|Born||Reginald Cuthbert Mills
September 15, 1912
Reginald "Reggie" Mills (1912–1990) was an English film editor and one-time film director with more than thirty feature film credits. Among his prominent films are The Red Shoes (1948), The Servant (1963), and Romeo and Juliet (1968).
He graduated from Cambridge University with a degree in modern languages in 1934. He assisted David Lean in the editing of two films directed by Paul Czinner, As You Like It (1936) and Dreaming Lips (1937); Lean was then working as an editor, but subsequently became a distinguished director (cf. Lawrence of Arabia (1963)). Mills then worked for Publicity Films at Merton Park Studios, both as a director and editor of films for commercial clients.
During World War II (1939–1945) he was stationed in an anti-aircraft battery on the Thames Estuary throughout the whole of the London Blitz. He served with the Army Kinematograph Unit, and was the uncredited editor for a military orientation film, The New Lot (directed by Carol Reed-1943).
Ten years with Powell and Pressburger
After the war he began a fruitful association with the film-making partnership called "The Archers", which was led by Michael Powell and Emeric Pressburger. His first credit was for A Matter of Life and Death (1946), followed by Black Narcissus (1947). Mills received an Academy Award nomination in 1948 for his work on the Archers' ballet masterpiece, The Red Shoes. A 2010 appreciation of the film by Peter Canavese notes Mills' contributions, "The still astonishing expressionistic dance sequence that stands as a performance of the Ballet Lermontov's The Red Shoes ... is rapturous, as a feast of theatrical lighting and Technicolor photography (shot by the brilliant cinematographer Jack Cardiff), the choreography of Robert Helpmann, the music of Brian Easdale and the montage of editor Reginald Mills." Implicitly acknowledging its editing, Michael Sragow wrote in 2011, "Yes, The Red Shoes is ecstatic entertainment. ... But is it realistic? Only in the manner of an Expressionist painting. Powell and Pressburger create a stylized, intoxicating environment that fuses art and life and dance and cinema." The Tales of Hoffmann (1951) also incorporated ballet in its adaptation of the original Offenbach opera, and André Bazin wrote at the time, "The cinema thus creates here a new artistic monster: the best legs adorned by the best voice. Not only is opera liberated from its material constraints but also from its human limitations. Lastly, dance itself is renewed by the photography and the editing, which allows a kind of choreography of the second degree where the rhythm of the dance is served by that of the cinema."
One of Mills' assistant editors in this period was Anne V. Coates, who became an eminent editor herself. The Battle of the River Plate (1956) was Mills' last film with Powell and Pressburger, whose partnership broke up shortly thereafter. Mills had edited twelve films for The Archers.
Beyond The Archers
Mills edited seven films with Joseph Losey, a promising American director who came to Britain in the early 1950s after being blacklisted in the US. Mills edited Losey's first British film, The Sleeping Tiger (1954). Perhaps the most successful film of their collaboration was The Servant (1963), which is considered to be a turning point in Losey's career. The film had a screenplay by playwright Harold Pinter; it was the first of three "extraordinary" films Losey did with Pinter. Mills had a fairly public artistic dispute with Pinter about the editing of The Servant that likely led to the end of Mills' collaboration with Losey. Losey and Mills did make one final film together (King & Country - 1964) that did not involve Pinter. Reginald Beck, who had edited two films with Losey prior to 1964, subsequently became Losey's principal editor in a "great partnership" that extended to 1985.
Other prominent credits from the 50s and 60s were The Spanish Gardener (directed by Philip Leacock - 1956) and Joseph Strick's film Ulysses (1967), which adapted James Joyce's celebrated 1922 novel. Interviewing Strick in 2009, Henry K. Miller wrote, "the long montage sequence that accompanies Molly is a tour de force. Mills 'added something to the picture,' says Strick, describing a quick-cut counterpoint to Molly's fantasy about picking up a sailor."
Mills directed the 1971 ballet film The Tales of Beatrix Potter; the film, which is without dialogue, weaves dances choreographed by Sir Frederick Ashton and performed by the members of the Royal Ballet. The film received some favorable reviews, and has been released to DVD (2004) and to Blu-ray (2011), the latter a restored version celebrating the film's 40th anniversary. Mills subsequently produced the documentary Franco Zeffirelli: A Florentine Artist (1973) based on the filming of Zeffirelli's Brother Sun, Sister Moon; the documentary was not included in the 2004 DVD release of the film.
He received BAFTA nominations for his editing of two films with director Franco Zeffirelli: Romeo and Juliet (1968) and Jesus of Nazareth (1977). Mills was the supervising editor for Zeffirelli's Brother Sun, Sister Moon (1972). Mills last credit was as consulting editor on still another Zeffirellli picture, The Champ (1979).
- Caute, David (1994). Joseph Losey: A Revenge on Life. Oxford University Press. p. 12. Discusses the Mills-Pinter dispute and the editing of The Servant.
- "Reggie Mills: His Work with Powell and Pressburger". 2001. Useful discussion of Mills' work with The Archers, apparently based on Powell's autobiography.
- Reginald Mills at the Internet Movie Database
- Perkins, Roy; Stollery, Martin (2004). "Reginald Mills". British Film Editors: The Heart of the Movie. British Film Institute.
- Brown, Geoff. "The New Lot (1943)". British Film Institute.
- Sragow, Michael (February 24, 2011). "If you liked (or hated) 'Black Swan,' you'll love 'Red Shoes'". The Baltimore Sun.
- Bazin is quoted (and translated) in Kimmer, Leila (2009). Cross-channel Perspectives: the French Reception of British Cinema. Peter Lang. p. 54. ISBN 978-3-03911-360-6.
- King, Susan (October 14, 2009). "Editing is the splice of Anne V. Coates' life". The Los Angeles Times. "By 1947, Coates had learned the ins and outs of cutting and was named first assistant to editor Reggie Mills on the Michael Powell-Emeric Pressburger production The End of the River. Mills was also cutting the Powell-Pressburger classic The Red Shoes at the same time. "And I would help him with the splicing on that," Coates says."
- Palmer, James; Riley, Michael (1993). The Films of Joseph Losey. Cambridge University Press. ISBN 978-0-521-38780-4. "(Losey's) disappointment with Eva, however, was followed by the great success of the first of his three extraordinary films with Harold Pinter, The Servant, which marked a turning point in his career."
- Nafus, Chale. "The Servant: Program Notes". Austin Film Society. "Reginald Mills began editing right after the first dailies. He produced a rough cut the very first day after production ended. However, acting like Hugo Barrett, he began slyly subverting the screenplay by cutting many of Pinter’s repetitions of dialogue. Once said was enough for Mills, but Pinter preferred to show his characters grasping for a better way to say what they mean or to emphasize something already said. For the most part Mills prevailed, much to Pinter’s dislike. After Mills gave a particularly insensitive and condescending interview about Pinter and THE SERVANT for a British magazine, Pinter wrote him a scathing letter which included the final sentence: “go and fuck yourself, a function I am certain you will discharge with the utmost professionalism.” In that case Pinter found no need to repeat himself. He had said it precisely and needed no further improvement."
- Sloman, Tony (29 July 1992). "Obituary: Reginald Beck". The Independent.
- Norris, Margo (2004). Ulysses. Cork University Press. p. 23. ISBN 978-1-85918-293-2. "A number of highly talented people worked on the film with Joseph Strick. His editor, Reginald Mills, had edited Black Narcissus in 1947 and received an Academy Award nomination for his editing of the 1948 film, The Red Shoes. He went on to edit the 1968 Franco Zeffirelli film Romeo and Juliet."
- Miller, Henry K. (2009). "Slow bloom: Joseph Strick". Sight & Sound. British Film Institute.
- Roger Ebert gave the film four stars. See Ebert, Roger (November 19, 1971). "Peter Rabbit and the Tales of Beatrix Potter". Chicago Sun-Times. "The stories are told simply and directly and with a certain almost clumsy charm. Instead of going for perfection in the dancing, the Royal Ballet dancers have gone for characterizations instead. The various animals have their quirks and eccentricities, and they are fairly authentic: The frog dances like a frog, for example, and not like Nureyev."
- Nield, Anthony (6 April 2011). "Tales of Beatrix Potter". The Digital Fix: Film.
- "Franco Zeffirelli: A Florentine Artist". The New York Times.
- Erickson, Glenn (March 12, 2004). "DVD Savant Review: Brother Sun, Sister Moon".
- "Powell & Pressburger Images - Reginald Mills". powell-pressburger.org. Two photos of Mills from the late 1940s; posted at a website devoted to Powell, Pressburger, and The Archers.