In 1929, Mills acted professionally for the first time in ‘The Five O’Clock Girl’ at the London Hippodrome. It was a West End production. He also starred in Noel Coward’s cabaret ‘Words and Music’, again produced under West End.
In 1932, Mills appeared in his first motion picture, titled ‘The Midshipmaid’. The movie was a British comedy directed by Albert de Courville; Mills did not get a leading role in the movie. He worked along with Jessie Matthews, Basil Sydney, etc.
In 1939, he appeared in the movie ‘Goodbye, Mr Chips’, a British romantic drama, based on the novel by James Hilton, directed by Sam Wood. He got the chance to work with actors like Robert Donat and Greer Garson.
From 1939–1942, Mills took part in World War II. He was enlisted in the Royal Engineers and became the Second Lieutenant. He was discharged from the army because of stomach ulcer and he joined back the film industry. He starred in Noel Coward’s ‘In which We Serve’ in 1942.
In 1946, Mills played the lead role in the ‘Great Expectations’, a British drama based on Charles Dickens’ novel with the same title, directed by David Lean. He starred along with Bernard Miles, Finlay Currie, etc. and the movie won two Oscars.
In 1948, he went to play the role of traditional British hero in the movie ‘Scott of the Antarctica’. He played the role of ‘Captain Scott’. The movie was short in Antarctica, Switzerland and Norway.
From 1954–1958, Mills did war dramas such as ‘The Colditz Story’ which was a prisoner of war film directed by Guy Hamilton, ‘Above Us the Waves, a movie based on the book by C.E.T Warren and James Benson, and ‘Ice Cold in Alex’.
In 1959, Mills did a British crime drama called ‘Tiger Bay’ along with his daughter Hayley, a movie based on the play by Noel Calef ‘Rodolphe et le Revolver’. The movie was directed by J. Lee Thompson.
In 1960, Mills did a Walt Disney Productions feature film called ‘Pollyanna’, starring him and his young daughter Hayley. The movie was based upon a novel written by Eleanor Porter. The movie was received very well commercially.
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In 1961, he did another Walt Disney film with his daughter Hayley, titled ‘The Parent Trap’. The movie was based on the book ‘Lottie and Lisa’ by Erich Kastner and directed by David Swift. It was nominated for two Oscars.
From 1964–1966, Mills did ‘The Chalk Garden’, ‘The Truth About Spring’ and ‘The Family Way’. ‘He starred alongside Hayley in ‘The Truth About Spring’ and ‘The Family Way’.
In 1970, Mills did ‘Ryan’s Daughter’, directed by David lean, based on Gustave Flaubert’s ‘Madame Bovary’. The movie was a commercial success and won two Oscar Awards. Mill’s acting was appreciated and he was honored with Academy Award for Best Supporting Actor..
In 1974, he became a part of the ITC Entertainment drama series ‘The Zoo Gang’. It was a six one-hour colored episodes drama series which was based on an eponymous novel written by Paul Gallico.
In 1979, Mills did the most memorable creative work of his life in ‘Quatermass’, a British television science fiction series, which was broadcasted on the ITV network. It only consisted of 4 episodes and he played the lead role in the series.
In 1982, he appeared in the movie called ‘Gandhi’, an epic biographical film on the life of Mohandas Karamchand Gandhi. The movie was directed by Richard Attenborough and received eight Academy Awards.
In 1994, he did a mini TV series produced by BBC called ‘Martin Chuzzlewit’, which was based on a novel by Charles Dickens. The series was directed by Pedr James.
In 1996, he did a film version of William Shakespeare’s ‘Hamlet’, directed by Kenneth Branagh. The film received four Academy Award nominations. Mills had a supporting role in the movie, worked along with Kenneth Branagh, Kate Winslet, etc.
In 2000, Mills made a documentary film called ‘Sir John Mills’ Moving Memories’. The documentary had interviews of his daughter Hayley, Juliet, Jonathan and Richard Attenborough. The film also included Mill’s personal footages.