Star Archive

Sir John Mills (1908 - 2005)

He's was a part of British cinema for almost seventy years, and if there's one word to describe him it's "dependable". He was never the flashiest of actors, yet he was able to play across class barriers far more than his contemporaries.

He was born in Felixstowe. His elder sister Annette (famous in the 50s for Muffin the Mule) got him involved in acting and he became a chorus boy. This lead to juvenile roles in the West End including the original production of Cavalcade.

Like many West End actors he slummed in films for a while, and made his first impact in Forever England. From then on there was scarcely a glitch in his career.

The war brought several great films; and Mills, with his slight figure and youthful looks, represented every mother's son fighting a decent war. After the success of Great Expectations, he was allowed to play grown up heroes such as Scott of the Antarctic or disillusioned war veterans (The October Man). The fifties brought a boom in war films and plenty of work for Mills.

At the end of the fifties he appeared in Tiger Bay in which daughter Hayley made her debut. His other daughter Juliet had made her debut as a baby in In Which We Serve. He started the sixties with a good film, Tunes of Glory, but then made a total stinker The Singer Not the Song.

His career gradually declined in the sixties and he frequently appeared as support for Hayley. In 1966 she appeared in the only film he directed, Sky West and Crooked, based on a book by her mother Mary Hayley Bell.

He got an Oscar for his supporting role in Ryan's Daughter, but his subsequent films are best forgotten. His TV work was excellent however: he made an interesting Quatermass, and did three series of the sitcom Young at Heart.

Towards the end of his life his sight became poor, and his wife suffered from Alzheimer's, though he still made the occasional appearance. 

Still from The Black Sheep of WhitehallJohn Mills on the set of The Way to the StarsPoster for Great ExpectationsPressbook for The October ManStill from The Rocking Horse WinnerStill from Tiger Bay

Filmography (features only)

1932 The Midshipmaid
1932 Words and Music
1933 The Ghost Camera
1933 Britannia of Billingsgate
1934 River Wolves
1934 A Political Party
1934 Those Were the Days
1934 The Lash
1934 Blind Justice
1934 Doctor's Orders
1935 Royal Cavalcade
1935 Forever England
1935 Charing Cross Road
1935 Car of Dreams
1936 First Offence
1936 OHMS
1937 The Green Cockatoo
1939 Goodbye Mr Chips
1940 All Hands
1940 Old Bill and Son
1941 Cottage to Let
1941 The Black Sheep of Whitehall
1942 The Big Blockade
1942 The Young Mr Pitt
1942 In Which We Serve
1943 We Dive at Dawn
1944 This Happy Breed
1944 Victory Wedding
1945 Waterloo Road
1945 The Way to the Stars
1945 The Sky's the Limit
1946 Great Expectations
1947 So Well Remembered
1947 The October Man
1948 Scott of the Antarctic
1949 The History of Mr Polly
1950 The Rocking Horse Winner
1950 Morning Departure
1951 Mr Denning Drives North
1952 The Gentle Gunman
1953 The Long Memory
1954 Hobson's Choice
1955 The Colditz Story
1955 The End of the Affair
1955 Above Us the Waves
1955 Escapade
1956 War and Peace
1956 It's Great to be Young
1956 The Baby and the Battleship
1956 Around the World in 80 Days
1957 Town on Trial
1957 Vicious Circle
1958 Dunkirk
1958 I Was Monty's Double
1958 Ice Cold in Alex
1959 Tiger Bay
1960 Summer of the Seventeenth Doll
1960 Tunes of Glory
1960 The Singer Not the Song
1961 The Swiss Family Robinson (U.S.)
1961 Flame in the Streets
1962 The Valiant
1962 Tiara Tahiti
1963 The Chalk Garden
1964 The Truth About Spring
1965 Operation Crossbow
1966 King Rat (U.S.)
1966 The Wrong Box
1966 The Family Way
1967 Africa Texas Style (U.S.) 
1967 Chuka (U.S.)
1969 Oh What a Lovely War
1969 Run Wild Run Free
1969 Emma Hamilton (Ger.)
1969 A Black Veil for Lisa
1971 Ryan's Daughter
1971 Dulcimer
1972 Young Winston
1972 Lady Caroline Lamb
1973 Oklahoma Crude
1976 The Human Factor
1976 Trial by Combat
1977 The Devil's Advocate
1978 The Big Sleep
1978 The 39 Steps
1979 Zulu Dawn
1982 Ghandi
1984 Sahara
1987 Who's That Girl
1994 Deadly Advice
1995 The Grotesque
1996 Hamlet
1996 Bean
2003 Bright Young Things

(There's a recent interview with Sir John here)

 John Mills at Amazon UK

 John Mills at Amazon US