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 )

Twitter picture

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

Facebook photo

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

Google+ photo

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

Connecting to %s

Shalden & Neatham sister site to the Reluctant Janeite

Jane Austen, her letters & other literary digressions

stewilko's Blog

A place for my thoughts

Her Diffident Way

The only way I know

WordsVisual

Mostly photographs with some words by this arty scientist...

thedullwoodexperiment

Viewing movies in a different light

Mandy Bangerter

Textile Artist and Teacher

artbymandy

Smile! You’re at the best WordPress.com site ever

Boho.Blog

Bohemian Stuff

juniordoctorblog.com

pulseless electrical activity.

The Observation Post

mistermuse, half-poet and half-wit

Wild Star Landing

Poetry, Facts, Fiction, Inspired by Travel, Art, Science, Nature & Philosophy

Turtle Bunbury

Historian * Author * Presenter * Speaker * Guide

Fierce Writing

Not so much Rage Against the Machine as Slightly Peeved the Taps Won't Work

Victorian Footnotes

Bringing back the forgotten

Etan Smallman

Freelance journalist

Michael Ehrhardt

Permanenter Ausstellungsraum

jessicanorrie

Writing about writing; words about the world

It's all in the Past!

Writing about current events from a historical perspective.

Mrinalini Raj

I LEAVE YOUR ROAD TO WALK ON MY GRASS.

History Quirks

The Casual Past

vintageinkstand

Words and images from the past

janiceduke.wordpress.com/

The adventures of Janice Duke and her Magical Travelling Paint Box

Caz Greenham...Storyteller...Author...

Creator and Author of The Adventures of Eric Seagull 'Storyteller' series

Movies From The Silent Era

A repository for movies from the silent era

Art Universal

Art as a Sensory

Henry Brooke

Musings, Memories and Miscellanea

Matthew Toffolo's Summary

Daily summary of the life/movie world.

When Angels Fly

Author site of S. Jackson & A. Raymond

off the leash

History, technology, books and baseball.

FLOW ART STATION

THE CONTEMPORARY ART MAGAZINE

Writer Site

Memoir, poetry, & writing theory

hungryfaces

faces gourmet world of fashion, design and art

From guestwriters

Lifestyle magazine and Readers Digest

The Vintage Toy Advertiser

Suffering ink-stained fingers and occasional staple wounds to bring you wonderful images of late 20th century advertising and paperworks

Sauce Box

Never get lost in the Sauce

scribblesofstageandscreen

Theatre, Film and TV.

Smart History Blog

Compelling Stories of Russian History

Newcastle Photography

Photography Blog by Chris Egon Searle

Brave and Reckless

Reclaiming my inner badass at 50

Gretchen Del Rio's Art Blog

Watercolor paintings

Today in History

"Tell me a fact, and I'll learn. Tell me a truth, and I'll believe. But tell me a story, and it will live in my heart forever." - Steve Sabol, NFL Films

The Architect & I

The Nazis assigned him a number but I wanted the world to know his name.

Basic Archaeology

Archaeology News, Interesting Facts and More

Travalanche

Being a web log for the observations of actor, author, cartoonist, comedian, critic, director, humorist, journalist, master of ceremonies, performance artist, playwright, producer, publicist, public speaker, songwriter, and variety booker Trav S.D.

%d bloggers like this: