By Terence McQueen
W'RE not Catholics, we're Anglo-Catholics, so we feel especially privileged to be here tonight," said the teenage star in a brief after-dinner speech she had be'en called to give alongside her father, actor John Mills, and her mother, authoress Mary Hayley Bell.
This was Hayley Mills, talking with typical naturalness at last month's Catholic Stage Guild Ball in London.
The Mills had been invited along as guests of honour symbolising all that a good family. can be in show business.
Hayley, the pride of the family, is not yet 18, but she has won acclaim that leaves older stars miles behind in the general public's estimation. And yet she is probably the most unspoiled, unassuming teenager currently topping the screen credits.
Talking to her. I felt that she didn't really believe she is a star in her own right.
Everything, she says, she owes to her parents. And by "everything" she means not star status but the happiness that can come with it when her family is right behind her and with her.
It was at home, not in any talent parade or screen test, that Hayley Mills was really "discovered".
She was a born mimic, and frequently imitated the characters she saw on TV at home, whoever might be visiting. She was going through her usual "mad half-hour" in the family circle when British film producer J: Lee-Thompson spied her.
He was at the Mills' home to brief flayley's actor father, John Mills, on his part in the film Tiger Bay.
When be saw Hayley ("that face, those eyes") he wanted to put her into the film, too.
That was the beginning of Hayley's film career, though she wasn't quite 12 years old at the time.
Since then. talent and long studies have put her at the top.
Walt Disney, who has signed Hayley to a picture-a-year contract, calls her "the finest young talent to come into the movie industry in 25 years".
She won an honorary juvenile award at the 1961 Academy Awards for her performance in Pollyanna. Film critics have said she will surely get an Oscar before she is much older.
Hayley spent her early childhood in Chelsea, London. She did her early schooling at a primary school in Richmond. Surrey. When she was signed up for Tiger Bev she had to attend special drama classes in addition.
She had never been on a stage before, and her part in Tiger Bay was as demanding as anything offered a seasoned actor. She had to play the part of a young waif who witnesses an accidental killing; her father, John Mills, had the part of a detective who tracks her down as the vital link in a long investigation.
When Tier Bar was shown at art international film festival in Berlin. the judges awarded Hayley their special juvenile award. Hayley had made a hit—at 121
The rave notices crossed the Atlantic to the U.S., and Walt Disney signed Hayley up after fierce competition.
Her first film for Disney was Pollyanna, and it earned lavish acclaim. But it was her next film, made by Richard Attenborough,
that was particularly important to the Mills family.
Called Whistle Down the Wind, it was based on a novel written by Bayley's mother, Mary Hayley Bell.
It told of the adventures of three motherless children on a Lancashire farm.
Catholic newspapers and magazines singled it out for special praise because it was such a delightful parable on the Second Coming of Our Lord.
The story centred on the children's discovery of a bearded stranger i,n a stable on an isolated farm. "Who are you?" the children asked the bearded mystery man.
Roused out of a deep slumber. the man gasps the holy name.
The children take the man at his word. They know their Scripture, and compare the bearded, poorlyclad figure to the holy pictures of Christ. Hayley, as one of the children who cared for the man believed to he Christ, moved filmgoers to tears.
She says herself it was one of her favourite roles.
It was also an exhausting role because it meant a lot of sloshing around on farmland in outgrown coats and boots,
The film's farmland scenes, however, weren't too new to Hayley, for in real life she lives on a 450acre farm—in the Kentish village of Cowden (population 81S).
Hayley helps quite a tot with some of the farm chores, and likes it.
"We have a room at the farm which everyone calls the teenage room," she told me.
"Keeping this room clean and tidy is my responsibility," she added. "We dance here for hours to a record player."
Hayley likes traditional jazz. also classical music ("Chopin, Greig and Tchaikovsky").
She likes television but is choosey about what she watches. "I like most of the Westerns, also news programmes and topical documentaries."
Most Saturday nights she goes out with her parents to a show or movie in London.
Her elder sister, Juliet, is no longer living at home: she married an American two years ago.
Her 14-year-old brother, she says. "is cricket mad".
She plays tennis herself, but her chief pastime is riding.
She reads a lot. particularly historical novels, when time allows. But at the moment she is up to her eyes in a new film. The Moonspinners, for Walt Disney.
This, no doubt, will win her new laurels. and new fans. but it will not change her real life, for this is centred around the home and the family circle, away from the bright lights and intrigues of show business.