John Mills, 97, a distinguished and wide-ranging actor who excelled on camera as an appealing British Everyman and dutiful soldier, died April 23 at his home in Denham, west of London. He reportedly had a chest infection, reports the Washington Post.
John Mills was the most English of actors, portraying on stage and in dozens of films characters of decency, loyalty, self-deprecation and quiet, understated courage. When a director wanted someone to personify “Englishness” Mills would be top of the list. The blue eyes, the cow’s lick of hair, which in early days fell regularly across his forehead, and his ability to convey a sense of honesty and resilience all saw to that.
In some areas he was overshadowed by his friends and contemporaries. Olivier had a glamour to which Mills could never aspire. In the classical roles Gielgud reigned supreme and this was a territory Mills rarely entered after playing Puck to Robert Helpmann’s Oberon in A Midsummer Night’s Dream at the Old Vic just before the war. Mills’s lack of inches lost him some of the drawing-room comedy parts claimed regularly by Rex Harrison.