Sir John Mills (1908 - 2005) was one of the most popular and beloved English actors. The Oscar-winner appeared in more than 120 films and TV films in a career stretching over eight decades.
British Postcard, nr. F. S. 23. Publicity photo for Scott of the Antarctic (1948).
British postcard in the Picturegoer series, London, no. W 443. Photo: J. Arthur Rank Organisation Ltd.
After training as a dancer, John Mills started his professional career in 1929 as a chorus boy in a revue at the London Hippodrome. His film debut was in the quota quickie The Midshipmaid (1932, Albert de Courville). Next he was a juvenile lead in The Ghost Camera (1933, Bernard Vorhaus), appeared in the musical Charing Cross Road (1935, Albert de Courville), and then played lead roles in Brown on Resolution (1935, Walter Forde), Tudor Rose (1936, Robert Stevenson) and The Green Cockatoo (1937, William Cameron Menzies). His Hollywood debut was in Goodbye, Mr. Chips (1939, Sam Wood) with Robert Donat, but he refused the American studios' entreaties to sign a contract and returned to England. Mills relished acting in films and the cinema made him an internationally renowned star. He appeared in the classic In Which We Serve (1942, Noel Coward, David Lean) and director David Lean would go on to direct Mills in some of his most memorable performances.
British postcard by Real Photograph, no. 177. Photo: London Films.
British postcard, no. W 211.
Traditionally British Heroes
After the war John Mills took the lead in Great Expectations (1946, David Lean) and subsequently made his career playing traditionally British heroes such as Captain Robert Falcon Scott in Scott of the Antarctic (1948, Charles Frend). Over the next decade he became particularly associated with war dramas, such as The Colditz Story (1954, Guy Hamilton), Above Us the Waves (1955, Ralph Thomas) and Ice Cold in Alex (1958, J. Lee Thompson). He is credited with playing more military roles than any other star. In 31 of his films, almost a third of his whole cinematic output, he portrayed soldiers, usually officers. David Lean directed Mills in memorable performances in This Happy Breed (1944) and Hobson's Choice (1954). Other significant films in which he appeared include War and Peace (1956, King Vidor), The Chalk Garden (1964, Ronald Neame), King Rat (1965, Bryan Forbes), Young Winston (1972, Richard Attenborough) and Oklahoma Crude (1973, Stanley Kramer). With his daughter Hayley Mills he also appeared in Tiger Bay (1959, J. Lee Thompson) and The Family Way (1966, Roy Boulting) and had a cameo in her Disney hit The Parent Trap (1961, David Swift). As he aged, his proclivity for well-written roles enabled him to make a seamless transition from a lead to character lead to character actor. For his role as the village idiot in Ryan's Daughter (1970, David Lean) — a complete departure from his usual style — he won the Oscar for Best Supporting Actor. Among his last films were Gandhi (1982, Richard Attenborough), Bright Young Things (2003, Stephen Fry) and Lights2 (2005, Marcus Dillistone). Altogether he appeared in over 120 films. Mills was appointed a Commander of the British Empire in 1960 and was knighted in 1976.
Trailer Great Expectations (1946)> Source: The Filmarchive (YouTube).
Scene from Hobson's Choice (1954) with John Mills and Brenda de Banzie.
Sources: Wikipedia and IMDb.