Introduction: Acting English

Gill Plain

in John Mills and British Cinema

Published by Edinburgh University Press

Published in print March 2006 | ISBN: 9780748621071
Published online March 2012 | e-ISBN: 9780748651092 | DOI:
Introduction: Acting English

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Described by the Sunday Mirror as ‘the actor who portrayed the British as they would most like to see themselves’, John Mills's representation of the national character embraced a catalogue of virtues now perceived to be lost. Evident in the response to his death is a desire to reactivate this lost national self, and to celebrate once again an ‘unproblematic’ concept of nationhood. The blurring of the boundary between English and British draws attention to a problem that underlies any attempt to discuss national character and identity in Britain. Although Mills both is, and is acting, ‘English’, he does so as part of a British film industry – a nationwide creative and economic enterprise comprising personnel from throughout the British Isles. This book examines the screen construction of a complex and inconsistent Englishness, an Englishness which is at times just that, and at times representative of a wider British or imperial identity. It discusses the work of the actor within the film text, and considers nation and masculinity by focusing on performance.

Keywords: John Mills; film industry; Britain; nationhood; identity; masculinity; Englishness; national character; virtues

Chapter.  11072 words. 

Subjects: Film

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