Back to John Mills with another of his 1930s films, Forever England – one of his first lead roles. He plays a young sailor who ends up waging a lone war on a German vessel during the First World War, against almost impossible odds.This was an ideal role for the young Mills and helped to make him a star, although top billing went to vivacious British music hall and silent film actress Betty Balfour, once known as “Britain’s Queen of Happiness”. The film is available on DVD in the UK, included in the John Mills Centenary Collection II box set from ITV Studios.
Confusingly, this one film has gone by four different titles over the years.It’s adapted from a book by C.S. Forester, and on first release in the UK it took the novel’s title, Brown on Resolution. However, the US release went for a snappier title, Born for Glory – and when the film was re-released in the UK (I don’t know what year this was) it acquired a more memorable title here too, Forever England. For good measure, it was also reissued as Torpedo Raider in the US!
I’m intending to do a series of postings about John Mills’ British films on this blog – starting off with a look at a little-known musical. During his long and varied career, Mills was of course best-known for his amazing range of dramatic work. But early on he specialised in song-and-dance roles, both in stage shows – including Noël Coward’s Words and Music – and in musical film comedies such as Car of Dreams. This remake of a Hungarian film from the previous year is included in the John Mills Centenary Collection Volume 2 box set, a varied selection which showcases this actor’s versatility. The DVD print is of good quality. The film is also available in public domain versions at Youtube and Archive.org, but I don’t know what the quality is like.
Mills was actually second-billed behind German actress Grete Mosheim, seen here in her only English-language film role, after fleeing Hitler. Mosheim, who had Jewish ancestry, was an acclaimed star of Berlin theatre and had worked with Max Reinhardt. She speaks English OK here, although her accent becomes heavier when she sings. it seems a shame she didn’t make more films in Britain -. but she did go in front of the cameras again in Germany many years later.