Sir John Mills, who was born 115 years ago on February 22, 1908, was one of the most popular and beloved actors of his generation. The Oscar-winner appeared in more than 120 films and TV movies in a career stretching over eight decades, writes CYRIL McHALE


Hands up all you older movie fans who never heard of John Mills! Well, that’s not many, and most of you are probably youngsters.

As an old movie fan from way back, I would have seen a lot of the late English actor’s work amongst the considerable amount of movies I viewed over the years. And I wouldn’t be alone, bearing in mind that in the forties and fifties, Dublin evidently had the highest rate of cinema-going per head of population of any other European capital.

Suffice it to say that cinema was a welcome post-war outlet for a weary nation, and many of us latched on with a vengeance. At that time, most of the acetate offerings shown here emanated from Hollywood, with British and continental films playing catch-up, as I recall. And incidentally, during the fifties, it often took a year before a feature film would reach Irish projectors, owing to the limited number of prints available in those pre-digital days.

But be that as it may, the entertaining screen action continued, subtle and otherwise, the industry flourished and stars were born. Now, when you think of major stars of both past and present, a veritable litany of familiar names are quickly to the fore with most people: the Bogarts, the Streep’s, the Clooney’s, the Elizabeth Taylor’s, the Duke Wayne’s, the Scarlet Johannson’s, the Mitchum’s, et al. Yes, let’s add Al Pacino. And all with their star status glitz.

However, there are quite a few screen performers that stand out in their subtly different ways: men and women whose pedigree and talent as character actors could never be questioned, and while being universally admired, they would not necessarily be regarded as romantic heroes or heroines: people who never particularly sought star status, and were devoid of large egos.

Continue reading in this week’s Ireland’s Own