August 10, 2016
John, Juliet and Hayley Mills
For the Classic Movie History Project this year, one of the topics is "The Family Business" and I jumped at the chance to cover my favorite movie dynasty, The Mills Family. Hayley Mills has been one of my favorite actresses since I was a child. I always consider my entrance into the world of classic film fandom to be my obsession with Audrey Hepburn that hatched in December 1999, but if I'm being particular, Hayley Mills was actually my first foray into the world of classic cinema. I was watching The Trouble with Angels and The Moon-Spinners while the rest of my elementary school classmates were hooked on the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles.
John and Hayley
Over time I discovered her father, Sir John Mills, a phenomenal British actor who had started making movies in the 1930's, and kept at it until he passed away in 2005. Her older sister Juliet also acted, with most of her success being in television (although my own favorite role of hers is in Billy Wilder's Avanti!) All three Mills family members constantly delivered top-notch performances, whether starring in a David Lean-directed Dickens adaptation, a live action Disney film, or even an unsettling low-budget horror flick.
John, Juliet, Hayley and Jonathan Mills
...I've been thinking lately about how to fully express my love of classic movies, some way I can share my passion for them that doesn't really involve writing. I mean, I want to keep writing here, but my way with words is neither special nor eloquent in any way. I always run into a roadblock when it comes to translating my feelings about film into words and sentences. I'm currently reading a biography of Francois Truffaut, and the excerpts from his reviews at Cahiers du Cinema are leaving me even more critical of my own scholarly shortcomings.
Juliet, Hayley, Jonathan and their mom Mary Hayley Bell
Anyway, all of this has been sloshing around in my brain, all the while I knew I wanted to write something up for this post. It isn't quite enough to tell you that I love Hayley, John, and Juliet. As far as Hayley goes, everything I think becomes too personal -- why she is important to me, how her films shaped my whole life, how I've spent almost three decades aspiring to BE her character in The Trouble with Angels. Of John I can only say that he is one of my all-time favorite actors (speaking of linguistics, please tell me there is another term for "all-time favorite" so I can stop saying it ad nauseam) and his performance in Hobson's Choice is so delicately perfect, so sweet and beautiful that just thinking about it almost makes me cry. Juliet is the most underrated Mills, I think, and deserves so much more recognition than she currently enjoys. Please just watch her in Avanti!. She is at once lively, self-conscious, adorable, and full of grace. I'm usually critical of Billy Wilder's casting decisions, but in Avanti! he knocked it out of the ballpark.
John Mills and wife Mary Hayley Bell
Since I really don't think I can contribute much in the way of words, I decided to scan some of my favorite family photos from John Mills' autobiographical photo book, "Still Memories." I love that these are authentic family snapshots, not staged photos (with the exception of John and his wife, Mary Hayley Bell, eating ice cream in Hollywood. That one is a publicity portrait) My personal favorite is the following, with John and Juliet wearing fake mustaches!
John with his father, Lewis Mills, celebrating the birth of Hayley Mills.
The caption for this photo is one of the sweetest things I've ever read. John Mills writes, "I was on a 48-hour leave. I had the date of my marriage engraved on my Reverso watch, 16.1.41, which was quite unnecessary. I have never needed reminding of the most marvelous day of my life."
John Mills with tiny Juliet Mills in front of their home, Misbourne Cottage in Denham Village. According to the book his neighbors included David Lean, Noel Coward and David Niven!
Hayley Mills' christening, with her parents and Martha Scott.
It may be a publicity portrait but this is one of my favorites from the bunch. So adorable!
Hayley Mills with her parents and Sir Laurence Olivier after the premiere of Tiger Bay