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Ray Milland Poster

Biography

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Overview (4)

Date of Birth 3 January 1905Neath, Glamorgan, Wales, UK
Date of Death 10 March 1986Torrance, California, USA  (lung cancer)
Birth NameReginald Alfred John Truscott-Jones
Height 6' 1" (1.85 m)

Mini Bio (1)

Ray Milland became one of Paramount's most bankable and durable stars, under contract from 1934 to 1948, yet little in his early life suggested a career as a motion picture actor. Born in the Welsh town of Neath, Glamorgan, in 1905, he spent his youth in the pursuit of sports. He became an expert rider early on, working at his uncle's horse-breeding estate while studying at the King's College in Cardiff. At 21, he went to London as a member of the elite Household Cavalry (Guard for the Royal Family), undergoing a rigorous 19-months training, further honing his equestrian skills, as well as becoming adept at fencing, boxing and shooting. He won trophies, including the Bisley Match, with his unit's crack rifle team. However, after four years, he suddenly lost his means of financial support (independent income being a requirement as a Guardsman) when his stepfather discontinued his allowance. Broke, he tried his hand at acting in small parts on the London stage.

There are several stories as to how he derived his stage name. It is known, that during his teens he called himself "Mullane", using his stepfather's surname. He may later have suffused "Mullane" with "mill-lands", an area near his hometown. When he first appeared on screen in British films, he was billed first as Spike Milland, then Raymond Milland.

In 1929, Ray befriended the popular actress Estelle Brody at a party and, later that year, visited her on the set of her latest film, The Plaything (1929). While having lunch, they were joined by a producer who persuaded the handsome Welshman to appear in a motion picture bit part. Ray rose to the challenge and bigger roles followed, including the male lead in The Lady from the Sea (1929). The following year, he was signed by MGM and went to Hollywood, but was given little to work with, except for the role of Charles Laughton's ill-fated nephew in Payment Deferred (1932). After a year, Ray was out of his contract and returned to England.

His big break did not come until 1934 when he joined Paramount, where he was to remain for the better part of his Hollywood career. During the first few years, he served an apprenticeship playing second leads, usually as the debonair man-about-town, in light romantic comedies. He appeared with Burns and Allen in Many Happy Returns (1934), enjoyed third-billing as a British aristocrat in the Claudette Colbert farce The Gilded Lily (1935) and was described as "excellent" by reviewers for his role in the sentimental drama Alias Mary Dow (1935). By 1936, he had graduated to starring roles, first as the injured British hunter rescued on a tropical island by The Jungle Princess (1936), the film which launched Dorothy Lamour's sarong-clad career. After that, he was the titular hero of Bulldog Drummond Escapes (1937) and, finally, won the girl (rather than being the "other man") in Mitchell Leisen's screwball comedy Easy Living (1937) (both 1937). He also re-visited the tropics in Ebb Tide (1937) (both 1937), Her Jungle Love (1938) and Tropic Holiday (1938) (both 1938), as well as being one of the three valiant brothers of Beau Geste (1939).

In 1940, Ray was sent back to England to star in the screen adaptation of Terence Rattigan's French Without Tears (1940), for which he received his best critical reviews to date. He was top-billed (above John Wayne) running a ship salvage operation in Cecil B. DeMille's lavish Technicolor adventure drama Reap the Wild Wind (1942), besting Wayne in a fight - much to the "Duke's" personal chagrin - and later wrestling with a giant octopus. Also that year, he was directed by Billy Wilder in a charming comedy, The Major and the Minor (1942) (co-starred with Ginger Rogers), for which he garnered good notices from Bosley Crowther of the New York Times. Ray then played a ghost hunter in The Uninvited (1944), and the suave hero caught in a web of espionage in Fritz Lang's thriller Ministry of Fear (1944) (both 1944).

On the strength of his previous role as "Major Kirby", Billy Wilder chose to cast Ray against type in the ground-breaking drama The Lost Weekend (1945) as dipsomaniac writer "Don Birnam". Ray gave the defining performance of his career, his intensity catching critics, used to him as a lightweight leading man, by surprise. Crowther commented "Mr. Milland, in a splendid performance, catches all the ugly nature of a 'drunk', yet reveals the inner torment and degradation of a respectable man who knows his weakness and his shame" (New York Times, December 3, 1945). Arrived at the high point of his career, Ray Milland won the Oscar for Best Actor, as well as the New York Critic's Award. Rarely given such good material again, he nonetheless featured memorably in many more splendid films, often exploiting the newly discovered "darker side" of his personality: as the reporter framed for murder by Charles Laughton's heinous publishing magnate in The Big Clock (1948); as the sophisticated, manipulating art thief "Mark Bellis" in the Victorian melodrama So Evil My Love (1948) (for which producer Hal B. Wallis sent him back to England); as a Fedora-wearing, Armani-suited "Lucifer", trawling for the soul of an honest District Attorney in Alias Nick Beal (1949); and as a traitorous scientist in The Thief (1952), giving what critics described as a "sensitive" and "towering" performance. In 1954, Ray played calculating ex-tennis champ "Tony Wendice", who blackmails a former Cambridge chump into murdering his wife, in Alfred Hitchcock's Dial M for Murder (1954). He played the part with urbane sophistication and cold detachment throughout, even in the scene of denouement, calmly offering a drink to the arresting officers.

With Lisbon (1956) in 1956, Ray Milland moved into another direction, turning out several off-beat, low-budget films with himself as the lead, notably The Safecracker (1958) and Panic in Year Zero! (1962). At the same time, he cheerfully made the transition to character parts, often in horror and sci-fi outings. In accordance with his own dictum of appearing in anything that had "any originality", he worked on two notable pictures with Roger Corman: first, as a man obsessed with catalepsy in Premature Burial (1962); secondly, as obsessed self-destructive surgeon "Dr. Xavier" in X: The Man with the X-Ray Eyes (1963)-the Man with X-Ray Eyes, a film which, despite its low budget, won the 1963 Golden Asteroid in the Trieste Festival for Science Fiction.

As the years went on, Ray gradually disposed of his long-standing toupee, lending dignity through his presence to many run-of-the-mill television films, such as Cave In! (1983) and maudlin melodramas like Love Story (1970). He guest-starred in many anthology series on television and had notable roles in Rod Serling's Rod Serling's Night Gallery (1969) and the original Battlestar Galactica (1978) (as Quorum member Sire Uri). He also enjoyed a brief run on Broadway, starring as "Simon Crawford" in "Hostile Witness" (1966), at the Music Box Theatre.

In his private life, Ray was an enthusiastic yachtsman, who loved fishing and collecting information by reading the Encyclopedia Brittanica. In later years, he became very popular with interviewers because of his candid spontaneity and humour. In the same self-deprecating vein he wrote an anecdotal biography, "Wide-Eyed in Babylon", in 1976. A film star, as well as an outstanding actor, Ray Milland died of cancer at the age of 81 in March 1986.

- IMDb Mini Biography By: I.S.Mowis

Spouse (1)

Muriel Frances Weber (30 September 1932 - 10 March 1986) (his death) (2 children)

Trivia (23)

When working on I Wanted Wings (1941), with Brian Donlevy and William Holden, he went up with a pilot to test a plane for filming. While up in the air, Ray decided to do a parachute jump (being an avid amateur parachutist) but, just before he could disembark, the plane began to sputter and the pilot said not to jump as they were running low on gas and he needed to land. Well, once on the ground and in the hangar, Ray began to tell his story of how he'd wanted to do a jump. As he told the story, the color ran out of the costume man's face. When asked why, he told Ray that the parachute he'd worn up in the plane was "just a prop". There had been no parachute!.
Ray Milland got his stage name from a riverside street called Milland Road in Neath, where he resided prior to becoming an actor.
During the filming of Reap the Wild Wind (1942), Milland's character was to have "curly" hair. Milland's hair was naturally straight, so the studio used hot curling irons on his hair to achieve the effect. Milland felt that it was this procedure that caused him to go prematurely bald forcing him to go from leading man to supporting player earlier than he would have wished.
Father of Dan Milland and adoptive father of Victoria Milland.
Has a tattoo on his upper right arm of a skull with a snake curled up on top of it with the tail of the snake sticking out through one of the eyes. The tattoo can be seen for a brief moment in the movie Her Jungle Love (1938).
Had a near-fatal accident on the set of Hotel Imperial (1939). One scene called for him to lead a cavalry charge through a small village. An accomplished horseman, Milland insisted upon doing this scene himself. As he was making a scripted jump on the horse, his saddle came loose, sending him flying straight into a pile of broken masonary. Laid up in the hospital for weeks with multiple fractures and lacerations, he was lucky to be alive.
Was the first choice for the Don Ameche role in Trading Places (1983).
He is the only winner of the Best Actor Oscar (for The Lost Weekend (1945)) to have uttered not a single word during his acceptance speech opting, instead, to simply bow his appreciation before casually exiting the stage.
First performer to win an award at the Cannes Film Festival and an Oscar for the same role (for The Lost Weekend (1945)).
Only got the lead role in The Lost Weekend (1945)) because Paramount vetoed writer-director Billy Wilder's first choice for the role, Broadway actor José Ferrer. Hedging its bets, Paramount demanded the casting of a star to headline the risky production, but Cary Grant and most of the other leading male stars of the day turned Wilder down. Milland got the role by default and won an Oscar.
Biography in: "The Scribner Encyclopedia of American Lives". Volume Two, 1986-1990, pages 628-629. New York: Charles Scribner's Sons, 1999.
The first Welsh actor to receive an Academy Award. After he died rumors spread that his Oscar had been lost. A Welsh newspaper interviewed his daughter Vicki, and when asked about this missing Oscar, she told them, "It's downstairs in our guest room." One of Milland's two grandsons, Travis, now had his Oscar.
As of 2011 is one of three actors who have won Best Actor at the Oscars and at the Cannes Film Festival for the same performance. The others are Jon Voight in Coming Home (1978) and William Hurt in Kiss of the Spider Woman (1985).
Until the age of five, spoke only Welsh.
Once, while on a visit to Tijuana, the FBI accused him (falsely) of meeting with a suspected Nazi agent.
Spoke fluent Spanish.
An expert marksman, he won several prestigious English shooting competitions, among them the Risley Match.

He almost certainly won the Army Operational Shooting Competition, held at Bisley Camp. There is a shooting club in Risley, but the AOSC is the main shooting competition in the UK.
At the age of 15, while working on a tramp steamer, he got a snake tattoo on his arm (much to the horror of his mother.) Later, he said getting the tattoo was one of his biggest regrets.
At the age of 18, Milland enlisted in the Household Guards for 4 years active duty and 8 years' reserve. As part of his training, he became skilled in fencing, boxing, horsemanship and marksmanship.
A licensed pilot, he tried to enlist in the U.S. Army Air Forces during World War II, but was rejected due to an "impaired left hand." Instead he worked as a civilian flight instructor for the Army and also toured with the USO in the South Pacific.
Had a terrible accident during the filming of Hotel Imperial (1939), when, taking his horse over a jump, the saddle-girth broke and he landed head-first on a pile of bricks. His most serious injuries were a concussion that left him unconscious for 24 hours, a 3-inch gash in his skull that took 9 stitches to close, and numerous fractures and lacerations on his left hand.
He was paired romantically with actress Paulette Goddard in four films, including the blockbusters Reap the Wild Wind (1942) and Kitty (1945). In his autobiography, he wrote that Goddard was "wise, humorous, and with absolutely no illusions." He further claimed that she was the hardest working actress that he had ever worked with.
Was a staunch conservative Republican.

Personal Quotes (15)

The greatest drawback in making pictures is the fact that film makers have to eat.
[on Louella Parsons] "She never forgot a thing and, by the same token, never forgave anyone who crossed her. But she was never vicious.
[on Hedda Hopper] She was venomous, vicious, a pathological liar, and quite stupid.
The Celtic mind in its lonely moments is a tumbling sea of love and compassion and romanticism and neurotic hates.
[when asked why he had appeared in so many bad films late in his career] For the money, old chap, for the money!
Ronald Reagan and George Murphy are very, very good men. They're really patriots. The word is overdone, but in their case it really applies.
Now the stars walk around in supermarkets dressed in blue jeans. It's depressing. I really think the fault lies with that "Method" school of acting in New York. They want to be real natural, you know, real folk. Well, God, every street corner you go around has real folks. Yo don't look for that in world stars. The entertainment business is a fantasy world. I don't think any female star should be seen doing the laundry. Hollywood was built on glamour, and they'd better get it back as soon as they can.
I keep playing neurotics because I'm a Welshman, and so I'm supposed to be moody. That's what people keep telling me I am, anyway. But I don't think Welshmen are any more moody than normal. It's the rest of the world that's out of step.
I go to the cinema to be entertained, not depressed.
My only desire politically is to shoot a few of the politicians. I'm not saying who. But I'm not tempted to become one myself, I couldn't stand dragging my family through all that muck.
[on how he came to attend the 1946 Oscar ceremonies] On the day it dawned I knew I couldn't face it and made up my mind not to attend. At breakfast I hesitantly told Mal [his wife] of my decision. She slowly put down her fork and just examined me. I didn't know where to look. Then she said, "I know that you're erratic, volatile, and the possessor of a foul temper. But I never thought you were a coward!" Then with a look as cold as a Canadian nun, she said, "You'll go the that ceremony tonight if we have to put you in a straitjacket".
[After doing Arise, My Love (1940)] I called up my wife long distance and said, "Mal honey, when this picture comes out I'm finished. Sell everything we've got and we'll try to start a new life somewhere else". Then it came out and was an enormous hit which really boosted my career
  • that shows you how much I knew in those days.

[Of Paulette Goddard] She is the most honest actress I ever knew.
[on Ronald Reagan] I attended a meeting of the full membership of the Screen Actors Guild held in the Hollywood Legion Stadium, and up in the ring presiding over it was the best president the Guild ever had, Ronald Reagan, now Governor of California. He had a tough job directing the traffic that night, what with calls to the barricades by a lot of coffeehouse characters, wailing about the violence outside studio gates. Hell, the only violent activity I ever saw outside a studio gate was over at Republic one morning when Vera Ralston lost her skate key.
My philosophy is do what you can with what you've got. I know actors from my generation who cry 'Why don't they send me any scripts?' I tell them, 'Because you still think of yourself as a leading man. You're 68, not 38. Face it.'

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