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Sir John Mills has died at age 97


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  • Sir John Mills has died at age 97

    BBC, News, BBC News, news online, world, uk, international, foreign, british, online, service

    Sir John Mills, one of Britain's best-loved actors and the star of over 100 films, has died at the age of 97.

    His films included Great Expectations in 1946 and War and Peace in 1956 and he won an Oscar in 1971 for playing a village idiot in Ryan's Daughter.

    He died at home in Buckinghamshire on Saturday morning after a chest infection that lasted several weeks.

    "He was unequalled as a world [and] British movie star," his close friend Lord Richard Attenborough said.

    'Loyal friend'

    A Buckingham Palace spokeswoman said that the Queen had been "sorry" to hear of the actor's death.

    Tony Blair described him as "a great actor, a true gentleman and a loyal friend; someone who made us proud to be British".

    And actor Corin Redgrave said that he "disguised his contribution, which was enormous I think, behind a veneer of modesty".

    There will be a funeral service for family and friends at St Mary's Church in his home town of Denham on Wednesday. A memorial service is expected to take place at the end of June.

    Sir John is survived by his wife Mary Hayley Bell - now Lady Mills - his son Jonathan and daughters Juliette and Hayley, both actresses.

    The couple were married at Marylebone Register Office in 1941 while Sir John was on leave from the Army but Sir John always regretted not being able to give Lady Mills a church wedding.

    But after 60 years, their marriage was finally blessed at the church next door to their home in 2001.

    By this time Lady Mills was wheelchair-bound and suffering from Alzheimer's disease, and Sir John had gone almost blind after retinas in both eyes failed.

    "I was so proud of Mary. It was the happiest day of my life and my life has been full of happy moments," Sir John said afterwards.

    "The body dies but the spirit goes on. Of that I'm certain. One day Mary and I will leave this world, but we'll be reunited in the next."

    He was made a CBE in 1960, knighted in 1976 and was given a special honour by the British Academy of Film and Television Arts (Bafta) in 2002.

    'Just wonderful'

    Born in Felixstowe, Suffolk, Sir John studied at the Royal Academy of Dramatic Art and started his career on stage, where his talent was spotted by Noel Coward.

    Despite failing health, he continued to working until the last.

    Speaking on BBC Breakfast With Frost in 2002, Sir John said he would never retire.

    "When I get out there, coming across the footlights, it's something that I can hardly explain... such warmth greets me and I feel terrific, it's just wonderful."

    (For those still wondering who he was, he was Hayley's father and played the father in Swiss Family Robinson)
    My fondest memory of Walt Disney was the day Disneyland opened....I was standing next to him - I was 12 years old - he was looking at the gate where people were coming through, he had his hands behind his back, he had a grin from ear to ear, but you could see the lump in his throat and the tear coming down his cheek because his dream had been realized. -- Mouseketeer Sharon Baird, "Mouseke-Memories", Walt Disney Treasures: The Mickey Mouse Club

  • #2
    I have a wonderful memory of Sir John that I thought would be appropriate to share here. I was in London, I believe it was '86 when the Andrew Lloyd Webber musical on roller skates "Starlight Express" had just opened. I had a very good seat in the stalls and before the show noticed that seated directly in front of me was Mr. Mills and his wife along with two beautiful young boys with blond hair. The seat on the aisle next to them was vacant.

    My antennae went up and, sure enough, just as the show began Hayley Mills came down the aisle and took the vacant seat. The whole family appeared to have a terrific time during the performance and as we exited I exchanged a few words with them but never acknowledged that I knew who they were. We all thought it was a spectacle and the boys seemed really enthused about it.

    His walk up the aisle towards the exits was very slow with the entire family helping him since he was already very frail at that time.
    "America is the only country that went from barbarism to decadence without civilization in between." Oscar Wilde


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