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She was born Edith Mabel Mills in Wandsworth, London. She had originally intended to become a concert pianist and organist, before becoming a dancer, subsequently finding fame as an international exhibition dancer. However, fate struck her a cruel blow when she was forced to retire from professional dancing after breaking a leg. That career over, she turned her hand to songwriting and penned the two popular tunes "Boomps-a-Daisy" and "Home, Sweet Home Again", amongst many others. Some time later, Mills returned to the work of cabaret and revues, and it was while she was on her way to entertain the troops during the Second World War that she was involved in a horrific car accident, which left her hospitalised for the next three years.
Mills is best remembered for being the partner of the puppet "Muffin", in the successful BBC Television children's series Muffin the Mule between 1946 and 1955. She wrote the songs and the music, while puppeteer Ann Hogarth wrote the scripts. She made her TV debut in June 1946, when she first appeared with Muffin the Mule, who used to clip-clop around on top of a piano, whilst Mills played a tune. She wrote several Muffin the Mule songbooks and an adventure tale about him, as well as making records.
Later, Mills and Muffin were joined in the BBC's 'For the Children' spot by Prudence the Kitten, Mr Peregrine the Penguin, Sally the Sea-Lion and Louise the Lamb. Although all of the puppets captured the hearts of millions of young viewers, it was Muffin that stole the show. The press commented how he had fired children's imaginations.
Mills's last TV appearance was on 2 January 1955. She died eight days later, at the age of either 60 or 61, after an operation. She had suffered a heart attack.
Her younger brother John Mills became a successful actor and her granddaughter is the actress Susie Blake. She was the aunt of Hayley Mills and Juliet Mills. Annette Mills was married twice, with a daughter, Molly Blake, by her first husband and her second marriage, to Robert Sielle, ending in divorce. Molly was a successful illustrator and produced many of the illustrations in the popular series of children's books of Muffin the Mule stories.
Annette Mills became a life member of the Vegan Society in 1952; "How warmly welcome is Annette Mills to the company of the vegans! Her famous television acts with Muffin the Mule need no introduction. But the tireless work she has done for so long in the cause of humane diet and treatment of animals is, we may be sure, equally dear to her heart. Her fellowship with us should certainly bring us all much joy."
- Births England and Wales 1837-1915
- The Vegan, Vol.III, No.2, Summer 1952, p.3
- Annette Mills at the National Portrait Gallery
- Muffin the Mule at H2G2
- Anne Pimlott Baker, "Mills, Annette (1894–1955)", Oxford Dictionary of National Biography, Oxford University Press, 2004 accessed 28 Oct 2006