John Mills, actor, Died at 97


John Mills died on the 23rd of April 2005 at the age of 97; he was an English actor who appeared in more than 120 films in a career spanning seven decades.

Born Lewis Ernest Watts Mills in Felixstowe, Suffolk on the 22nd of February 1908 the son of Edith (Baker), a theatre box office manager, and Lewis Mills, a mathematics teacher.

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 merchant in Ipswich before finding employment in London as a commercial traveler 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 1942, he starred in Noël Coward’s In Which We Serve. 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.

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 produced and written by Jonathan Mills, 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.