Ray Milland - Early Career

Early Career

Before becoming an actor, Milland served in the Household Cavalry. An expert shot, he became a member of his company's rifle team, winning many prestigious competitions, including the Bisley Match in England. While stationed in London, Milland met dancer Margot St. Leger, and through her was introduced to American actress Estelle Brody. Brody queried Milland's commitment to an army career, which led to Milland buying himself out of the forces in 1928 in the hope of becoming an actor.

His first appearance on film was as an uncredited extra on the Arnold Bennett film Piccadilly (1929). After some unproductive extra work, which never reached the screen, he took on the agent Frank Zeitlin on the recommendation of fellow fledgling actor Jack Raine. It was his reputed prowess as a marksman that earned him work as an extra at the British International Pictures studio on Arthur Robison's 1929 production of The Informer. While he was working on The Informer he was asked to test for a production being shot on a neighbouring stage. Milland made a good impression on director Castleton Knight and was hired for his first acting role as Jim Edwards, in The Flying Scotsman. Milland, in his autobiography, recalls that it was on this film that it was suggested he adopt a stage name; and chose Milland from the Mill lands area of his Welsh home town of Neath.

His work on The Flying Scotsman had impressed enough for him to be given a six-month contract, in which Milland starred in two more Knight directed films, The Lady from the Sea and The Plaything. Believing that his acting was poor, and that he had won his film roles through his looks alone, Milland decided to gain some stage work to improve his art. After hearing that club owner Bobby Page was financing a touring company, Milland approached him in hope of work. He was given the role of second lead, in a production of Sam Shipman and Max Marcin's The Woman in Room 13. Despite being released from the play after five weeks, Milland felt that he had gained valuable acting experience.

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