John Mills was born Lewis Ernest Watts Mills in North Elmham, Norfolk, England, in 1908. He was raised in Belton and Felixstowe, Suffolk. His father was a mathematics teacher and his mother a theatre box-office manager. His older sister was the children’s television entertainer/songwriter Annette Mills (1894-1955).
Mills first appeared on Broadway in 1961 and received a Tony Award nomination for his performance in Ross (1961-1962). He returned for the last time in 1987 with a starring role in a revival of Pygmalion.
His first film appearance, for Gaumont-British Pictures, was 1932.
Mills enlisted in the British Army in 1939 and was commissioned as a Second Lieutenant. He received a medical discharge in 1942 due to a persistent stomach ulcer. That same year, he appeared in four films, including In Which We Serve (1942).
He received his knighthood in 1976.
He married the actress Aileen Raymond (1910-2005) in 1927. They were divorced in 1941. He then married the playwright and actress Mary Hayley Bell (1911-2005) that same year. The couple raised three children who include the actresses Juliet Mills (1941-) and Hayley Mills (1946-).
Mills died from a chest infection in Denham, Buckinghamshire, England, in 2005. He was 97 years old.