: One of the luckiest things that ever happened to me was to be born with a desperate desire to become an actor. I never remember at any age wanting to be anything else.
The Oscar-winner appeared in more than 120 films and TV movies in a career stretching over eight decades, from his debut in 1932 in The Midshipmaid (1932) through Bright Young Things (2003) and The Snow Prince (2009).
After graduating from the Norwich Grammar School for Boys, Mills rejected his father's academic career for the performing arts. After brief employment as a clerk in a grain merchant's office, he moved to London and enrolled at Zelia Raye's Dancing School. Convinced from the age of six that performing was his destiny, Mills said, "I never considered anything else."
Throughout his film career Mills played a wide variety of military characters, portraying the quintessential English hero. He later tackled more complex characterizations, such as the emotionally troubled commander in Tunes of Glory (1960). He also played Field Marshal Haig in the satire Oh! What a Lovely War (1969) that mocked the entire genre. However, it was in his World War II films, which included We Dive at Dawn (1943), Waterloo Road (1945) and The Way to the Stars (1945), that Mills established himself as an innovative English film star.
Mills has worked as both producer and director: in 1966, he directed daughter Hayley in Sky West and Crooked (1966) (a.k.a. "Gypsy Girl), from a script written by his wife. Living in Hollywood during the 1960s where his daughter Hayley enjoyed her own Oscar-winning career as a child star, Mills and his wife became very popular with members of the movie colony. After Hayley grew out of her child actress roles, Mills returned to England, where he continued his film work.
Although his eyesight failed almost completely in 1990, he continued to act, playing both blind and seeing characters.
At age 92, he and wife Mary, age 89, renewed their marriage vows at St. Mary's Church, next to their home, Hills House, in Denham, England. When they had wed 60 years earlier, he was denied a church service because he was serving in the Army during World War II. [January 2001]