Sir John Mills Biography


Birthday: February 22, 1908 (Pisces)

Born In: North Elmham, Norfolk, England, UK

Lewis Ernest Watts Mills, popularly known as John Mills, was an English actor whose film career lasted for around seven decades. He was born and brought up in Norfolk, England and was interested in acting from an early age. He did a few musicals in the beginning of his career, which got him enough attention to get work in the movies in supporting roles. During World War II, he became a part of Royal Engineers and was soon made the second lieutenant, but he left military service because of a stomach ulcer and joined back movies. This time he got his first lead role in the movie’ Great Expectations’ and from there on he did movies one after the other. He did many movies with his daughter Hayley such as, ‘The Parent Trap’, ‘Pollyanna’, 'The Truth About Spring', 'The Chalk Garden' and 'The Family Way'. He did some memorable roles on the British television as well, such as the title character in ‘Quatermass’. Mills was appointed a Commander of the Order of the British Empire (CBE) and was knighted by the queen. He married dramatist Mary Hayley Bell and had two daughters with her, Hayley and Juliet. They both are also known figures in the British entertainment business.
Quick Facts

British Celebrities Born In February

Also Known As: Lewis Ernest Watts Mills

Died At Age: 97


Spouse/Ex-: Aileen Raymond (m. 1927–1941), Mary Hayley Bell (m. 1941–2005)

father: Lewis Mills

children: Hayley Mills, Jonathan Mills, Juliet Mills

Actors British Men

Died on: April 23, 2005

place of death: Denham, Buckinghamshire, England, UK

  • 1

    What is Sir John Mills best known for?

    Sir John Mills is best known for his distinguished acting career, spanning over seven decades and including a wide range of film, television, and stage performances.

  • 2

    In which iconic war film did Sir John Mills star?

    Sir John Mills starred in the iconic war film "Dunkirk" (1958), directed by Leslie Norman, which depicts the events of the Dunkirk evacuation during World War II.

  • 3

    What was Sir John Mills' approach to acting?

    Sir John Mills was known for his versatile acting abilities and his dedication to his craft. He often immersed himself fully in his roles, bringing depth and authenticity to his performances.

  • 4

    What impact did Sir John Mills have on the British film industry?

    Sir John Mills made significant contributions to the British film industry, becoming a beloved and respected figure known for his talent, professionalism, and commitment to his work.

  • 5

    How did Sir John Mills inspire future generations of actors?

    Sir John Mills' legacy as a talented and versatile actor continues to inspire future generations of performers, showcasing the importance of dedication, skill, and passion in the craft of acting.

Childhood & Early Years
John Mills was born in North Elmham, Norfolk and grew up in Belton, a Norfolk Village. His father was the headmaster of the village school in Felixstowe, Suffolk, where Mills lived with his family on Ham’s Road.
Mills went to the Balham Grammar School, Sir John Leman High School and Norwich High School for Boys. After school, he worked as a clerk in Ipswich and then went to London to work as a commercial traveler for a Company.
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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.
Personal Life & Legacy
In 1927, Mills got married to the actress Aileen Raymond. The couple got divorced after 14 years of being married. He was again married to the dramatist Mary Hayley Bell in 1941 and they both lived together in The Wick, London till his death.
Mills and Bell had two daughters: Juliet Maryon Mills and Hayley Catherine Rose Vivien Mills in 1941 and 1946. Juliet went on to become a television star and Hayley became a movie star and worked with Mills in many movies.
He died at the age of 97 in 2005, after suffering from a chest infection in Denham, Buckinghamshire. Lady Mills died just a few months after him and they both are buried side by side in Denham Churchyard.
Facts About Sir John Mills

Sir John Mills was known for his love of gardening, and he spent much of his free time tending to his garden, which he considered a peaceful retreat.

Despite his successful acting career, Sir John Mills remained humble and down-to-earth, often preferring to spend time with his family and close friends rather than attending glamorous Hollywood events.

Sir John Mills was a talented artist and enjoyed painting in his spare time. He found it to be a therapeutic and creative outlet that allowed him to express himself in a different way.

In addition to his acting skills, Sir John Mills had a passion for music and played the piano proficiently. He found playing music to be a relaxing and enjoyable way to unwind after a long day on set.

Sir John Mills was a devoted animal lover and was known to have a soft spot for dogs. He often adopted rescue dogs and was actively involved in animal welfare causes throughout his life.


Academy Awards(Oscars)
1971 Best Actor in a Supporting Role Ryan's Daughter (1970)
Golden Globe Awards
1971 Best Supporting Actor - Motion Picture Ryan's Daughter (1970)

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