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Roy Boulting, 87; British Filmmaker Also Known for Hayley Mills Romance

Obituaries

November 08, 2001|DENNIS McLELLAN | TIMES STAFF WRITER

Roy Boulting, a filmmaker who made some of Britain's best-known movies and later gained notoriety for his romance with and then marriage to the young actress Hayley Mills, has died. He was 87.

Boulting died Monday of cancer in a hospital near his home in Eynsham, in southern England, said family friend Peter Evans.

The movie maker worked alternately as director and producer with his identical twin, John. The brothers were considered major forces in the postwar British film industry.

Roy Boulting directed such gritty dramas as "Brighton Rock," a 1947 film that launched the acting career of Richard Attenborough.

He also produced and co-wrote "Seven Days to Noon," a 1950 film about a threatened nuclear attack on London, which earned an Academy Award for best motion picture story.

Switching to lighter fare in the '50s, Boulting produced the comedy "Private's Progress" with Attenborough, and the trade-union satire "I'm All Right, Jack," which helped Peter Sellers find stardom in 1959. Boulting later directed another Sellers project, "There's a Girl in My Soup," a 1970 comedy that also starred Goldie Hawn.

But it was Boulting's May-December romance in the 1960s with Mills, the young star of Disney films such as "Pollyanna" and "The Parent Trap," that generated worldwide headlines.

They met and fell in love on the set of "The Family Way," a 1966 film that Boulting wrote and directed and that may be best known as the film in which Mills shed her little girl image by doing a nude scene.

Boulting was 53 and still married to his third wife, Enid; Mills was 20.

"I was very well aware of the huge age difference between us, which is why I didn't want to marry her, even though she wanted to get married," he told the Daily Mail of London in 1998. "I really did think I was too old for her . . . so we lived together but, five years later, when she said to me, 'Roy, I want to have a baby,' I realized how serious she was and we got married."

They were married in 1971; their son, Crispian Mills, later became the lead singer of the pop group Kula Shaker.

Though they divorced in 1977, Boulting told the Daily Mail that he always considered Mills "the great love of my life."

Born in Bray, England, Boulting fell in love with the movies at age 7, thanks to a nanny who took him and his brother to the cinema four times a week.

After attending McGill University in Montreal, Canada, Boulting returned to England, where he worked in film sales before becoming an assistant director.

In 1937, he and his brother co-founded Charter Films, an independent production company that they later renamed Boulting Brothers Productions.

Roy directed their first two efforts--30-minute shorts--and they quickly moved on to feature-length films. In 1940, they gained attention with "Pastor Hall," a film based on the story of a German clergyman killed by the Nazis.

During World War II, Boulting rose to the rank of captain in the Royal Armoured Corps. He also worked on several battle films that used material shot by army and Royal Air Force film units: "Desert Victory," "Burma Victory" and the Oscar-winning "Tunisian Victory" (a collaboration with American director Frank Capra.)

Throughout their careers, the Boultings were champions of independent filmmaking, and from 1958 to 1972 they were directors of British Lion Films, which financed and distributed movies made by independent British producers and controlled Shepperton Studios.

Roy and John Boulting made their last film together in 1979, the unsuccessful "The Number," which Roy produced and John directed.

In 1985, the year his brother died, Roy Boulting was said to have lost his passion for filmmaking and retired to write his memoirs.

In his later years, financial circumstances forced him to live in a squalid one-bedroom council flat in an Oxfordshire village, where in 1997 he and son Crispian ended an estrangement that had lasted 20 years.

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