drawing on opaque paper suspended above the set). As he steps into one puddle, the ripples subside to reveal not the moon but his own bleary pumpkin face staring back. The scene ends with Hobson battling the chains around an open chute in the sidewalk that drops into a deep storage cellar. It's a deft piece of physical comedy, like a Charlie Chaplin silent movie pantomime, thanks to the assistance of Billy Russell, an old music hall clown who Laughton insisted on hiring to help choreograph and rehearse the scene.

Hobson's Choice is a crisply directed comedy of lively and quirky characters in a vivid world of social snobbery and working-class life, but for all the deftly-played humor, it's Lean's warmth that makes the film so satisfying. A hit in England and a modest box-office success in the United States, the film went on to win the Golden Bear at the 1954 Berlin Film Festival and BAFTA for Best British Film.

Producer: David Lean
Director: David Lean
Screenplay: Wynyard Browne, David Lean, Norman Spencer; Harold Brighouse (play)
Cinematography: Jack Hildyard
Art Direction: Wilfred Shingleton
Music: Malcolm Arnold
Film Editing: Peter Taylor
Cast: Charles Laughton (Henry Horatio Hobson), John Mills (Willie Mossop), Brenda De Banzie (Maggie Hobson), Daphne Anderson (Alice Hobson), Prunella Scales (Vicky Hobson), Richard Wattis (Albert Prosser), Derek Blomfield (Freddy Beenstock)
BW-107m.

by Sean Axmaker
Hobson's Choice

Hobson's Choice

A "Hobson's choice" is a 17th century expression that means the illusion of choice where there really is no alternative. It's made for an apt title for Harold Brighouse's 1915 play, a domestic comedy set in the north of England in the late Victorian era, though it's not apparent until the story winds its way to its third act. The play, beloved in England and regularly revived, had been adapted to the screen twice, in 1920 as a silent film directed by Percy Nash and as an early talkie by Thomas Bentley in 1931, before David Lean released his definitive version in 1954. Hobson's Choice (1954) opens with the seriousness of a drama, with the camera quietly taking inventory of a quaint 19th century boot shop on a rainy night. The stillness shattered by the sound thump and a whip pan to the skylight, where a branch is thrashing in the wind. A dark shape casts a shadow on the shop door. It's a moment right out of Lean's Great Expectations (1946), until that shape belches and stumbles drunkenly through the door, loudly slurring his protestations as his daughter tries to whisk him off to bed. The entire tone of the film is set in that reversal of expectations. Charles Laughton stars as the blustery Henry Hobson, a widower with a thriving business in boots and shoes and three daughters who work his shop without wages. Alice (Daphne Anderson) and Vicky (Prunella Scales) are young, pretty, empty-headed things with flirtatious natures who are actively courted by the sons of local businessmen. Maggie (Brenda De Banzie), the eldest, runs the shop and the home with hardheaded practicality. When Hobson dismisses Maggie's desire for a husband, branding her an old maid (at the age of thirty) and sentencing her to a life looking after him and running his shop, she rebels against his blithe tyranny and takes her future into her own hands. She sets out to remake her life and embark on her own business, one in direct competition to her father's boot shop. She also lets no man dissuade her otherwise, neither her father or the timorous Willie Mossop (John Mills), the shop's brilliant boot-maker and partner in her plan, whether he knows it or not. "My brains and your talent will make a working partnership," she promises, and proceeds to build his confidence, draw out his potential, and inspire his ambition. Along the way, she finds his way into his affections and reveals her own, and in the final act, offers Henry Hobson the "Hobson choice" that gives the film its title. Alexander Korda had been approached by the screenwriting team, Frank Launder and Sidney Gilliat, who were developing a screen adaptation for a radio comic but had different ideas. So did Korda, who bought the screen rights from under them and offered the project to David Lean, whose career was riding high but had previously directed only a single comedy, Blithe Spirit (1945). Lean saw the opportunity as a great change of pace, a miniature next to the big canvas of his previous film, The Sound Barrier (1952, aka Breaking the Sound Barrier). He started his adaptation from scratch with his associate producer and longtime production manager Norman Spencer. Wynyard Browne, a nom-de-theatre for a husband-and-wife team of playwrights brought in at the beginning of the writing process, share screen credit but left the project after only a few meetings. They weren't needed, as it turned out. "There was a tight little play with everything there," Spencer explained to Lean biographer Kevin Brownlow. Lean had Roger Livesey in mind for the showcase role of Henry Hobson. Spencer pushed for Charles Laughton. Korda, who had worked with Laughton on The Private Life of Henry VIII (1934) and Rembrandt (1936), as well as the ill-fated and never completed I, Claudius, knew that Laughton could be difficult and obsessive, but realized he would be perfect for the outsized character and told the actor that the part had been written for him. Laughton got on famously with Lean, often socializing with the director after hours, and he has cited the role of Hobson as one of his favorite screen performances, but he was otherwise unhappy during the production. Robert Donat was originally cast in the role of boot-maker Willie Mossop but was in ill health and forced to drop out. Laughton threw a fit, claiming he had only agreed to the film to work with his old friend and that the production was thus in breach of contract. Korda countered by threatening Laughton with a scandal, which could reveal the actor's well-concealed private life (he was homosexual, which was illegal in England). Laughton returned to the set but remained frustrated. He didn't like his accommodations, was unhappy with playing so many drunk scenes and he loathed his co-star, Brenda De Banzie, a stage actress with only a few films to her credit. She proved to be a difficult actress in her own right, tangling with the director on the set, and Laughton complained to Lean that: "She doesn't understand the part in the least." On the other hand, David Lean biographer Gene D. Philips suggests that Laughton's dislike was, at least in part, a result of her sharp performance. Brighouse's play is set in the era of the first stirrings of the Suffragist movement and the adaptation keeps the dramatic focus on Maggie's brazen odyssey. Whether or not you see Maggie as an early feminist (as Lean biographer Gene D. Philips suggests), she is a driven, determined, talented woman who defies her ne'er do well father and his patronizing arrogance, as well as prejudices of class and privilege. Though third billed to the male stars, Maggie is the story's engine and the most dynamic character in the film, and De Banzie threatened to upstage the grand theatrical ham, playing her scenes crisply and with elan as he huffed away with indignation at the disrespect served up by his daughters and blustered in his cups at the local pub. She went on to play such major roles as the ambiguous Lucy Drayton in the 1956 The Man Who Knew Too Much and Laurence Olivier's wife in The Entertainer (1960), but never really became a leading screen actress. John Mills, so marvelous in Lean's Great Expectations eight years earlier, was the last-minute replacement for Donat in the role of Willie. The 45-year-old Mills, whose career had shifted from romantic leads to heroic leaders, was initially uncertain about taking the role of a shy, passive, working class bloke, but delivers a marvelously attenuated comic performance as the timorous Willie, a man who has aged into a sense of inferiority that Maggie has to literally drive out of him. And if Prunella Scales (as the youngest of the Hobson sisters) looks familiar, it might be for a role she played decades later: John Cleese's tart-tongued wife in the cult TV comedy Fawlty Towers. Lean creates a vivid sense of place and atmosphere and fills it with a colorful cast of Dickensian folk. This is no picaresque cobblestone and quaint storefront recreation of an idealized past, but a ruddy industrial town where a walk in the park ends by a river scummy with pollution and lined with acres of industrial plants sprouting smokestacks into the sky. Many of the exteriors were shot on location in Salford, including the couple's first attempted kiss, a sweetly romantic moment played against a squalid slum, and the canal scene (which Lean and company proceeded to pollute with rubbish and detergent powder when they discovered the town had cleaned it up for the shooting). Jack Hildyard's rich photography manages to make even this squalor look stunning. The rest was built in the studio by Wilfred Shingleton. His delightfully detailed sets include not just the cramped quarters filled with evocative décor (from the cozy but overstuffed quarters in back of Hobson's shop to the dank, dark basement apartment and shop of Maggie and Willie) but the central cobblestone lane where the film's signature set piece, The Dance of the Puddles, takes place. On a stumbling walk home from Moonrakers, Hobson "chases" the moon from puddle to puddle on the wet cobblestone street, trying to catch the reflection that keeps outrunning him (the effect was accomplished with a simple backlit drawing on opaque paper suspended above the set). As he steps into one puddle, the ripples subside to reveal not the moon but his own bleary pumpkin face staring back. The scene ends with Hobson battling the chains around an open chute in the sidewalk that drops into a deep storage cellar. It's a deft piece of physical comedy, like a Charlie Chaplin silent movie pantomime, thanks to the assistance of Billy Russell, an old music hall clown who Laughton insisted on hiring to help choreograph and rehearse the scene. Hobson's Choice is a crisply directed comedy of lively and quirky characters in a vivid world of social snobbery and working-class life, but for all the deftly-played humor, it's Lean's warmth that makes the film so satisfying. A hit in England and a modest box-office success in the United States, the film went on to win the Golden Bear at the 1954 Berlin Film Festival and BAFTA for Best British Film. Producer: David Lean Director: David Lean Screenplay: Wynyard Browne, David Lean, Norman Spencer; Harold Brighouse (play) Cinematography: Jack Hildyard Art Direction: Wilfred Shingleton Music: Malcolm Arnold Film Editing: Peter Taylor Cast: Charles Laughton (Henry Horatio Hobson), John Mills (Willie Mossop), Brenda De Banzie (Maggie Hobson), Daphne Anderson (Alice Hobson), Prunella Scales (Vicky Hobson), Richard Wattis (Albert Prosser), Derek Blomfield (Freddy Beenstock) BW-107m. by Sean Axmaker

Sir John Mills (1908-2005)


He was arguably the most refined, and versatile of all English film stars in the history of British cinema. Sir John Mills, the Oscar®-winning actor whose film career spanned over 70 years, died on April 23 of natural causes in London. He was 97.

Born Lewis Ernest Watts Mills in Norfolk, England on February 22, 1908. His father was a headmaster of a village school in Suffolk, where Mills was raised. After secondary school, he worked as a clerk in a corn merchant's office while acting in amateur dramatic societies. Ever ambitious, he relocated to London in 1928 to find more work as an actor.

He took tap-dancing lessons and made his stage debut as a chorus boy in The Five O'Clock Girl at the London Hippodrome in 1929. Later that year, he joined an acting troupe that toured India and the Far East with a repertory of modern plays, musical comedies and Shakespeare. It was during this tour when he scored his big break - he was spotted by Noel Coward while in Singapore and promptly taken under the playwright's wing when he returned to London in 1931.

On his return, he starred on the West End (London's Broadway), in Coward's Cavalcade and earned the lead in a production of Charley's Aunt. His song and dance talents came in handy for his film debut, an early British musical-comedy The Midshipmaid (1932). His biggest hits over the next few years would all fall into the genre of light comic-musicals: Britannia of Billingsgate (1933), Royal Cavalcade (1935), and Four Dark Hours(1937). He scored a his first big part as Robert Donat's student in the MGM backed production Mills went on to play Robert Donat's Goodbye, Mr. Chips (1939). He developed some more heft to his acting credentials that same year when he made his debut at the celebrated Old Vic Theatre as Puck in A Midsummer Night's Dream.

He served briefly in the Navy, 1940-41, during World War II before receiving a medical discharge. When Mills returned to the screen, he began a great turn as the atypical sturdy, dignified Englishman ("English without tears" went the popular phrase of the day). He starred as a stalwart lead in a amazing string of hit films: In Which We Serve (1942), We Dive at Dawn (1943), This Happy Breed (1944), The Way to the Stars (1945), and Waterloo Road (1945). Although Mills was ever dependable, they did not show his breakout talents until he starred as Pip in David Lean's gorgeous adaptation of Charles Dickens' Great Expectations (1946). As the young orphan who morphs into a man of wealth and stature, Mills showed the depth as an actor by offering a finely modulated performance.

By the late '40s, Mills was a bona fide star of British films, and over the next decade the strong roles kept coming: as the ill-fated Robert Falcon Scott in Scott of the Antarctic (1948); Bassett, the handy man who tries to help a troubled child (the brilliant John Howard Davies) of greedy, neglectful parents in the superb domestic drama The Rocking Horse Winner (1950); an overprotective father who gets trapped in a murder yarn in Mr. Denning Drives North (1952); a fine Willie Mossop in David Lean's Hobson's Choice (1954); an impressive "against-type" performance as a Russian peasant in War and Peace (1956); a sympathetic police inspector coaxing the trust of a juvenile (his daughter Hayley) who knows the facts of a murder case in the underappreciated Tiger Bay (1959); a rowdy Australian sheep shearer in Summer of the Seventeenth Doll (also 1959); and arguably his finest performance - a Best Actor award at the Venice Film Festival for a hard-as-nails army colonel who fears the loss of control over his regiment in Tunes of Glory (1960).

The mid-60s saw an isolated effort as a film director: Gypsy Girl (which starred his other daughter Juliet - who would later find fame on US television in Nanny and the Professor (1970-72); and showed the development of Mills into a charming character actor: the working-class patriarch in the modest comedy The Family Way (starring Hayley as his daughter); and a terrific comic bit as a murderous Lord who tries to kill off his kin for the family inheritance in Bryan Forbes The Wrong Box (all 1966).

By the '70s, his film work slowed considerably, but he was always worth watching: an Oscar winning performance as a mute villager in David Lean¿s study of the Irish troubles Ryan's Daughter (1970); as the influential General Herbert Kitchener Young Winston (1972); and as a driven oil driller in Oklahoma Crude (1973). With the exception of a small role in Sir Richard Attenborough's Ghandi (1982 - where he was credited as Sir John Mills after his knighthood in 1976), and a regrettable cameo in the deplorable Madonna comedy Who's That Girl (1987).

Very little was seen of Mills until recent years, where the most memorable of his appearances included: Old Norway in Hamlet (1996); as the stern chairman opposite Rowan Atkinson in the hit comedy Bean (1997); and - in a daring final role for his proud career - a nonagenarian partygoing cocaine user in Stephen Fry's bawdy social satire Bright Young Things (2003)! Mills is survived by his wife of 64 years, the novelist and playwright Mary Hayley Bell; his daughters, Juliet and Hayley; son, John; and several grandchildren.

by Michael T. Toole

Sir John Mills (1908-2005)

He was arguably the most refined, and versatile of all English film stars in the history of British cinema. Sir John Mills, the Oscar®-winning actor whose film career spanned over 70 years, died on April 23 of natural causes in London. He was 97. Born Lewis Ernest Watts Mills in Norfolk, England on February 22, 1908. His father was a headmaster of a village school in Suffolk, where Mills was raised. After secondary school, he worked as a clerk in a corn merchant's office while acting in amateur dramatic societies. Ever ambitious, he relocated to London in 1928 to find more work as an actor. He took tap-dancing lessons and made his stage debut as a chorus boy in The Five O'Clock Girl at the London Hippodrome in 1929. Later that year, he joined an acting troupe that toured India and the Far East with a repertory of modern plays, musical comedies and Shakespeare. It was during this tour when he scored his big break - he was spotted by Noel Coward while in Singapore and promptly taken under the playwright's wing when he returned to London in 1931. On his return, he starred on the West End (London's Broadway), in Coward's Cavalcade and earned the lead in a production of Charley's Aunt. His song and dance talents came in handy for his film debut, an early British musical-comedy The Midshipmaid (1932). His biggest hits over the next few years would all fall into the genre of light comic-musicals: Britannia of Billingsgate (1933), Royal Cavalcade (1935), and Four Dark Hours(1937). He scored a his first big part as Robert Donat's student in the MGM backed production Mills went on to play Robert Donat's Goodbye, Mr. Chips (1939). He developed some more heft to his acting credentials that same year when he made his debut at the celebrated Old Vic Theatre as Puck in A Midsummer Night's Dream. He served briefly in the Navy, 1940-41, during World War II before receiving a medical discharge. When Mills returned to the screen, he began a great turn as the atypical sturdy, dignified Englishman ("English without tears" went the popular phrase of the day). He starred as a stalwart lead in a amazing string of hit films: In Which We Serve (1942), We Dive at Dawn (1943), This Happy Breed (1944), The Way to the Stars (1945), and Waterloo Road (1945). Although Mills was ever dependable, they did not show his breakout talents until he starred as Pip in David Lean's gorgeous adaptation of Charles Dickens' Great Expectations (1946). As the young orphan who morphs into a man of wealth and stature, Mills showed the depth as an actor by offering a finely modulated performance. By the late '40s, Mills was a bona fide star of British films, and over the next decade the strong roles kept coming: as the ill-fated Robert Falcon Scott in Scott of the Antarctic (1948); Bassett, the handy man who tries to help a troubled child (the brilliant John Howard Davies) of greedy, neglectful parents in the superb domestic drama The Rocking Horse Winner (1950); an overprotective father who gets trapped in a murder yarn in Mr. Denning Drives North (1952); a fine Willie Mossop in David Lean's Hobson's Choice (1954); an impressive "against-type" performance as a Russian peasant in War and Peace (1956); a sympathetic police inspector coaxing the trust of a juvenile (his daughter Hayley) who knows the facts of a murder case in the underappreciated Tiger Bay (1959); a rowdy Australian sheep shearer in Summer of the Seventeenth Doll (also 1959); and arguably his finest performance - a Best Actor award at the Venice Film Festival for a hard-as-nails army colonel who fears the loss of control over his regiment in Tunes of Glory (1960). The mid-60s saw an isolated effort as a film director: Gypsy Girl (which starred his other daughter Juliet - who would later find fame on US television in Nanny and the Professor (1970-72); and showed the development of Mills into a charming character actor: the working-class patriarch in the modest comedy The Family Way (starring Hayley as his daughter); and a terrific comic bit as a murderous Lord who tries to kill off his kin for the family inheritance in Bryan Forbes The Wrong Box (all 1966). By the '70s, his film work slowed considerably, but he was always worth watching: an Oscar winning performance as a mute villager in David Lean¿s study of the Irish troubles Ryan's Daughter (1970); as the influential General Herbert Kitchener Young Winston (1972); and as a driven oil driller in Oklahoma Crude (1973). With the exception of a small role in Sir Richard Attenborough's Ghandi (1982 - where he was credited as Sir John Mills after his knighthood in 1976), and a regrettable cameo in the deplorable Madonna comedy Who's That Girl (1987). Very little was seen of Mills until recent years, where the most memorable of his appearances included: Old Norway in Hamlet (1996); as the stern chairman opposite Rowan Atkinson in the hit comedy Bean (1997); and - in a daring final role for his proud career - a nonagenarian partygoing cocaine user in Stephen Fry's bawdy social satire Bright Young Things (2003)! Mills is survived by his wife of 64 years, the novelist and playwright Mary Hayley Bell; his daughters, Juliet and Hayley; son, John; and several grandchildren. by Michael T. Toole

Quotes

Trivia

Miscellaneous Notes

Winner of the Golden Bear for Best Film at the 1954 Berlin Film Festival.

Released in United States 1954

Released in United States on Video April 14, 1988

Released in United States Spring March 1954

Re-released in United States on Video April 27, 1994

Shown at the 1954 Berlin International Film Festival.

Formerly distributed by Playhouse Video.

Released in United States 1954 (Shown at the 1954 Berlin International Film Festival.)

Released in United States Spring March 1954

Released in United States on Video April 14, 1988

Re-released in United States on Video April 27, 1994