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Obituary 25.04.05

The legendary Sir John Mills, acclaimed actor of the British stage and screen, perhaps best known to readers of this site as Professor Quatermass in the 1979 Euston serial The Quatermass Conclusion aka Quatermass, has died at the age of 97.

Born John Lewis Ernest Mills on February 22nd 1908 the son of a teacher, he worked briefly as a clerk before coming to the theatre in 1929. He made his cinematic debut in 1932 and over the next thirty years made a name for himself as a military type appearing in over 100 films during his career. He also had a flair for comedy, which was seldom seen. His pictures include In Which We Serve (1942), We Dive At Dawn (1943), Ice Cold in Alex (1958), Tiger Bay (1959), the latter one of several pictures with his daughter Hayley Mills.

During the last twenty years his appearances became fewer, as his health waned and his eyesight deteriorated. He still managed a number of notable cameos including Martin Chuzzlewit (1994 tv), Hamlet (1996), Bean (1997). Bright Young Things (2003), and in the short Lights2 (2005). He completed an autobiography in 1981, and toured for a while in the 1990s with his own one-man show.

His Quatermass was the fourth tv incarnation in as many series, some 22 years after Andre Morell had taken on the mantle in Quatermass and the Pit. The fourth serial from Nigel Kneale was originally planned for Hammer Films following on from their own version of Pit in 1967. Several years of delays saw it move to a television serial, which was in turn passed on by the BBC before being made as a four hour serial by Euston films (released as a 100 minute film in the USA).

In Quatermass the elderly professor is a tired man, his triumphs long behind him, searching in vain for his granddaughter who has joined the new age children group. Mills imbued the role with dignity and sobriety, leading to a climax of self-sacrifice. Whilst viewing figures weren't great Mills was fondly remembered.

In 1984 Mills took the role of Doctor Watson in Kevin (son of Freddie) Francis' Sherlock Holmes film, The Masks of Death, alongside Peter Cushing reprising the role of Sherlock Holmes he had previously adopted for Hammer and the BBC.

Mills was knighted in 1976, and died on Saturday 23rd April 2005, at his home in Berkshire following a short bought of pnemonia.


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