Bell, Mary Hayley 1911(?)–2005

views updated

Bell, Mary Hayley 1911(?)–2005

OBITUARY NOTICE—See index for CA sketch: Born January 22, 1911 (one source says 1914), in Shanghai, China; died December 1, 2005. Actress and author. Bell, who was married to actor and director John Mills and was the mother of actress Hayley Mills, was known in the 1940s for her plays. She later turned to novels, including Whistle down the Wind (1958), which was later adapted as a successful film. The daughter of a British army colonel, Bell spent her first years in China but was later sent to England to complete her education at the Malvern Girls' College. She then studied acting at the Royal Academy of Dramatic Art. Bell began acting professionally in the early 1930s, first appearing in a 1932 production of The Barretts of Wimpole Street in China. She would also appear in other roles on London's West End, in New York City, and in Australia. After marrying Mills in 1941, however, Bell switched from acting to writing. She found great success with her first plays, Men in Shadow (1942) and Duet for Two Hands (1945). Unfortunately, Bell had little luck thereafter; she completed twelve plays that were never produced, and 1953's The Uninvited Guest was critically panned. She therefore turned to writing novels, with Whistle down the Wind being her best known. It was turned into a 1961 film, and in 1998 was adapted by Andrew Lloyd Webber as a musical. She also wrote a screenplay, Sky West and Crooked (1966), that did not do well at the box office. Despite some early success, Bell found her later works were not as well accepted, and she focused increasingly on her private life with her husband. She was also the author of two books about their family dog: Far Morning (1962) and Him, Her & Me (1981), as well as of the autobiography What Shall We Do Tomorrow? (1968), which was also published as What Shall We Do Tomorrow?: The Story of My Families (1969).



Bell, Mary Hayley, What Shall We Do Tomorrow?: An Autobiography, Cassell (London, England), 1968.


Guardian (London, England), December 5, 2005, p. 30.

Independent (London, England), December 5, 2005, p. 36.

Times (London, England), December 3, 2005, p. 75.