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Tuesday, 16 January, 2001, 14:18 GMT
Sir John Mills' thriving career

Sir John Mills (r) on stage in 1972 with Sir John Gielgud
When Sir John Mills and his wife Mary were married 60 years ago he was a jobbing actor, who had joined the army for the duration of World War II.

The Mills could not have had an inkling that they would become part of a glittering scene that includes some of the most famous names of the 20th Century.

When their son Jonathan put together a film from footage in his parent's attic in 2000, he was able to include Laurence Olivier, Vivien Leigh, David Niven, Rex Harrison, Stewart Granger, Walt Disney, Dirk Bogarde in the resulting documentary.


Mills was the star of such cinematic classics as Ice Cold In Alex and Ryan's Daughter and some 109 other films.

Kula Shaker
The talented Mills family includes Crispian and Ace from Kula Shaker
One of the highlights of his career was winning Best Supporting Actor in the 1971 Academy Awards for his performance in Ryan's Daughter.

But he started out as a lowly chorus boy in musical revue, where he was spotted by Noel Coward.

He stayed a stage actor for some years before heading for Hollywood.

Mills began his screen career in military roles and these are the ones still identified with him - films like Forever England, We Dive at Dawn and the classic In Which We Serve.

He tended to play a particularly decent and upstanding type of British military man, but as his career progressed so his parts became more complex, such as those in Ice Cold in Alex and Tunes of Glory.

He had a rewarding partnership with director David Lean, with whom Mills worked on his acclaimed version of Great Expectations and Scott of the Antarctic.

Sir John and Lady Mary Mills
The Mills unveiled a plaque to friend Vivien Leigh in 1996

Mills has also worked as a producer and director, even directing his daughter Hayley in Sky West and Crooked.

Mills still thrives on acting, appearing in Kenneth Branagh's acclaimed Hamlet in 1996 and several distinguished television series throughout the 90s.

Any intimation of retirement has been vehemently dismissed - if a planned production of Sleeping Beauty goes ahead this year he will star with Baby Spice Emma Bunton.

So if there is anything that can top more than 70 years in showbusiness, a knighthood, a blissful marriage, an Oscar and countless tributes from your peers and the public, Sir John Mills is likely to find it.

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21 Nov 00 | Entertainment
Sir John launches documentary
16 Jan 01 | Entertainment
Sir John to renew wedding vows
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