The Mills Brothers

Mills Brothers Story [DVD]

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The Mills Brothers Story was a 1986 documentary by Don McGlynn covering 50 years in the history of the legendary performing group, who cut a swathe across jazz and popular music from the 1930s through the 1980s. Starting with the surviving brothers as a trio, the narrative takes us back to Harry Mills as leader of the group, and to the mix of personalities between John, Herbert, and Donald Mills, and the chance discovery of their sound in 1925. An impromptu audition with William S. Paley in 1929 got them on the air, and the group never looked back -- we see early soundies by the quartet and cartoons from the early 1930s for which they provided the soundtrack, carrying over into newsreels and shorts from the 1940s, the surviving members explaining the intervening events, such as the tragically early death of John Mills following a long illness, and the group's expansion to a quintet with guitarist Norman Brown. The group's return to popularity in the United States, through the fluky discovery of "Paper Doll," is also explained. The disc is worth owning for a 1966-vintage clip of the quartet doing "Glow Worm," and it's marvelous to see the introduction by Harry Mills in 1971, explaining the group's then 40-year-plus history. Their history into the 1980s is a study in joyful longevity, beautifully projected in this program, which is transferred very well to disc, with excellent (and pleasingly loud) sound. Each song and major segment in the 55-minute feature gets a chapter marker, and the opening menu offers listeners a choice of stereo or 5.1 surround sound.