b. Lewis Ernest Watts Mills, 22 February 1908, North Elmham, Norfolk, England, d. 23 April 2005, Denham, Buckinghamshire, England. After working briefly as a clerk Mills trained as a dancer, making his London stage debut in the chorus of The Five O’Clock Revue (1929). Spotted by Noël Coward, he made numerous stage appearances in the early 30s, his film debut coming in The Midshipmaid (1932). Among other 30s films were Car Of Dreams andBrown On Resolution (both 1935) and The Green Cockatoo (1937). Following the outbreak of World War II he joined the army; after a medical discharge he returned to acting. Through succeeding decades his numerous film appearances were usually in dramatic roles, many as a military man. His films clearly display not only Mills’ abilities but that air of quiet integrity that made him a box-office favourite. Among them are In Which We Serve (1942), This Happy Breed (1944), Waterloo Road (1945), The Way To The Stars (1945), Great Expectations (1946), Scott Of The Antarctic (1948), Hobson’s Choice (1954), Ice-Cold In Alex (1958), Tiger Bay (1959, which was his daughter Hayley Mills’ debut), Swiss Family Robinson (1960), King Rat (1965), and The Family Way (1966). In 1969 he played Field Marshal Haig in the film version of Joan Littlewood’s satirical stage musical Oh! What A Lovely War. The following year he was in Ryan's Daughter, winning the Academy Award as Best Supporting Actor. In 1979 he played the lead in the television series Quatermass, and in 1986 supplied one of the two voices (the other was Peggy Ashcroft’s) for the adaptation of Raymond Briggs’ book When The Wind Blows. On television in the USA Mills played one of the two leads in Dundee And The Culhane (1967).
On Broadway, Mills was nominated for a Tony Award as Best Actor for Ross (1961), and he also played in a 1987 revival of Pygmalion. His second wife, from 1941, was playwright Mary Hayley Bell and in 1966 he directed Sky West And Crooked from her screenplay and which starred their daughter Hayley. Another daughter, Juliet Mills, has also appeared in films and starred in her own American television series. In 1960 Mills became Commander of the British Empire and in 1976 was knighted. In the 90s, despite serious problems with his eyesight, he continued working and was recipient of many entertainment industry honours.