Rogues & Vagabonds

theatre, film & tv past and present 2001-2008 & 2013…

Archive Obituary • MARY HAYLEY BELL • Actress & Writer • 2006

whistle_down_the_wind_posterThe actress and writer Mary Hayley Bell, better known as Lady Mills, died at the age of 94 on 1 December 2005. Although her last years were blighted by Alzheimer’s, Lady Mills will be remembered particularly for her endearing tale of an escaped murderer being taken for Jesus Christ in Whistle Down the Wind. The book, published in 1958, was made into a film by Bryan Forbes [1961] starring Alan Bates and her youngest daughter, Hayley Mills. Andrew Lloyd Webber’s stage musical from 1998 is being revived this year [2006] with Bill Kenwright directing, opening at the Palace Theatre for a limited run from 28 March.

She will also be remembered for her long and happy marriage to Sir John Mills who died in April 2005, which produced three children, actresses Juliet and Hayley, and son Jonathan. So strong was their relationship that they renewed their vows in 2001 in front friends and family.

Mary Hayley Bell was born in Shanghai and brought up in China before attending Malvern Girls College in England. She trained for the stage at RADA and met her future husband while touring the Far East in the early 1930s, having made her debut in The Barretts of Wimpole Street for an American company in Shanghai.

Her first play, Men in Shadow, about the French Resistance, was produced in 1942 which, after having its title changed from To Stall the Grey Rat at Noel Coward’s suggestion (he described Bell’s title as “piss-poor”), and having parts excised at the insistence of MI5, had a successful run in the West End starring Mills, whom she had married in 1941. The play was also successful in the provinces, New York and Moscow.

However, apart from her next play, Duet for Two Hands (1945), which was even more of a success, later efforts did not fare so well in the eyes of the critics who accused her work of being unfashionably ‘well-made’ and complacently middle class. In 1962, she said, “They don’t want my plays now … I never want to write another.” She had stopped acting after marriage: “That’s it. I’m not acting any more. We can’t have two actors in the family. We married so that we could be together.”

It was turning to novels that produced her greatest success, Whistle Down the Wind, though a later family collaboration, Sky West and Crooked (1965), which Mills directed and in which Hayley also starred, did not repeat the success of Whistle.

Lady Mills published an autobiography in 1968, What Shall We Do Tomorrow? and is survived by her three children and several grandchildren.

Sarah Vernon © 2006

Originally published on R&V 28-02-06

Advertisements

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

w

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

Dave Plummer Saxophonist

Wedding & Events Saxophonist - Leicestershire and Hampshire

writerchristophfischer

Books, Reviews and bookish thoughts

Creative writing and art by Charlotte Begg

Creative writing and art by Charlotte Begg

Mallory James

Writer - Author - Historian

Act Professional

A How-To Guide for Actors from Someone Who Has No Idea What She's Doing

Iris Theatre

Supporting the next generation of professional theatre practitioners

thekeystonegirlblogs

The site for 'Madcap Mabel' - Mabel Normand

AADD-UK

The site for and by adults with ADHD

Scandalous Women

theatre, film & tv past and present 2001-2008 & 2013...

The Naptime Author

Anne Clare explores the world of writing, one stolen minute at a time.

FRENCH PAINTERS

theatre, film & tv past and present 2001-2008 & 2013...

VINTAGE PHOTOGRAPHY

theatre, film & tv past and present 2001-2008 & 2013...

ART BLOG

theatre, film & tv past and present 2001-2008 & 2013...

Woman the fuck up

Hear me roar. Writer, mother, actress, maker of beautiful things, witch. Not taking any more shit and neither should you.

solentaviatrix

Dedicated to Women Pilots of the Solent

cardboardcities

illustration, colour, fashion + lifestyle blog UK

Colossal

theatre, film & tv past and present 2001-2008 & 2013...

Improbability Archivist

Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy, Douglas Adams, Doctor Who,

WCH On This Day

Working Class History anniversaries every day

janetbotanics

Yoga classes and aromatherapy products in Andalusia, Spain.

1stangel.co.uk/loisbryanphotography/

LOIS BRYAN Photography and Digital Art

History And Other Thoughts

theatre, film & tv past and present 2001-2008 & 2013...

THE VIRTUAL VICTORIAN

theatre, film & tv past and present 2001-2008 & 2013...

Catherine Meyrick

Historical Fiction with a touch of Romance

Secret Diary Of PorterGirl

The everyday adventures of the staff & students of Old College

juxtaposed

Subject to change.

The Müscleheaded Blog

"Nothing Exceeds Like Superfluous Jejunity "

Women of History

theatre, film & tv past and present 2001-2008 & 2013...

Jon Danzig's World

theatre, film & tv past and present 2001-2008 & 2013...

The pallet Junkie

Hand crafted furniture

Dreaming Reality

If Existence is a dream, let us dream perfection....

victimfocus

Exploring best practice and research in sexual violence. A loud voice in the fight against victim blaming. Written and Managed by Jessica Eaton, Doctoral Researcher in Forensic Psychology

Teagan's Books

Now available: "Murder at the Bijou - Three Ingredients I"

Padre Steve's World...Musings of a Progressive Realist in Wonderland

Musings of a Progressive Realist in Wonderland

The History Woman's Blog

Just another WordPress.com weblog

Art by Jess Miller

sculpture and artwork

Cooking on a Bootstrap

The #1 budget recipe website

surprise saffron

relishing in life's surprises, delighting in food, travel, art

Wish I Were Here

Journeys Through Place and Time

Doron Art

A journey into my world of Painting

Taylor Revert

An anything-and-everything blog from life's number one fan

Random Facts in History

History is complex, massive, and full of strange events and coincidences. Learn with me as I hunt those out and bring them into the light.

Life with an Illness

Sharing my chronic illness journey, while helping others. I spread awareness, love, and positivity along the way!♡

The poor side of life

Exposing the unfair treatment of jobseekers, the horrors of Universal Credit, unfair sanctions and heinous treatment of claimants at Ashton under Lyne Jobcentre.

%d bloggers like this: