Hayley Mills Celebrates 60 Years Since Her Screen Debut

22nd October 2019

60 years ago Hayley Mills captivated audiences, with her debut, a mesmerising performance in the starring role as tomboy Gillie Evans in the film Tiger Bay, and she has continued to thrill audiences on stage and screen.  She is as beguiling now as she was then.

Born in Marylebone London, the daughter of legendary actor Sir John Mills and novelist playwright Mary Hayley Bell, she began her acting career while still a child.  Hayley was discovered at age 12 by Director J. Lee Thompson, leading to her brilliant life-changing performance in the crime drama film Tiger Bay, winning the BAFTA for Most Promising Newcomer in 1959.  Playing alongside Sir John Mills and actor Horst Bucholz, it was a defining film, shot in Cardiff docklands, and the start of an illustrious career, in film, television, and theatre.  As a result of Tiger Bay, Disney signed her to a 5- year contract and filmed Pollyanna in 1960, earning her the Juvenile Academy Award.  In 1961 she was the most popular star at the UK box office.

Hayley Mills successfully made the transition into mature roles, acting with established stars, including Rosalind Russell, Hywel Bennett and Oliver Reed.  After a few years out of the profession, she returned to acting, with a starring role in the UK television mini-series The Flame Trees of Thika.  Following her success with Disney as a child, she returned to work for them and in 1998 received the Disney Legends award. 

Her stage debut was in 1996 in the West End revival of Peter Pan, and in 2000 made her off-Broadway debut in Sir Noël Coward’s Suite in Two Keys, opposite American actress Judith Ivey, for which she won a Theatre World Award.  Hayley Mills stage career has continued and in 2015 with her younger sister Juliet Mills, toured Australia in the comedy Legends.

In  1966, while filming The Family Way, she began a relationship with  Director Roy Boulting, who she married in 1971.  They lived in London's Chelsea, before moving to Ibstone in Buckinghamshire. and had a son Crispian Mills.  Hayley had a second son, Jason Lawson, with the actor Leigh Lawson.  Her present partner, since 1997, is Firdous Bamji.

Developing breast cancer in 2008, she underwent surgery, but opted to abandon chemotherapy due to the severe side effects, choosing alternative treatments, and made a full recovery.

Among the charities she supports is Acting For Others, which provides financial support to those in the theatre industry, who have fallen on hard times.

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