Lewis Ernest Watts Mills, better known by his stage name John Mills, was an English actor who worked in films for over seven decades. He was born and raised in Norfolk, England, and has always been interested in acting. In the beginning of his career, he appeared in a few musicals, which garnered him enough notice for him to be cast in supporting roles in films. During World War II, he joined the Royal Engineers and rose through the ranks to second lieutenant, but due to a stomach ailment, he quit the army and returned to the cinema. He obtained his first starring part in the film “Great Expectations” at this time, and he went on to star in several more films after that. He starred with his daughter Hayley in a number of films, including ‘The Parent Trap,’ ‘Pollyanna,’ ‘The Truth About Spring,’ ‘The Chalk Garden,’ and ‘The Family Way.’ He also had a number of memorable roles on British television, including the title character in ‘Quatermass’. Mills was knighted by the queen and made a Commander of the Order of the British Empire (CBE). He married Mary Hayley Bell, a playwright, and they had two daughters, Hayley and Juliet. They’re both well-known in the British entertainment industry.
Childhood and Adolescence
John Mills grew up in Belton, a Norfolk village, after being born in North Elmham, Norfolk. Mills resided with his family on Ham’s Road in Felixstowe, Suffolk, where his father was the principal of the village school. Mills attended Balham Grammar School, Sir John Leman High School, and Norwich High School for Boys, among other schools. He worked as a clerk in Ipswich after finishing school and then moved to London to work as a commercial traveler for a company.
Career of Sir John Mills
Mills made her professional acting debut in ‘The Five O’Clock Girl’ at the London Hippodrome in 1929. It was a stage show in London’s West End. He also appeared in the West End production of Noel Coward’s cabaret ‘Words and Music.’
Mills starred in his debut film feature, ‘The Midshipmaid,’ in 1932. Mills did not have a prominent part in the film, which was directed by Albert de Courville and was a British comedy. He collaborated with Jessie Matthews, Basil Sydney, and others.
In 1939, he starred in the British romantic drama ‘Goodbye, Mr Chips,’ directed by Sam Wood and based on James Hilton’s novel. He had the opportunity to collaborate with Robert Donat and Greer Garson, among others. Mills served in World War II from 1939 until 1942. He joined the Royal Engineers and rose to the rank of Second Lieutenant. After being dismissed from the army due to a stomach ailment, he returned to the film industry. In 1942, he featured in Noel Coward’s ‘In Which We Serve.’
Mills starred in the 1946 British drama ‘Great Expectations,’ directed by David Lean and based on Charles Dickens’ novel of the same name. He featured alongside Bernard Miles, Finlay Currie, and others in the film, which won two Academy Awards.
In 1948, he appeared in the film ‘Scott of the Antarctica,’ playing a classic British hero. ‘Captain Scott’ was his character. In Antarctica, Switzerland, and Norway, the film was cut short. Mills worked on war dramas from 1954 to 1958, including Guy Hamilton’s ‘The Colditz Story,’ a prisoner of war picture, ‘Above Us the Waves,’ a film based on the book by C.E.T Warren and James Benson, and ‘Ice Cold in Alex.’
Mills and his daughter Hayley starred in the British crime drama ‘Tiger Bay’ in 1959, which was based on Noel Calef’s play ‘Rodolphe et le Revolver.’ J. Lee Thompson helmed the film’s direction. Mills and his little daughter Hayley starred in a Walt Disney Productions feature picture called ‘Pollyanna’ in 1960. Eleanor Porter wrote the novel that inspired the film. Commercially, the film was a huge success.
In 1961, he and his daughter Hayley starred in another Walt Disney picture, ‘The Parent Trap.’ David Swift directed the film, which was based on Erich Kastner’s book “Lottie and Lisa.” It was nominated for two Oscars. Mills directed ‘The Chalk Garden,’ ‘The Truth About Spring,’ and ‘The Family Way’ between 1964 and 1966. In the films ‘The Truth About Spring’ and ‘The Family Way,’ he co-starred with Hayley.
Mills starred in David Lean’s 1970 film ‘Ryan’s Daughter,’ which was based on Gustave Flaubert’s ‘Madame Bovary.’ The film was a commercial success and was nominated for two Academy Awards. Mill’s acting was praised, and he received an Academy Award nomination for Best Supporting Actor.
He joined the ITC Entertainment drama series ‘The Zoo Gang’ in 1974. It was a six one-hour colorful episodes drama series which was based on an eponymous novel authored by Paul Gallico. Mills’ most noteworthy creative achievement came in 1979, when he starred in ‘Quatermass,’ a British television science fiction series that aired on the ITV network. It only comprised of 4 episodes and he played the lead character in the series.
In 1982, he starred in the epic biographical film ‘Gandhi,’ based on the life of Mohandas Karamchand Gandhi. Richard Attenborough directed the film, which won eight Academy Awards. In 1994, he starred in the BBC miniseries ‘Martin Chuzzlewit,’ which was based on a Charles Dickens novel. Pedr James was in charge of the series’ direction.
In 1996, he starred in Kenneth Branagh’s cinematic adaptation of William Shakespeare’s ‘Hamlet.’ The picture was nominated for four Academy Awards. Mills played a supporting part in the film, with Kenneth Branagh, Kate Winslet, and others.
Mills filmed the documentary film ‘Sir John Mills’ Moving Memories’ in 2000. Interviews with his daughter Hayley, Juliet, Jonathan, and Richard Attenborough were included in the documentary. Mill’s own footage was also used in the film.
Personal History and Legacy
Mills married Aileen Raymond, an actress, in 1927. After 14 years of marriage, the couple divorced. In 1941, he married dramatist Mary Hayley Bell for the second time, and they lived together in The Wick, London, until his death.
Mills and Bell had two children between 1941 and 1946, Juliet Maryon Mills and Hayley Catherine Rose Vivien Mills. Juliet went on to be a television celebrity, while Hayley went on to be a movie star, working with Mills in a number of films.
He died in Denham, Buckinghamshire, in 2005, at the age of 97, following a chest illness. Lady Mills died only a few months after him, and they are both buried in Denham Churchyard next to each other. With his daughters Juliet and Hayley, Trivia Mills appeared in the film ‘So Well Remembered.’
Estimated Net Worth
John Mills is one of the wealthiest and most well-known actors in Hollywood. John Mills’ net worth is estimated to be $1.5 million, according to Wikipedia, Forbes, and Business Insider.