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  1. #1
    Senior Member Country: UK Windthrop's Avatar
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    Never prolific actor, but a true hedonist

    Hugh Millais

    Hugh Millais, who has died aged 79, wafted genially through life � sailing around the Caribbean in his own yacht as a calypso singer; starting an ambitious house building scheme in Spain; and appearing in two of Robert Altman's films � without ever having to suffer the indignity of full-time employment.

    Quite whether these adventures occurred exactly as Millais recounted them was largely unimportant. Those who had never met him could not believe such a character existed; even close acquaintances were sometimes tempted to rub their eyes. A 6ft 6in tall hedonist with an eye for the ladies, he was kindly, selfish and ready to take off to the far ends of earth in a moment.

    He counted many of the rich and the famous as friends but dedicated most of his energies in old age to cooking � as The Name-Dropper's Cookbook (2007), a collection of memories and recipes, attested. If his affairs were suffering a reverse he was always happy to pay for his supper by settling down afterwards with his guitar to sing for it, spinning verses about those who sat around the table.

    Even his father, the equestrian painter Raoul Millais, would shake his head and say: "I don't know what poor Hughie does. He cannot� even draw a salary."

    The great-grandson of the Pre-Raphaelite painter Sir John Everett Millais, Bt, Hugh Geoffroy Millais was born on December 23 1929. Bereft of artistic talent, as a small boy he was taken ferreting by his father, and was going to shoots throughout the country with his .410 shotgun at the age of eight.

    Hughie already showed a well-developed sense of mischief when he was sent to Ampleforth. In 1940 he and his older brother John boarded a train to Yorkshire; it was crammed with troops, but they soon found seats by releasing their two ferrets in the carriage.

    When he saved up his pocket money to take his nanny out to tea at Gunter's in Curzon Street, he recalled a bomb going off nearby � and being told as the smoke and dust lifted: "Take your elbows off the table."

    By the time he left what he described as the Ampleforth "deep freeze" he had learned to carve meat properly; write a passable "bread and butter letter" in Latin; and had obtained "an A-level in name dropping". In addition, he had been taught to play rugby by Father Basil Hume, though he commented: "It wasn't really for me, or for him. I returned to my rodents and he went on to become Cardinal Lord Archbishop of Westminster."

    After learning to sail with Captain OM Watts's school on the Hamble, Millais' picaresque life began with a voyage to Venice, where he and a friend sold his boat and then were robbed of the proceeds in St Mark's Square. They walked to Milan, were arrested as vagrants and then visited in their cell by a Benedictine monk who gave them some money to get to France after Hugh had poured out their plight in Latin.

    His Irish-Canadian mother next sent him off to gain some discipline as a Mountie. Instead he obtained a job covering the city's mortuaries for the Montreal Star and took in a lodger, the singer Josh White, who offered no rent but taught him to play the calypso guitar. When they parted company Millais, like many an Englishman in wintry Montreal before and since, longed for warmth; so he hitchhiked to South America. In Mexico he contracted a brief first marriage and enrolled in a philosophy course conducted in Latin while earning extra money driving two bullfighters around in their Hispano-Suiza.

    Back in New York after inheriting $100,000 from his mother, Millais paid $15,000 for a dilapidated 60ft yacht, and competed in races while touring the Caribbean islands with musicians such as Lord Melody, Mighty Sparrow and Cowboy Jack; they regarded him as a "token whitey" and called him "Lord Bamboo" because of his great height. On entering Havana harbour, he was shot in the arm by some troops, but met Ernest Hemingway, a friend of his grandfather, who took him to a doctor and invited him to stay.

    An article he wrote on the Austrian-born architect Richard Nuetra so impressed a group of businessmen that he recalled them inviting him to start a construction company in Venezuela. It lasted until the country's president fled and the Millais yacht was stolen and wrecked by four escaping naval officers. After a spell back in Oxfordshire with his father, Millais went to Paris, where he fell in with Rita Hayworth, who agreed to dine with him in Montmartre and left him to pay the bill.

    In Paris he met his second wife Suzy Falconnet, a 20-year-old hotel manager with whom he was to have three children. He left her for a time to join one of the many aid organisations in Austria during the Hungarian Uprising, helping to feed a flood of refugees in an old monastery.

    On moving to Spain, he recalled building a house for Salvador Dali, who changed the floor arrangement half a dozen times but did not once pay for the work. Millais then took in Orson Welles as a lodger, who also failed to settle his bill, and persuaded the architect Philip Jebb to build homes near Algeciras.

    Unfortunately, rich friends passed up the larger houses to buy the flats; and the development's restaurant was such a disaster that the painter Dominick Elwes wrote on the door: "The service is non-existent, the food is disgusting. But, thank God, it's expensive."

    It was while in Pamplona, running the bulls and staying with Hemingway, that Millais met a drunken Altman, who said "You must be in my picture" and invited him to London. After a poker session at the Dorchester that lasted much of the night, Altman told him to report to Vancouver a few months later. When shooting began on the Western McCabe and Mrs Miller (1971), Millais was cast as an English remittance man who is to murder Warren Beatty. He put on an American accent and was immediately halted. "If I wanted an American heavy, I would have got Lee Marvin," said Altman.

    On the strength of critical plaudits Millais appeared as Susannah York's lecherous neighbour in Altman's Images (1972), and had John Gielgud as his butler in Michael Winner's unfortunate remake of The Wicked Lady (1973). He was in John Irvin's Dogs of War (1980) and Chicago Joe and the Showgirl (1990) and had some television parts. On taking to the boards with Susannah York in Wolf Mankowitz's Samson Riddle at the Gate theatre in Dublin, he was taught to cook baked potato eggs by the director, Michael MacLiammoir.

    An unpublished author of novels and short stories, Millais recorded a CD of his own songs, dabbled in the oil business and went into partnership with his third wife, Anne Jeffrey, an architect and designer. This enabled him to demonstrate his flair for developing � he converted some stables in Oxfordshire for himself, and an Irish Georgian house for the actor John Hurt.

    Hugh Millais summed up his recipe for life: "75 years, 0 hours of labour, 40,000 bottles of wine, a pinch of Song, Women (to taste). Sozzle gently over a low lifestyle, leave to marinade slowly, bring to fruition. Garnish the whole thing wildly in the telling."

    He died on July 4, fortified by the rites of the Roman Catholic Church, which were administered by an Ampleforth monk who had been a school contemporary.

    Published August 13 2009

  2. #2
    Senior Member Country: UK Windthrop's Avatar
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    Times obit

    Hugh Millais led a varied life as a film actor, yachtsman, calypso singer, oil- man, design consultant and cook. He spent much of his life travelling, and landed himself in more than one minirevolution. He was a noted raconteur who loved nothing more than to place his mighty frame � he stood 6ft 6in tall � on a high bar stool, pick up a guitar and sing. He was reckoned to drink a bottle of ros� every day of his later life.

    His film career came about by accident. He was spotted in a bar at the Feria of Pamplona, and on his next visit to England was invited to meet the director, Robert Altman. First he played the butler in McCabe and Mrs Miller (1971), in which his character uses a single-shot elephant gun to shoot Warren Beatty as McCabe. During filming he adopted a phoney Texan accent, but Altman told him: �If I�d wanted an American heavy, I would have got Lee Marvin.�

    He then played Marcel (Susannah York�s lecherous neighbour) in Altman�s psychological thriller, Images (1972). In 1973 he took the title role in The Samson Riddle, again with Susannah York, directed by Wolf Mankowitz at the Gate Theatre, Dublin. He was Roy Endean in The Dogs of War (1980) and Uncle Martin, an 18th-century grandee in The Wicked Lady (1983), in which John Gielgud played his butler and Faye Dunaway his niece � a highlight of an otherwise forgettable film was the scene in which Marina Sirtis ran away naked, revealing a bikini tan line hardly appropriate to the 17th century. Millais was the US Colonel in Chicago Joe and the Showgirl (1990), as well as appearing in TV shows such as Deceptions, Ruth Rendell Mysteries and Kavanagh QC.

    Hugh Geoffroy Millais was born in 1929, the younger son of Raoul Millais, an equestrian painter taught by Augustus John, and his ScottishCanadian wife, Ellinor Macdonell whose father built canals in Florida. Young Hugh was, therefore, a great-grandson of Sir John Everett Millais, Bt, the Pre-Raphaelite painter, and his wife, Euphemia (Effie), formerly the wife of the author and critic, John Ruskin.

    Coming from a family of artists Hugh was considered a failure as he could not paint. At 96 his father muttered: �I don�t know what poor Hughie does. He cannot even draw . . . a salary.� But his father did teach him how to shoot. Millais was educated at Ampleforth during the war, and made a deal with his housemaster. If let off games and allowed to keep his two ferrets and 24 snares, he would keep the house provided with meat. On his best day he provided 21 rabbits and a cock pheasant. Basil Hume tried to teach him to play rugby.

    After his parents separated, Millais moved with his mother to Co Cork, Ireland, where he developed a passion for fishing.

    Never one to seek regular employment, he and a friend sailed his boat to Venice and sold it there. They were promptly robbed, and decided to walk home to England, which involved being imprisoned as vagrants in Milan. He was then sent to Montreal to train as a Mountie, but became a reporter on The Montreal Star. Millais was hated by the editor because his uncle owned the paper. While there he housed the US folk singer, Josh White, who paid his rent by teaching him the guitar. After hitchhiking round Chile, Millais went to Mexico University to study philosophy and fell in with bullfighters. He and some friends sailed to New York and were invited to play and sing on the Ed Sullivan Show.

    Soon after, in 1954, he won the Cat Key to Havana race in his yacht Benbow. Then, when sailing into Cuba, where a small revolution was taking place, he was shot through the arm and helped by Ernest Hemingway, a friend of his grandfather�s, who filled him with daiquiris and got his arm sewn up. Millais� sailing life helped him run through a considerable legacy from his mother after which he became the �token whitey� as guitarist with the Young Brigade. While eking a living writing articles in Los Angeles, he telephoned the architect Richard Neutra and said he would like to write his biography. He accompanied Neutra to the 9th International Congress of Architects in Caracas, where his article Melting the Frozen Music helped Neutra to win several important commissions. But in 1956 the President of Venezuela went into exile, taking the national budget with him, Benbow was stolen and Millais was forced to return to Oxfordshire to live with his father and stepmother.

    He met his first wife, Suzy Falconnel, in Paris, where she was running a hotel. They married in 1957 and had two sons and a daughter before divorcing in 1974. Millais went to Hungary as head of Voluntary British Aid to Hungary, which was helping to feed 120,000 refugees during the Revolution, before being blacklisted. He then went to Spain to indulge his passion for bullfighting, often in the company of Hemingway. In Cadaques his workforce built a home for Salvador Dal�, their only reward being a seafood menu to be eaten with their tongues from a table on which Dal�s wife, Gala, also lay.

    Hugh and Suzy lived in Andalusia for 23 years. He and some friends developed the valley of El Cuarton between Algeciras and Tarifa, commissioning Philip Jebb to build an 18th-century village, and employing Dominic Elwes to help to sell it. The plan was that the rich would buy the houses and their poor friends the flats, but the rich bought the flats. There were complaints about the inadequacy of the restaurant until they put up a notice saying �The service is non existent, the food is disgusting. But thank God it�s expensive.� Millais gave up El Cuarton in 1973. After stints in the tile and concrete business with Hugh Berridge and in the oil business with Don Munson, he took up cooking.

    He met his second wife, Anne Sheffield, an interior designer, when she arrived at his rented flat in Mount Street to collect a friend and stayed to lunch. Millais thought he tricked her as he wore clothes from his films (he was allowed to keep them because of his size), and was seated at David Niven Jr�s desk with eight telephones on it.

    They were married in 1988 and later settled at Kirtlington in Oxfordshire. Together they ran an interior design business, designing homes all over the world, including one in Ireland (for John Hurt) and the Bahamas.

    For Millais�s 60th birthday in 1989, James Lowther persuaded 20 friends to hire a studio and record Les Deplorables, Hugh Millais�s Greatest Hits. In 2007 Millais produced Hugh�s Who: The Name-Dropper�s Cookbook, a mixture of celebrity recipes, woven in with well-honed anecdotes about Marlene Dietrich, Ava Gardner, Orson Welles, Gary Cooper and Rita Hayworth.

    As Herbert Kretzmer put it, Hugh showed �wisdom and acquired magnificence by not doing any one thing for too long�, while Robert Altman said: �As an actor he is an excellent cook. As a cook, he�s a fantastic actor.�

    Hugh Millais, actor and adventurer, was born on December 23, 1929. He died on July 4, 2009, aged 79

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