Thursday, 29 July 2010

Ray Milland

Ray Milland (1907-1986) was born Alfred Reginald Jones, in Glamorgan, Wales. After a youth which included summer work on a tramp ship steamer during which he acquired tattoos (including a snake emerging from a skull on his upper arm), he entered the Household Cavalry but bought himself out and started in British films in 1929, taking the stage name Spike Milland from the millpools where he had played as a boy. He also undertook stage work and made his first Hollywood film 'Son of India' in 1931, marrying Malvina Weber in the same year (a marrige ended by his death). 'Bolero' in 1933 marked the beginning of a twenty one year association with Paramount Studios, resulting in films such as 'Arise My Love'; 'Reap The Wild Wind'; 'The Major and The Minor' and 'Ministry of Fear'. During the Second Wolrd War he was a flight instructor with the US Army.

His greatest film was, undoubtedly, Billy Wilder's 'The Lost Weekend' (playing a talented writer lost in alcohol), for which he received an Academy Award for best actor; although nearly as memorable is his performance as the murderous husband in Hitchcock's 'Dial M For Murder'. Later, he played roles as an elder statesman figure, notably Ryan O'Neal's father in 'Love Story' and the sequel, 'Oliver's Story'. A consummate actor, albeit with a comparativley narrow range, he is often overlooked in favour of Cary Grant whose acting talent was restricted, (as he said) to "one part...playing myself. But I play it to perfection." Ray Milland was a better actor than that and held the stage as well as CG. I think it a shame that his films are not aired more often. Milland also wrote short stories and enjoyed shooting. He and his family eschewed the glamour of Hollywood society in favour of a quiet home life, which might account for his relatively low profile twenty five years after his death.

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