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Biography

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Overview (2)

Born in Tacoma, Washington, USA
Died in Arcadia, California, USA  (complications of pneumonia)

Mini Bio (1)

Shirley Olivia Mills was born in Tacoma, Washington in 1926 and moved to southern California while still a child.

She became the star of an independent movie which achieved great fame titled Child Bride (1938)when she was 12 years old which she describes in detail on her "official" website on a separate page devoted to memories of that movie along with still photos of it. Other pages on the site are devoted to The Grapes Of Wrath (1940) and also Nine Girls (1944), additional movies where she was a movie actress in featured roles.

Mills had extensive training in performing arts prior to her first movie star appearance in 1938, and those skills figured importantly in her success, which included great discipline and professionalism from a very young age in areas of dancing, declamation, recitation, and public speaking.

She became an accomplished dancer, and appeared in World War II era movies with the "Jivin' Jacks And Jills" dance group in seven movies as a "Jivin Jill" dancer. She worked with then very young Donald O'Connor who emerged as a teen dance star in the early 1940s in "B" dance movies.

Mills appeared in major Hollywood studio movies through the 1940s and into the 1950s, during which decade she also appeared on major network television programs.

She appeared and acted with major Hollywood actors including Henry Fonda, Errol Flynn, Shirley Temple, Donald O'Connor, and the Andrews Sisters.

She appeared in movies directed by major Hollywood studio directors including John Ford (who won the Best Director Academy Award for The Grapes Of Wrath in which Shirley Mills appeared as "Ruthie Joad"), Michael Curtiz, Alfred Hitchcock, George Cuckor, Alan Dwan, Charles Burton, Andre De Toth, George Marshall, William Castle, and Joseph Kane.

In addition to her career as a movie child and teen star, Mills also worked as a professional dancer, photo and advertising model for Coca-Cola, Russell Stover Candies, and many other companies. She appeared on magazine covers often during the 1940s, and went on to work as a night club performer, stage personality, and as a marketing and public relations sales specialist for computer data processing services in the early 1960s. She was one of the earliest women who became prominent in the computer data processing field.

Later, she became an independent business woman and started a Bel Air, California based company specializing in party and social event planning called "A Party For All Seasons." She achieved prominence as a specialist in Jewish weddings (even though she was not born Jewish).

She cared for her aged parents into their old age. Her father died in 1976 after suffering several strokes, and her mother died in 1979 after suffering from kidney failure problems.

In 1977, she married retired clergyman Mel Hanson, and lived with him on a cattle ranch in Southern California. She also owned an alfalfa ranch in Northern California which she later sold. Her husband died in a tragic automobile accident 18 years after they were married.

During her retirement years, she often appeared at movie nostalgia and memorabilia conventions. A photo on her website shows her in 2005 (she was 79 that year) with Darryl Hickman, the child actor who appeared as her screen brother in The Grapes Of Wrath (1940).

In 2005, a 13 minute documentary was made featuring Mills interviewed and her recollections of her actor work in 1940 on The Grapes Of Wrath.

In 2009, her website reported that she had become bedridden, and due to bad health, no longer made public appearances. She was 83 years old in 2009.

- IMDb Mini Biography By: Tex Allen, Retired SAG Movie Actor, TexAllen@Rocketmail.Com

Spouse (1)

Mel Hanson (1977 - 1995) (his death)

Trivia (4)

Launched her own wedding planning company, A Party for All Seasons.
She had not seen the completed version of Child Bride (1938) until the 1980s when a relative gave her a videocassette of it.
Although off the screen for several years, Shirley Mills came out of retirement to assist with the choreography and play a small uncredited role as a dancer in Twist Around the Clock (1961).
With her death on March 31, 2010, Darryl Hickman became the last surviving cast member of The Grapes of Wrath (1940).

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