Legendary actor SIR John Mills has died following a battle with a chest infection. He was 97.

The British star of over 100 films passed away at his Buckinghamshire, England, home yesterday (23APR05) after falling ill several weeks ago.

His demise has prompted some of the UK's biggest names to speak out in tribute to the actor, who won an OSCAR in 1971 for his role in RYAN'S DAUGHTER.

Devastated director LORD RICHARD ATTENBOROUGH says, "He was unequalled as a world (and) British movie star."

UK Prime Minister Tony Blair describes Mills as "a great actor, a true gentleman and a loyal friend; someone who made us proud to be British", while Queen Elizabeth II was "sorry" to hear of his death.

A funeral service for the screen star has been arranged for family and friends at St Mary's Church in his home town of Denham on Wednesday (27APR05).

Mills is survived by his wife MARY HAYLEY-BELL - now LADY MILLS - son JONATHAN and actress daughters JULIETTE and HAYLEY.

In recent years, wheelchair-bound Lady Mills has been suffering with Alzheimer's Disease, but her famous husband never doubted they'd be reunited in full health in the afterlife.

He said, "The body dies but the spirit goes on. Of that I'm certain. One day Mary and I will leave this world, but we'll be reunited in the next."

Despite his own failing health, Mills refused to retire - because he couldn't bear to never experience the buzz of acting again.

He said, "When I get out there, coming across the footlights, it's something that I can hardly explain... such warmth greets me and I feel terrific, it's just wonderful."

Mills is best known for his roles in films including Great Expectations in 1946 and 1956's WAR AND PEACE.

24/04/2005 10:50