Sir John Mills died at the weekend. He was 97 and he made over 100 films- the first in 1932 and the last in 2003. He wasn't a showy actor but he was a damn good one. I think my favourite is Ice Cold in Alex- where he has his hair dyed white-blond and where at the climax he gets to sink a frosty pint of lager in a single draught. They needed six or seven takes on that one- and afterwards he had to go and lie down in a darkened room for the rest of the afternoon.
He made an awful lot of war movies. And- more perhaps than any other actor- came to personify the national myth of stiff-jawed resistance to nazi aggression. We had Churchill, We had the Queen Mum and we had little Johnny Mills. Actually his range was a lot broader than that. He was Pip in Great Expectations, the village idiot in Ryan's Daughter (for which he got an Oscar) and (his personal favourite) mouse-like Willie Mossop in Hobson's Choice (all for the same diector- David Lean.) He was the last survivor of that great generation of British actors that was headed by Olivier and Gielgud. Now that he's gone, I can believe that the 20th century really has come to an end.