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John Mills

Born
Lewis Ernest Watts Mills

(1908-02-22)22 February 1908
North Elmham, Norfolk, England
Died 23 April 2005(2005-04-23) (aged 97)
Denham, Buckinghamshire, England
Cause of death Chest Infection
Occupation Actor
Years active 1929–2004
Spouse(s)
Aileen Raymond
(m. 1932; div. 1941)

Mary Hayley Bell
(m. 1941; his death 2005)
Children 3, including Juliet and Hayley

Sir John Mills, CBE (born Lewis Ernest Watts Mills, 22 February 1908 – 23 April 2005) was an English actor who appeared in more than 120 films in a career spanning seven decades. On screen, he often played people who are not at all exceptional, but become heroes because of their common sense, generosity and good judgment. He received an Academy Award for Best Supporting Actor for his work in Ryan's Daughter (1970).

Early life

Mills was born in Felixstowe, Suffolk, but grew up in Norfolk. He spent his early years in the village of Belton where his father was the headmaster of the village school. He first felt the thrill of performing at a concert in the school hall when six years old.

He lived in a modest house in Gainsborough Road Felixstowe until 1929. His older sister was Annette Mills, remembered as presenter of BBC Television's Muffin the Mule (1946–55).

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.

In September 1939, at the start of the Second World War, Mills enlisted in the British Army 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.

Death

John Mills by Gabi Rona
John Mills 1965

In the years leading up to his death, he appeared on television only on special occasions, his sight having failed almost completely by 1992. After that, his film roles were brief cameos.

He died aged 97 on 23 April 2005 in Denham, Buckinghamshire, following a chest infection. His wife died on 1 December 2005. They are buried in St. Mary the Virgin Churchyard, Denham.

Honours

Mills was appointed a Commander of the Order of the British Empire (CBE) in 1960. In 1976 he was knighted by the Queen.

In 1999, at 91 years of age, Mills became the oldest joining member of the entertainment charitable fraternity, the Grand Order of Water Rats.

In 2002, he received a Fellowship of the British Academy of Film and Television Arts (BAFTA), their highest award, and was named a Disney Legend by the Walt Disney Company.

Film

Year Title Role Notes
1932 The Midshipmaid Golightly
1933 The Ghost Camera Ernest Elton
Britannia of Billingsgate Fred Bolton
1934 A Political Party Tony Smithers
The River Wolves Peter Farrell
Those Were the Days Bobby Poskett
The Lash Arthur Haughton
Blind Justice Ralph Summers
Doctor's Orders Ronnie Blake
1935 Car of Dreams Robert Miller
Royal Cavalcade Young Enlistee
Brown on Resolution Albert Brown (later reissued in the UK as Forever England)
Charing Cross Road Tony
1936 The First Offence Johnnie Penrose alternative title Bad Blood
Tudor Rose Lord Guilford Dudley Released as Nine Days a Queen in USA
1937 O.H.M.S. Cpl. Bert Dawson
The Green Cockatoo Jim Connor
1939 Goodbye, Mr. Chips Peter Colley – as a Young Man
1941 Old Bill and Son Young Bill Busby
Cottage to Let Flt. Lieutenant Perry
1942 The Black Sheep of Whitehall Bobby Jessop
The Big Blockade Tom
In Which We Serve Ordinary Seaman Blake
The Young Mr Pitt William Wilberforce
1943 We Dive at Dawn Lt. Taylor, R.N.
1944 This Happy Breed Billy Mitchell
1945 Waterloo Road Jim Colter
The Way to the Stars Peter Penrose
1946 Great Expectations Pip
1947 So Well Remembered George Boswell (with daughters Juliet Mills and Hayley Mills)
The October Man Jim Ackland
1948 Scott of the Antarctic Captain Scott
Captain R.F. Scott R.N.
1949 The History of Mr Polly Alfred Polly
The Rocking Horse Winner Bassett (also produced)
1950 Morning Departure Lt. Commander Armstrong
1951 Mr. Denning Drives North Tom Denning
1952 The Gentle Gunman Terrence Sullivan
1953 The Long Memory Phillip Davidson
1954 Hobson's Choice Willie Mossop Nominated-BAFTA Award for Best Actor in a Leading Role
1955 The Colditz Story Pat Reid
The End of the Affair Albert Parkis
Above Us the Waves Commander Fraser
Escapade John Hampden
1956 The Baby and the Battleship Puncher Roberts
War and Peace Platon Karataev
Around the World in 80 Days London Carriage Driver
It's Great to Be Young Mr. Dingle
1957 Town on Trial Supt. Mike Halloran
The Vicious Circle Dr. Howard Latimer
1958 Dunkirk Corporal Binns
Ice Cold in Alex Captain Anson RASC
I Was Monty's Double Major Harvey (also titled Hell, Heaven or Hoboken)
1959 Tiger Bay Superintendent Graham (with daughter Hayley Mills)
Summer of the Seventeenth Doll Barney (also titled Season of Passion)
1960 Tunes of Glory Lt. Col. Basil Barrow (Battalion Commander) Volpi Cup for Best Actor
Nominated-BAFTA Award for Best Actor in a Leading Role
Swiss Family Robinson William Robinson
1961 The Singer Not the Song Father Michael Keogh
The Parent Trap Mitch Evers' Golf Caddy Uncredited
Flame in the Streets Jacko Palmer
1962 The Valiant Captain Morgan
Tiara Tahiti Lt. Col. Clifford Southey
1964 The Chalk Garden Maitland (with daughter Hayley Mills)
1965 Operation Crossbow Gen. Boyd
The Truth About Spring Tommy Tyler (with daughter Hayley Mills)
King Rat Smedley – Taylor
1966 The Wrong Box Masterman Finsbury
The Family Way Ezra Fitton (with daughter Hayley Mills)
Prize San Sebastián for Best Actor (tied with Maurice Ronet for The Champagne Murders)
1967 Africa Texas Style Wing Commander Hayes
Chuka Colonel Stuart Valois
1968 A Black Veil for Lisa Inspector Franz Bulon
Emma Hamilton Sir William Hamilton
1969 Oh! What a Lovely War Field Marshal Sir Douglas Haig
Run Wild, Run Free The Moorman
1970 Adam's Woman Sir Phillip MacDonald
Ryan's Daughter Michael Academy Award for Best Supporting Actor
Golden Globe Award for Best Supporting Actor – Motion Picture
Kansas City Film Critics Circle Award for Best Supporting Actor
Nominated-BAFTA Award for Best Supporting Actor
1971 Dulcima Mr. Parker
1972 Young Winston General Kitchener
Lady Caroline Lamb Canning
1973 Oklahoma Crude Cleon Doyle
1975 The Human Factor Mike McAllister
1976 Trial by Combat Colonel Bertie Cook (also titled A Dirty Knight's Work)
1977 The Devil's Advocate Blaise Meredith
1978 The Big Sleep Inspector Jim Carson
The Thirty Nine Steps Scudder
1979 The Quatermass Conclusion Professor Bernard Quatermass
Zulu Dawn Sir Henry Bartle Frere
1982 Gandhi The Viceroy Baron Chelmsford
1983 Sahara Cambridge
1984 Sherlock Holmes and the Masks of Death Dr. John Watson
1986 When the Wind Blows Jim Voice
1987 Who's That Girl Montgomery Bell (credited as Sir John Mills)
1993 The Big Freeze Dapper man
1994 Deadly Advice Jack the Ripper
1995 The Grotesque Sir Edward Cleghorn (also titled Gentleman Don't Eat Poets)
1996 Hamlet Old Norway
1997 Bean Chairman (credited as Sir John Mills)
1998 Cats Gus the Theater Cat
2003 Bright Young Things Gentleman
2004 Lights2 The Tramp Cinematographer Jack Cardiff (previously worked on Scott of The Antarctic), (final film role)

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