Sir John Mills

Sir John Mills

Original Name Lewis Ernest Watts
Birth
North Elmham, Breckland Borough, Norfolk, England
Death 23 Apr 2005 (aged 97)
Denham, South Bucks District, Buckinghamshire, England
Burial Denham, South Bucks District, Buckinghamshire, England
Memorial ID 10841538 · View Source
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Actor. He was a prolific British character actor and performer who had a career in motion pictures, stage and television which spanned the British and American scene for over 73 years. He appeared in over a hundred films winning a best supporting Oscar playing a village idiot in "Ryan's Daughter" and received a Fellowship, the highest award from the British Academy of Film and Television and for good measure The Walt Disney Company named him a Disney Legend. He was born Lewis Ernest Watts Mills at the Watts Naval School in North Elmham, Norfolk, England, the son of a schoolmaster but grew up in nearby Felixstowe, Suffolk, while receiving a privileged education at the Norwich School for Boys. Lewis was an early aspirant to the theatre performing with amateur theater groups. He found work at 17 as a grain merchant's clerk but longed for the stage. At the urging of an older sister he moved to London, sold disinfectants and toilet paper on the street to pay his rent while studying at the Royal Academy of Dramatic Art. He made his professional debut on stage at the London Hippodrome at just eighteen years of age where his talent was spotted by Noel Coward who subsequently cast him in several of his plays and films. While still in his twenties, John became an accomplished vaudeville performer which led to leading roles in British films in the thirties. He had a respite from films during World I while serving in the military as part of the Royal Engineers but was medically discharged due to an ulcer. He never retired despite failing health and continued working until his death. Some of his major films..."Forever England, In Which We Serve, Great Expectations, The Colditz Story, Swiss Family Robinson, Young Winston, Who's That Girl and Hamlet." A few stage performances..."Cats, Goodbye Mr. Chips, Of Mice and Men." Television..."Dr. Strange, Around the World In 80 Days, A tale of Two Cities, Frankenstein and Gentleman Thief." Television Series..."Dundee and Culhane, Zoo Gang and Young At Heart." His over sixty year marriage to Playwright Mary Hayley Bell was enduring as his career and produced famous actress daughters Hayley and Juliet Mills and son Jonathan, screenwriter-director. Hayley was the talented child actress who appeared in the blockbuster Disney Classic "Pollyanna." John appeared in three of his wife's plays and in the Broadway production "Ross" earning a Tony nomination. He spent the final years of his life in darkness due to loss of his eyesight. However; continuing to act, sometimes playing sightless characters. A chest infection claimed him at his residence in Denham, Buckinghamshire, England, west of London, at age 97. His coffin was taken to St Mary the Virgin church from his residence "Hills House" located nearby in a horse drawn conveyance. Both of Sir John's daughters read tributes to their father during the service conducted by the Parish rector Rev Adrian Hirst. Attendance was dominated by the who's who of English theatre led by Cheri Blair, wife of the Prime Minister while the proceedings were piped outside by loudspeaker to the general public unable to enter. Not in attendance due to ill health, Lady Mills the wife and other partner in the "Mills love affair" which lasted for over sixty years. Interment followed in St Mary church cemetery. He was named a Commander of the British Empire in 1960 and knighted in 1976 for his contributions to the theatre and films. He published his autobiography, "Gentlemen Please" in 1980 but due to longevity and more achievement, updated in 2001 calling it "Up in the Clouds, Gentlemen Please."

Bio by: Donald Greyfield


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  • Maintained by: Find A Grave
  • Originally Created by: The Perplexed Historian
  • Added: 23 Apr 2005
  • Find A Grave Memorial 10841538
  • Find A Grave, database and images (https://www.findagrave.com : accessed ), memorial page for Sir John Mills (22 Feb 1908–23 Apr 2005), Find A Grave Memorial no. 10841538, citing St. Mary the Virgin Churchyard, Denham, South Bucks District, Buckinghamshire, England ; Maintained by Find A Grave .