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Sir John Mills (1908 -- 2005)

Truly a legend of British film, John Mills passed away on St George's Day 2005 after a short illness, aged 97. The son of a Suffolk headmaster, he left school at 16, determined to go on the stage. He took dancing classes and set up in a cabaret act.On a tour of the Far East he befriended Noel Coward who would become his mentor and eventually godfather to his eldest daughter, Juliet.

Coward recommended the young Mills for stage roles, then in 1932 he made his film debut as a seaman in The Midshipmaid. He would appear in more than 100 films, continuing to work into his 90s. Mills was kept busy during the war years, accumulating movie experience as soldiers, sailors and submarine officers. In 1946, David Lean cast him as Pip in Great Expectations, an enduring classic, which was followed by Ice Cold in Alex, Tunes of Glory, Hobson's Choice and Ryan's Daughter, Lean's 1970 film, for which Mills won a Best Supporting Actor Academy Award®.

Based in England throughout his life, Mills had three children by his wife of many years, the playwright Mary Hayley Bell: Juliet, Hayley and Jonathan, all of whom found much success of their own in the film industry. Plaudits from friends and colleagues poured in following his death, the quintessential decent British screen hero of the 20th century.