Mills was also much admired in ‘Morning Departure’ (1950)
as a similarly inspirational leader, this time a submarine captain who
has to encourage three of his crew, trapped with him in their stricken
craft, to face death calmly. Despite his versatility as an actor, Mills
continued to achieve his greatest success in similar roles: as Commander
Fraser in ‘Above Us the Waves’ (1955), and as Pat Reid,
the head of the escape committee, in ‘The Colditz Story’
was however as the captain in 'Ice Cold in Alex' (1958) that pushed
by exhaustion into alcoholism, which really brought out the best in
Mills. A superb piece of film-making that embodied most of the key characteristics
of ‘being British’. There are two lovely scenes, the first
being at the sand hill and ensuing tension when Syms and Mills meet
at the bottom after the Landover rolls back down. The second I feel
is at the bar where Mills drinks the Carlsberg and his character courageously
addresses post war attitudes. In return Qualye’s character admits
that the British were not what he had supposed them to be. Both of these
statements would both have been very conciliatory at the time. Why
‘Ice Cold’ did not win Oscars….
then he got the Oscar for a grotesque piece of facial and vocal distortion
in the inflated Ryan's Daughter (1970) - supporting actor Oscars have
always been drawn to this sort of cosmetic display - when one could
nominate a dozen far less showy, more worthy contenders among his roles.
Even in perfectly ordinary films like The Vicious Circle (1957), one
never stops believing in him.
later decades saw him many in character roles such as Gandhi (1982);
Kenneth Branagh then enlisted him for Hamlet (1996) to play the mute
role of `Old Norway', for whom Shakespeare had thoughtlessly failed
to produce lines. Though partially now deaf and blind, he still evidenced
the chipper persona honed below the decks in those films half a century
earlier. The achievement is there in the CV and it has been recognised
with a CBE (1960), a Knighthood (1976) and the BAFTA Special Tribute
British film actor par excellence, he was the last of his generation.
Gone is Sir Alec, Sir John, Sir Peter and Lord Olivier and now alas
is Sir John Mills.
I've never considered myself to be working for a living; I've enjoyed
myself for a living instead.
in the clouds please gentlemen' 1980
films to see:
Above the Waves (1955)
Ice Cold in Alex(1958)
Great Expectations (1946)