John Mills

March 26, 2009

Yesterday would have been David Lean's 101st birthday. To commemorate the occasion, TCM played British movies all day (peculiarly only three of which were actually directed by Lean.) I was in all my glory yesterday-- I adore British films, particularly David Lean films, and particularly David Lean films which star John Mills, of which two were shown yesterday.

I often lament about the whole PAL/NTSC kerfuffle, and John Mills accounts for about 75% of that whining. It kills me to see so many interesting movies in his filmography, all out of my reach. In 2007, when I got my handy dandy, spiffy DVD/VHS recorder, I was mistakenly under the impression that it was a jack-of-all-trades box; majestically it could play anything I popped in its slots-- PAL tapes, Region 2 DVDs, Chocolate bars, board games.... it could play anything! Imagine my excitement when I saw The History of Mr. Polly on ebay; a John Mills movie I'd been anxious to see for ages! I shelled out $20 for it (plus shipping from England) and impatiently checked my mailbox every day. When it finally came, I was overcome with glee. I ran up to my bedroom, popped it into my phantasmagorical box and hit play. Nothing! It didn't play! I was wrong! I still can't play PAL!! I practically cried.

I haven't been to England yet, but I was telling my mom the other day that when I finally book passage on an ocean liner (yes, when I go, I am going the old fashioned way) my itinerary will include a week holed up in a hotel room with a stack of British DVDs. It may just be the best week of my life.

Until then, I have a small collection of John Mills movies that I've recorded from TCM. The few that I have managed to see are among my favorite films in the universe. I think that of all the British actors who gained international stardom, Mills is the most underrated. His performances are nuanced and soft, not showy at all. Even in the outlandish farce The Wrong Box, Mills manages to keep his feet on solid ground.

I was actually a fan of his daughter, Hayley Mills, long before I even knew she was the offspring of this acting giant. Hayley Mills was my absolute favorite actress growing up. When I was in third grade, my teacher handed out construction paper star cutouts, and asked everyone to write their favorite person on the star. In a sea of cartoon characters and professional wrestlers, Hayley Mills stood out as the only classic film star. Was this a sign of things to come, or what?

PS. I know I started my blog after the 20 actors & 20 actresses meme went around, so I was never tagged, but I really want to do it anyway... It's going to be a little while, though, because I'm going to do paintings to go with each of the 40 people.


elena-lu said...

wow i cant wait for the 40 paintings!!

TALKING MOVIEzzz said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Unknown said...

elena-lu- thanks :)

Moviezzz- Someone just brought that to my attention yesterday, too.. I really thought mine converted until it was actually put to the test! I'll definitely start looking for a converter...

fyi... I wasn't planning on going to England JUST to watch the DVDs... it was just part of the overall itinerary.. :)

Raquel Stecher said...

What a bummer that you bought a DVD that didn't work! Poo. Did you hear the story about President Obama giving Prime Minister Gordon Brown a whole bunch of Region 2 DVDs that Brown wouldn't be able to play in the UK?

All DVDs should be Internationally friendly in my opinion.

Holy moly. 40 paintings! Are they all new or are you using ones you've already done?

Millie said...

Excellent painting!

I am SO with you on Hayley Mills! I always loved her too, when I was seven she was the coolest thing on this planet (besides Deanna Durbin...hahaha). I still do love her. My three favorite Hayley's are "The Parent Trap", "That Darn Cat", and "The Moonspinners".

For a long time when I was young John Mills was only the dad on "Swiss Family Robinson" to me...;-D. But, lately I have begun to delve into some of his other work...that I can find.

Anonymous said...

I watched those heavenly Brit Flicks, too! As much as I love the golden age of Hollywood, I think that England's film crop at the same time is just as good and actually, many times, better.

I have a huge crush on John Mills. He's so kind, so real, so gentle, but at the same time, he's not a pushover. I absolutely adore your portrait of him. :)

The story of your PAL disappointment is quite tragic. I can feel exactly how you must have felt when the coveted film wouldn't play. I love your idea of hiding in a hotel room to get to watch the films. :) Although a converter is a good option, too, I guess.

I had no idea that ocean liners even made the trip from the US to the UK anymore. That sounds like amazing fun! I've been dying to go to England for ages and it only go worse when I had a British history teacher freshman year of college. :) I think it was the accent that did it.

I'm in awe of your 20/20 project. Good for you! That is going to be spectacular!

Terence Towles Canote said...

Well, there are DVD players which can play both Region 1 and Region 2 DVDs. The problem is that they are prohibitively expensive, which is very sad for fans for British films and, for that matter, British television. John Mills is one of my favourite actors, and yet until I can get a hold of the DVD player which can play Regions 1 and 2, I won't get to see many of his films unless TCM shows them. )-:

Jen said...

I love british films too, and also haven't been there yet, but hopefully next year - fingers crossed. I can't wait to see your paintings :)

TALKING MOVIEzzz said...
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Terence Towles Canote said...

Thanks, Moviezzz! I'll have to swing by Amazon sometime soon!

Anonymous said...

Hi, Kate,

I found your blog after you became a Flickr pal of mine this afternoon.

During the past 15 years, TCM has introduced me to a world of films I had only heard about before. My parents were married in 1935. They often told me how wonderful films were back in the 1930's and 1940's. They were SO right!

Sadly, they died some years ago, before cable TV and TCM. They would have loved TCM!

I watched some of the David Lean films the other day. I especially enjoy Celia Johnson. In fact, she was two years older than my dad and eight years older than my mom. I find Celia very attractive, very feminine. Seeing John Mills play her neighbor's son in "This Happy Breed" was a bit of a stretch, but I love that film, as I have loved her other films.

"Brief Encounter" remains one of my favorite films from that era. The commuter railroad line and the train stations along it remind me of the CB&Q (Burlington) commuter line from Chicago to Aurora that passed through my hometown, Berwyn, Illinois. All of the commuter train stations were built around 1900. They were renovated a few years ago and look terrific today!

Today, the commuter trains still run, as always, but now they are managed and operated by Metra Rail. I rode them again when I visited Chicago in 2003. You have no idea what a thrill that was for me!

I also visited the house where I was raised, about two blocks from the train station in Berwyn. The old house was built in 1886. My mother's parents bought in 1922 for their broode of seven kids. My parents bought it from them in 1944.

My dad died in 1957, just before his 47th birthday. My mother and I sold the house in 1962, in part so I could go to Northwestern.

The current owner and his family bought it in 1996. Like my dad at mid-century, they renovated and remodeled it. It looks terrific!

My dad's father, by the way, another George Spink, was born in York, England in 1883 and came to the States with his parents and brothers and sisters around 1900, settling in Chicago.

Having said all this, I you can see why I love these David Lean films and others that depict the U.K. in the first part of the 20th Century.

George Spink
Los Angeles
Tuxedo Junction -