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John Mills and British CinemaMasculinity, Identity and Nation$
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Gill Plain

Print publication date: 2006

Print ISBN-13: 9780748621071

Published to Edinburgh Scholarship Online: March 2012

DOI: 10.3366/edinburgh/9780748621071.001.0001

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Introduction: Acting English

Introduction: Acting English

(p.1) 1 Introduction: Acting English
John Mills and British Cinema

Gill Plain

Edinburgh University Press

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

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