|Sir John Mills|
|Born||Lewis Ernest Watts Mills
22 February 1908
North Elmham, Norfolk, England, UK
|Died||23 April 2005
Denham, Buckinghamshire, England, UK
|Spouse(s)||Aileen Raymond (1927–1941)
Mary Hayley Bell (1941–2005) 3 children
Sir John Mills CBE (22 February 1908 – 23 April 2005) was an English actor who appeared in more than 120 films in a career spanning seven decades.
Life and career 
Mills was born Lewis Ernest Watts Mills at the Watts Naval School in North Elmham, Norfolk, and grew up in the Norfolk village of Belton, where his father was the headmaster of the village school and in Felixstowe, Suffolk, where he lived in a modest house in Ham's Road. He was educated at Balham Grammar School in London, Sir John Leman High School in Beccles, Suffolk and 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. Upon leaving school he worked as a clerk at a corn merchants in Ipswich before finding employment in London as a commercial traveller for the Sanitas Disinfectant Company.
Mills took an early interest in acting, making his professional début 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 début 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). On screen, he often played people who are not at all exceptional, but become heroes due to their common sense, generosity and good judgement.
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 Colonel 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 Best Supporting Actor Oscar. 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. Mills also starred as Gus: The Theatre Cat in the filmed version of the musical Cats in 1998.
In 2000, Mills released his extensive home cine-film 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 Mills's friends and fellow cast members including Laurence Olivier, Harry Andrews, Walt Disney, David Niven, Dirk Bogarde, Rex Harrison and Tyrone Power.
Mills's last cinema appearance was playing a tramp in Lights 2 (directed by Marcus Dillistone); the cinematographer was Jack Cardiff. They had last worked together on Scott of the Antarctic in 1948. Their combined age was 186 years, a cinema record.
Altogether he appeared in more than 120 films.
He was the subject of This Is Your Life on two occasions, in December 1960 when he was surprised by Eamonn Andrews at Pinewood Studios, and in February 1983, when Andrews surprised him on the stage of London’s Wyndham's Theatre.
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, because of the war; and it was not until 60 years later that they had their union blessed in a church. They lived in The Wick, London, for many years. They sold the house to musician Ronnie Wood in 1975 and moved to Hills House, Denham.
Mills and Bell 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 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.
Selected filmography 
Stage performances 
Television performances 
- Dundee and the Culhane (1967)
- The Zoo Gang (1974)
- Quatermass (1979)
- Young at Heart (1980–1982)
- Martin Chuzzlewit (1994)
Box office ranking 
For a number of years, British film exhibitors voted him among the top ten British stars at the box office via an annual poll in the Motion Picture Herald.
- 1945 – 4th
- 1946 – 8th
- 1947 – 4th (6th most popular overall)
- 1948 – 3rd (4th most popular over all)
- 1949 – 3rd (8th most popular over all)
- 1950 – 4th (6th most popular overall)
- 1954 – 10th
- 1955 – 2nd (5th most popular overall)
- 1956 – 10th
- 1957 – 6th
- 1958 – 6th
- 1961 – 5th
- Jonathan Mills (2000). Sir John Mills' Moving Memories (film).
- Brian McFarlane, ‘Mills, Sir John Lewis Ernest Watts (1908–2005)’, Oxford Dictionary of National Biography, Oxford University Press, Jan 2009 available online. Retrieved 28 August 2012.
- Mills, John. Chapter 1 Up in the Clouds, Gentleman Please Published by Orion.
- "British actor: Lewis Ernest Watts Mills". Encyclopædia Britannica. 22 October 2009.
- "John Mills to take starring role for Labour | Mail Online". Dailymail.co.uk. Retrieved 5 April 2013.
- Obituary, The Age, 25 April 2005, p. 9
- Deaths England and Wales 1984–2006
- 'Bloomer Girl' to Play Instead of Jolson Opus, Los Angeles Times (1923–Current File) [Los Angeles, Calif] 23 March 1946: A5.
- "FILM WORLD.". The West Australian (Perth, WA). 28 February 1947. p. 20 Edition: SECOND EDITION. Retrieved 27 April 2012.
- "Anna Neagle Most Popular Actress.". The Sydney Morning Herald (NSW). 3 January 1948. p. 3. Retrieved 27 April 2012.
- "Bing Crosby Still Best Box-office Draw.". The Sydney Morning Herald (NSW). 31 December 1948. p. 3. Retrieved 11 July 2012.
- "Bob Hope Takes Lead from Bing In Popularity.". The Canberra Times (ACT). 31 December 1949. p. 2. Retrieved 27 April 2012.
- "TOPS AT HOME.". The Courier-Mail (Brisbane, Qld.). 31 December 1949. p. 4. Retrieved 27 April 2012.
- "'The Dam Busters'." The Times (London, England) 29 December 1955. Retrieved 11 July 2012.
- "The Most Popular Film Star In Britain." The Times (London, England). 7 December 1956. Retrieved 11 July 2012.
- 'BRITISH ACTORS HEAD FILM POLL: BOX-OFFICE SURVEY', The Manchester Guardian, 27 December 1957: 3.
|Wikimedia Commons has media related to: John Mills (actor)|
- 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 – Profile at the Nigel Kneale & Quatermass Appreciation Site
- Photographs and literature
- John Mills appearance on This Is Your Life