Born: Reginald Truscott-Jones in Neath, Glamorganshire, Wales, 3 January 1907; as a child took the name of his stepfather, Mullane, and was known in early career as Jack Mullane, then Raymond Milland. Education: Attended King's College, Cardiff. Military Service: Served in the Household Cavalry, 1925–28. Family: Married Muriel Weber, 1932, son: Daniel David, daughter: Victoria Francesca. Career: Actor in several provincial repertory companies; 1929—film debut; 1934–53—contract with Paramount; 1944—entertained the troops in the South Pacific; 1953–54—in TV series Meet Mr. McNutley, later renamed The Ray Milland Show, 1954–55; 1954—contract with Republic as actor-director; then independent producer and sometime director; 1958—host of TV series Trails West; 1959–60—in TV series Markham, and in the mini-series Rich Man, Poor Man, 1976, and Seventh Avenue, 1977. Awards: Best Actor Academy Award, Best Actor, New York Film Critics, and Best Actor, Cannes Festival, for The Lost Weekend, 1945. Died: In Torrance, California, 10 March 1986.
Films as Actor:
(as Raymond Milland)
The Plaything (Knight) (as Ian); The Informer (Robinson); The Flying Scotsman (Knight) (as Jim Edwards); The Lady from the Sea (Knight) (as Tom Roberts)
Way for a Sailor (Wood) (as ship's officer); Passion Flower (William DeMille) (bit role)
The Bachelor Father (Leonard); Just a Gigolo (Conway) (as Freddie); Bought (Mayo) (as Charles Carter); Ambassador Bill (Taylor) (as Lothar); Blonde Crazy (Del Ruth) (as Joe Reynolds)
The Man Who Played God (Adolfi) (as Eddie); Polly of the Circus (Santell) (as a rich young man); Payment Deferred (Mendes) (as James Medland)
Orders Is Orders (Forde) (as Dashwood); This Is the Life (de Courville) (as Bob Travers)
Bolero (Ruggles) (as Lord Coray); We're Not Dressing (Taurog) (as Prince Michael Stofani); Many Happy Returns (McLeod) (as Ted Mabert); Charlie Chan in London (Forde) (as Neil Howard); Menace (Murphy) (as Freddie Bastion)
One Hour Late (Murphy) (as Tony St. John); The Gilded Lily (Ruggles) (as Charles Gray/Granville)
(as Ray Milland)
Four Hours to Kill (Leisen) (as Carl); The Glass Key (Tuttle) (as Taylor Henry); Alias Mary Dow (Neumann) (as Peter Marshall)
Next Time We Love (Edward Griffith) (as Tommy Abbott); The Return of Sophie Lang (Archainbaud) (as Jimmy Lawson); The Big Broadcast of 1937 (Leisen) (as Bob Miller); The Jungle Princess (Thiele) (as Christopher Powell); Three Smart Girls (Koster) (as Lord Michael Stuart)
Bulldog Drummond Escapes (Hogan) (title role); Wings over Honolulu (Potter) (as Lt. Stony Gilchrist); Easy Living (Leisen) (as John Ball, Jr.); Ebb Tide (Hogan) (as Robert Herrick); Wise Girl (Jason) (as John O'Halloran)
Her Jungle Love (Archainbaud) (as Bob Mitchell); Tropic Holiday (Reed) (as Ken Warren); Men with Wings (Wellman) (as Scott Barnes); Say It in French (Stone) (as Richard Carrington, Jr.)
French without Tears (Asquith) (as Alan Howard); Hotel Imperial (Florey) (as Lt. Nemassy); Beau Geste (Wellman) (as John Geste); Everything Happens at Night (Cummings) (as Geoff Thompson)
Irene (Wilcox) (as Don Marshall); The Doctor Takes a Wife (Hall) (as Dr. Timothy Sterling); Untamed (Archainbaud) (as William Crawford); Arise, My Love (Leisen) (as Tom Martin)
I Wanted Wings (Leisen) (as Jeff Young); Skylark (Sandrich) (as Tony Kenyon)
The Lady Has Plans (Lanfield) (as Kenneth Harper); Reap the Wild Wind (Cecil DeMille) (as Stephen Tolliver); Are Husbands Necessary? (Taurog) (as George Cugat); The Major and the Minor (Wilder) (as Major Kirby); Star Spangled Rhythm (Marshall) (as himself)
The Crystal Ball (Nugent) (as Brad Cavanaugh); Forever and a Day (Goulding and others) (as Bill Trimble)
The Uninvited (Allen) (as Roderick Fitzgerald); Lady in the Dark (Leisen) (as Charley Johnson); Till We Meet Again(Borzage) (as John); Ministry of Fear (Fritz Lang) (as Stephen Neale)
The Lost Weekend (Wilder) (as Don Birnam)
Kitty (Leisen) (as Sir Hugh Marcy); The Well-Groomed Bride (Lanfield) (as Lt. Briggs)
California (Farrow) (as Jonathan Trumbo); The Imperfect Lady (Allen) (as Clive Loring); The Trouble with Women (Lanfield) (as Professor Gilbert Sedley); Variety Girl (Marshall) (as himself); Golden Earrings (Leisen) (as Colonel Ralph Denistour)
The Big Clock (Farrow) (as George Stroud); So Evil My Love (Allen) (as Mark Bellis); Miss Tatlock's Millions (Haydn) (as himself); Sealed Verdict (Allen) (as Major Robert Lawson)
Alias Nick Beale (Farrow) (title role); It Happens Every Spring (Bacon) (as Vernon Simpson)
A Woman of Distinction (Buzzell) (as Alec Stevenson); A Life of Her Own (Cukor) (as Steve Harleigh); Copper Canyon (Farrow) (as Johnny Carter)
Circle of Danger (Tourneur) (as Clay Douglas, + co-pr); Night into Morning (Markle) (as Phillip Ainley); Close to My Heart (Keighley) (as Brad Sheridan)
Bugles in the Afternoon (Rowland) (as Kern Shafter); Something to Live For (Stevens) (as Alan Miller); The Thief (Rouse) (as Allan Fields)
Jamaica Rum (Foster) (as Patrick Fairlie); Let's Do It Again (Hall) (as Gary Stuart)
Dial M for Murder (Hitchcock) (as Tom Wendice)
The Girl in the Red Velvet Swing (Fleischer) (as Stanford White)
Three Brave Men (Dunne) (as Joe di Marco); The River's Edge (Dwan) (as Nardo Denning); High Flight (Gilling) (as Commander David Rudge)
Premature Burial (Corman) (as Guy Carrell)
The Man with the X-Ray Eyes (Corman) (title role)
The Confession (Quick, Let's Get Married. Seven Different Ways) (Dieterle) ( as Mario Farni)
Rose rosse per il Fuhrer (Red Roses for the Führer) (Di Leo)
Daughter of the Mind (Grauman—for TV) (as Professor Constable); Company of Killers (Thorpe) (as George DeSalles); Love Story (Hiller) (as Oliver Barrett III)
River of Gold (Friedkin—for TV) (as Evelyn Rose); Black Noon (Kowalski—for TV)
The Big Game (Day); Frogs (McCowan) (as Jason Crockett); The Thing with Two Heads (Frost) (as Dr. Maxwell Kirshner); Embassy (Hessler) (as the Ambassador)
The House in Nightmare Park (Crazy House) (Sykes) (as Stewart Henderson); Terror in the Wax Museum (Fenaday) (as Henry Flexner)
Gold (Hunt) (as Hurry Hirschfield)
The Dead Don't Die (Harrington—for TV) (as Jim Moss); Escape to Witch Mountain (Hough) (as Aristotle Bolt); Ellery Queen (Too Many Suspects) (Greene—for TV)
Aces High (Gold); Look What's Happened to Rosemary's Baby (Rosemary's Baby II) (O'Steen—for TV); The Last Tycoon (Kazan); Mayday at 40,000 Feet (Butler—for TV)
Slavers (Goslar); Blackout (Matalon) (as Mr. Stafford); Survival Run (Spiegel); The Swiss Conspiracy (Arnold); The Uncanny (Heroux) (as Frank Richards)
La ragazza in Pigiamo Giallo (The Girl in the Yellow Pajamas) (Mogherini); Cruise into Terror (Kessler—for TV); Oliver's Story (Korty) (as Oliver Barrett III); Battlestar Galactica (Colla)
The Darker Side of Terror (Trikonis—for TV); Cave In! (Fenaday); Game for Vultures (Fargo)
The Attic (Edwards)
The Royal Romance of Charles and Diana (Levin—for TV)
Films as Director:
A Man Alone (+ ro as Wes Steele)
Lisbon (+ pr, ro as Captain Robert John Evans)
The Safecracker (+ ro as Colley Dawson)
Panic in Year Zero (+ ro as Harry Baldwin)
Hostile Witness (+ ro as Simon Crawford)
By MILLAND: book—
Wide-Eyed in Babylon (autobiography), London, 1974.
By MILLAND: article—
"Glamour and Catastrophe: Ray Milland, Irwin Allen Interviewed," by Gordon Gow in Films and Filming (London), September 1975.
On MILLAND: book—
Parish, James Robert, and Don E. Stanke, The Debonairs, New Rochelle, New York, 1975.
On MILLAND: articles—
Current Biography 1946, New York, 1946.
Obituary, in New York Times, 11 March 1986.
Obituary, in Variety (New York), 12 March 1986.
Decaux, E., "Ray Milland," in Cinématographe (Paris), April 1986.
Film Dope (Nottingham), January 1990.
Harmetz, Aljean, "Ray Milland," in Architectural Digest (Los Angeles), April 1996.
* * *
Ray Milland had made over 60 feature films by the time he won an Oscar for his role as an alcoholic in Billy Wilder's The Lost Weekend. The surprise shown by the critical establishment at Milland's proficiency in the role suggests that nothing much had ever been expected of him. It is now clear, however, that The Lost Weekend simply reveals a more obvious aspect of Milland's style; he had already built an impressive body of work and was to go on to deliver performances of increasing depth, vitality, variety, and originality.
Milland first appeared in films in 1929 and his easy charm and smooth good looks proved appropriate to many sorts of roles. He regularly turned in competent, sometimes excellent performances in comedies (Easy Living), musicals (Three Smart Girls), adventures (Beau Geste), and exotic romances (The Jungle Princess and its Technicolor remake Her Jungle Love, both with Dorothy Lamour). Milland signed a contract with Paramount in 1934 and the studio kept him continually busy; the actor averaged five features per year throughout the 1930s. He worked with most of Paramount's top directors—Taurog, Ruggles, Tuttle, Wellman, Florey, Sandrich, Borzage—but the two who would make the films most representative of Milland's styles were Mitchell Leisen and John Farrow.
Not only did Milland work often with the two directors (six features with Leisen, four with Farrow), his stylistic development can be seen clearest when his roles for them are compared. The quintessential Milland performances of the "leading man" variety are contained in Leisen's delightful Easy Living and Kitty. The darker, more sinister side of his personality first came to the fore in Farrow's Alias Nick Beal, a film in which Milland plays the Devil himself. It was, undoubtedly, The Lost Weekend that first suggested the less savory aspects of Milland's character, but it was Farrow who developed and nurtured the duality of a suave, handsome gentleman who contains within himself the suggestion of blackest evil. In Farrow's Westerns California and Copper Canyon, Milland portrays an ostensible hero, but with the suggestion of a cruel and violent past; in The Big Clock, he essays the role of an "innocent" man in the intriguing position of trying to track himself down in a murder investigation.
There had been, throughout his career, a certain element of smugness behind the Milland smile, though earlier it was generally used for comedic effect. As Milland grew older and his value as a romantic lead began to wane, the more sinister aspects of this self-assuredness became more evident. Once this rich vein had been tapped by Farrow, Wilder, and Lang (in the excellent Ministry of Fear), other directors turned to Milland for parts that demanded this sort of coloring: Hitchcock's Dial M for Murder, Rouse's The Thief, and Fleischer's The Girl in the Red Velvet Swing each exploited the murderous glint in Milland's eloquent eyes.
In 1955 Milland directed his first film, A Man Alone (in which he also starred) and proved that his increasingly original and iconoclastic style was a personal creation, not simply the result of eccentric interpretations of routine scripts. The five films he signed as director show the influence of personalities as diverse as Farrow, Russell Rouse and (particularly in his handling of Panic in Year Zero) Roger Corman, but all five are ultimately highly personal, subversive expressions of his unique vision. Panic in Year Zero and The Safecracker are marvelously tense, moody and imaginative; Hostile Witness and Lisbon are not as accomplished but are similarly intriguing.
Between directing stints Milland continued to take whatever acting jobs came his way. Two Corman quickies—The Premature Burial and The Man with the X-Ray Eyes—are fascinating, the latter providing Milland with the wittiest, most energetic role of his later career, but he appeared in a cavalcade of terrible films. One of the worst, the inexplicably popular Love Story, temporarily found a wide audience for Milland. One of the best of a bad lot is the surprisingly entertaining Frogs.
Hollywood never quite knew what it had in Ray Milland, but he continuously showed himself to be an adventurous artist, always interested in exposing his established image to radical and surprising lights.