Brian Mills

'Coronation Street' director

Brian Arthur Mills, television director: born Manchester 25 October 1933; married first Hilda Miller (one adopted son; marriage dissolved), second 1976 Brigit Forsyth (one son, one daughter); died Manchester 3 June 2006.

As someone who spent all of his career making programmes for Granada Television, Brian Mills had the distinction of being the only director to work on Coronation Street in all of its five decades, from 1968, when Elsie Tanner's son Dennis married Jenny Sutton and the serial's first outdoor set was built, to 2000, the year that saw Mike Baldwin marry for a fourth time and Sarah Platt give birth at the age of 13.

In the middle of his run on Britain's top soap, he directed some of the most memorable 1983 Ken-Deirdre-Mike love-triangle episodes, which made newspaper front pages in a way that was then rare for such serials. As the story reached its explosive climax, with Ken Barlow finally finding out about his wife Deirdre's affair with Mike Baldwin and all hell breaking loose, Mills instituted a style of shooting scenes in the Barlow household from above to heighten the drama.

He also used an element of surprise that shocked at least one of those taking part and combined with the enthusiasm of William Roache, who plays Ken, to produce a memorable piece of television.

After a rehearsal for the scene in which Mike (Johnny Briggs) arrived at the Barlows' door, following the confession by Deirdre (Anne Kirkbride), Mills said he was concerned that it was lacking in passion, but Roache assured him that it would come to life when they started recording. As a result, Mills put his faith in the actors, with Roache adamant that Briggs would not enter the Barlows' house, as in the script, because he did not consider that Ken would allow him to. As Kirkbride opened the door, Roache threw himself full-bloodedly into Ken's rage, grabbed her, slammed her against the door, which closed on Briggs, and then put his hands around her throat. Kirkbride appeared to be still in shock when she related the story to me some years later. "It was quite frightening and I hadn't expected it," she said:

He [Roache] had worked it out with the director, Brian Mills, so that it was totally realistic. I was very upset at the time and just ran into the living-room and sat down with my head in my hands - and Brian had a camera there, waiting to film me!

Born in Manchester in 1933, the son of a toolmaker, Brian Mills served in the Army after giving up training as an accountant, which he decided was not the career for him. Then, he landed a job delivering newspapers for the Daily Express in Manchester, before a friend heard about work available in the sound department at Granada Television's studios in the city. Mills started by putting records on a turntable during the television company's early days and worked his way up to become head of sound. Determined to become a director, but without the qualifications, he sought wider experience by joining the lighting department and, again, began at the bottom, before eventually taking charge of it.

Finally, Mills persuaded Granada to train him as a director and, in between his stints on Coronation Street (1968-2000), he worked on many of its programmes for ITV. He directed both series of Devenish (1977-78), an office-based sitcom written by Anthony Couch and starring Dinsdale Landen as the chief games deviser for Universal Pastimes Ltd who had an over-inflated sense of self- importance and irritated his colleagues. Mills also made episodes in the second and third series (1976-77) of The Cuckoo Waltz, Geoffrey Lancashire's comedy about a happy but poor newly married couple (played by David Roper and Diane Keen) taking in a caddish, well-off lodger (Lewis Collins).

Among the many dramas he worked on were the Jack Rosenthal play Well, Thank You Thursday (1976), set in a register office, and episodes of Crown Court, as well as Strangers (1978-82), The Mallens (1979), The Spoils of War (1980), Cribb (1980), Bulman (1985, 1987) and First Among Equals (1986). He directed two stories in The Return of Sherlock Holmes series (1988), and made a two-hour special, The Hound of the Baskervilles (1988) - maintaining the tradition established by Granada for mounting handsome productions while remaining faithful to the original Conan Doyle stories, with Jeremy Brett capturing the dark side of the Baker Street sleuth.

Half of Mills's career as a director came after he had technically left Granada in 1983, when staff were offered early retirement, but he returned as a freelance.

The director met his second wife, the actress Brigit Forsyth, when she played the younger daughter in Adam Smith (1972), broadcast in ITV's Sunday-evening religious slot and starring Andrew Keir as a small Scottish border village's minister. "I'm a little psychic and got a funny feeling about him at the read-through," recalled Forsyth:

"I remember looking at his face, which was always a very sad face, and thought, "What that man needs is children. That's something I could do for him." I hadn't even spoken to him at that point!"

Mills subsequently directed Forsyth in the title role of the six-part psychological thriller Holly (1972). The couple married and had two children and, although they separated seven years ago, remained good friends.

Anthony Hayward

A model of a Neanderthal man on display at the National Museum of Prehistory in Dordogne, France
Richard Dawkins dedicated his book 'The Greatest Show on Earth' to Josh Timonen
newsThat's Richard Dawkins on babies with Down Syndrome
Arts and Entertainment
Eye of the beholder? 'Concrete lasagne' Preston bus station
architectureWhich monstrosities should be nominated for the Dead Prize?
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooksAn evocation of the conflict through the eyes of those who lived through it
Arts and Entertainment
Life and Style
This month marks the 20th anniversary of the first online sale
techDespite a host of other online auction sites and fierce competition from Amazon, eBay is still the most popular e-commerce site in the UK
Arts and Entertainment
Travel Shop
the manor
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on city breaks Find out more
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on chic beach resorts Find out more
sardina foodie
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on country retreats Find out more
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Quantitative Analyst (Financial Services, Graduate, SQL, VBA)

£45000 per annum: Harrington Starr: Quantitative Analyst (Financial Services, ...

Application Support Engineer (C++, .NET, VB, Perl, Bash, SQL)

Negotiable: Harrington Starr: Application Support Engineer (C++, .NET, VB, Per...

C# .NET Software Developer (Client-Side, SQL, VB6, WinForms)

Negotiable: Harrington Starr: C# .NET Software Developer (Client-Side, SQL, VB...

C# Developer (Genetic Algorithms, .NET 4.5, TDD, SQL, AI)

£40000 - £60000 per annum + Benefits + Bonus: Harrington Starr: C# Developer (...

Day In a Page

Middle East crisis: We know all too much about the cruelty of Isis – but all too little about who they are

We know all too much about the cruelty of Isis – but all too little about who they are

Now Obama has seen the next US reporter to be threatened with beheading, will he blink, asks Robert Fisk
Neanderthals lived alongside humans for centuries, latest study shows

Final resting place of our Neanderthal neighbours revealed

Bones dated to 40,000 years ago show species may have died out in Belgium species co-existed
Scottish independence: The new Scots who hold fate of the UK in their hands

The new Scots who hold fate of the UK in their hands

Scotland’s immigrants are as passionate about the future of their adopted nation as anyone else
Britain's ugliest buildings: Which monstrosities should be nominated for the Dead Prize?

Blight club: Britain's ugliest buildings

Following the architect Cameron Sinclair's introduction of the Dead Prize, an award for ugly buildings, John Rentoul reflects on some of the biggest blots on the UK landscape
eBay's enduring appeal: Online auction site is still the UK's most popular e-commerce retailer

eBay's enduring appeal

The online auction site is still the UK's most popular e-commerce site
Culture Minister Ed Vaizey: ‘lack of ethnic minority and black faces on TV is weird’

'Lack of ethnic minority and black faces on TV is weird'

Culture Minister Ed Vaizey calls for immediate action to address the problem
Artist Olafur Eliasson's latest large-scale works are inspired by the paintings of JMW Turner

Magic circles: Artist Olafur Eliasson

Eliasson's works will go alongside a new exhibition of JMW Turner at Tate Britain. He tells Jay Merrick why the paintings of his hero are ripe for reinvention
Josephine Dickinson: 'A cochlear implant helped me to discover a new world of sound'

Josephine Dickinson: 'How I discovered a new world of sound'

After going deaf as a child, musician and poet Josephine Dickinson made do with a hearing aid for five decades. Then she had a cochlear implant - and everything changed
Greggs Google fail: Was the bakery's response to its logo mishap a stroke of marketing genius?

Greggs gives lesson in crisis management

After a mishap with their logo, high street staple Greggs went viral this week. But, as Simon Usborne discovers, their social media response was anything but half baked
Matthew McConaughey has been singing the praises of bumbags (shame he doesn't know how to wear one)

Matthew McConaughey sings the praises of bumbags

Shame he doesn't know how to wear one. Harriet Walker explains the dos and don'ts of fanny packs
7 best quadcopters and drones

Flying fun: 7 best quadcopters and drones

From state of the art devices with stabilised cameras to mini gadgets that can soar around the home, we take some flying objects for a spin
Joey Barton: ‘I’ve been guilty of getting a bit irate’

Joey Barton: ‘I’ve been guilty of getting a bit irate’

The midfielder returned to the Premier League after two years last weekend. The controversial character had much to discuss after his first game back
Andy Murray: I quit while I’m ahead too often

Andy Murray: I quit while I’m ahead too often

British No 1 knows his consistency as well as his fitness needs working on as he prepares for the US Open after a ‘very, very up and down’ year
Ferguson: In the heartlands of America, a descent into madness

A descent into madness in America's heartlands

David Usborne arrived in Ferguson, Missouri to be greeted by a scene more redolent of Gaza and Afghanistan
BBC’s filming of raid at Sir Cliff’s home ‘may be result of corruption’

BBC faces corruption allegation over its Sir Cliff police raid coverage

Reporter’s relationship with police under scrutiny as DG is summoned by MPs to explain extensive live broadcast of swoop on singer’s home