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Tuesday, October 04, 2011

Across The Pond And Beyond (Part I) - Juliet Mills

As part of Witches and Wizards week, it became clear that I would have to do a lot of research on choosing memorable characters and shows that featured wizards and witches, and I think I have successfully done exactly that.

I did reach a bit of a problem in selecting an entry for one possible day.

Today happens to be Tuesday. As you all know, Tuesday is generally known as a day of hodge-podge, miscellaneous things, and grab bags filled with goodies that just couldn't fit into any of the other six theme days. This is fine.

The following day happens to be Wednesday, which for now is dedicated to celebrating pop culture around the world. And this is where my problem came in.

I had two possible subjects for Across The Pond and Beyond Wednesday. One happens to have played a witch on daytime television. The other one was a teenaged female wizard. Both were British, and both had varying levels of popularity and talent. Both of them played characters that were both memorable and strong, and while both of them were very much different from each other, they both had their similarities.

But how could I possibly choose between two subjects for one day when they were both so good?

It was then that my brain cells finally kicked in and had the answer. Since Tuesday is the day where anything goes, why not just turn Tuesday into a second Across The Pond day?

So, let it be known that Tuesday, October 4 and Wednesday, October 5 will be known as the Across The Pond And Beyond...And Back Again In 48 Hours...or ATPABABA48!

Or, maybe not.

So, for today, we're going to take a look at our daytime television witch. Although the show she was on barely lasted an entire decade on the air, she was one of the cast members who stayed on the show for the entire run. And although she was initially overshadowed by her younger sister, she carved out her own star power herself, complete with Golden Globe nominations, an Emmy Award win, and a marriage that had tabloids and the public talking for years.

Shall we meet this person? I think we shall.



Meet Juliet Maryon Mills. She was born in London on November 21, 1941, making her just weeks shy of her seventieth birthday. She was born during the middle of World War II, at a time in which London was subjected to attacks. Her father, Sir John Mills, his wife, Mary Hayley Bell took Juliet with them to the countryside outside of the city, to avoid the bombs.

Because her mother was a playwright and her father an actor, it wasn't uncommon for Juliet to be surrounded by famous actors and actresses. Some of the people she met in her youth included Rex Harrison, David Niven, and Marlon Brando. Her godparents were actress Vivien Leigh and playwright Noel Coward.

With an upbringing like this, it almost seemed destined that Juliet would eventually have a career in the arts. After all, both her parents were famous in their own right, so if there was such a thing as an artistic gene, Juliet definitely was exposed to it through both parents.

Though, it took her a while to get to that point. Especially since one of her siblings seemed to have better luck than she did in getting roles.

Juliet ended up having two siblings. Her brother Jonathan Mills grew up to become a director, and actually wrote the 2000 documentary film on their father John. The film was called Sir John Mills' Moving Memories, and Juliet was interviewed in the film.



And then there was Juliet's sister, Hayley Mills, whom I am sure that most of you would probably seem to remember the most of the three Mills siblings. How could you not? Hayley had roles in various Walt Disney films when she was younger from Pollyanna to The Parent Trap. Hayley Mills was one of the most popular child actresses of the 1960s, and ended up having a minor recording career on top of that. Hayley Mills has since slowed down her acting commitments, but she still acts today. She played the role of Miss Carrie Bliss on the television show Good Morning, Miss Bliss (which later became Saved By The Bell), and she acted in various Parent Trap spinoffs. Her most recent role came in 2007, in the ITV drama Wild At Heart, a show which has also starred Juliet.

I could go on more, but this blog entry is about Juliet. If ever I do a blog entry on Hayley Mills, I will elaborate further.

Anyway, back to Juliet Mills, it took quite some time for Juliet to get her major breakout role. Though she technically started her career in 1942 when she was just mere months old, she had never really had anything that amounted more than a role as an extra, or roles that had minimal speaking parts. In 1960, she did get a role in a play called Five Finger Exercise, and earned a Tony Award nomination for her work.



One of her best known roles though came a decade later, in 1970. That year, Juliet Mills took on the role of Phoebe Figalilly on the American television program Nanny and the Professor. In the series, Phoebe possessed magical powers, and the series was often described as being an Americanized version of Mary Poppins.

Not that this had any effect on Juliet. Juliet loved playing the role. Partially because she had always held the belief that magic, witches, and fairies really did exist. Which was good, because just a couple of decades later, she would be playing at least one of these things.



Although the role Juliet held on Nanny and the Professor netted her a Golden Globe nomination in 1971, the show was taken off the airwaves that same year, citing a timeslot move as the main reason behind the dwindling ratings.

Still, this did not deter Juliet Mills from going ahead with her plan to make it in the world of acting. The following year, Juliet Mills landed a role in the movie Avanti, alongside actor Jack Lemmon and director Billy Wilder (a project that Juliet stated was the highlight of her film career). The film landed Juliet a second Golden Globe nomination in 1973. Just one year after that, Mills ended up winning an Emmy Award for her role in the miniseries QB VII.

In 1980, Juliet returned to the stage with a role in The Elephant Man, and this role would be one that would end up having a huge role in Juliet's future.

As far as Juliet's love life went, she had two failed marriages in her past. Her first marriage lasted from 1961-1964, which produced son, Sean. Daughter Melissa, came from Juliet's second marriage, which had ended in 1980.

So when Juliet started working alongside her Elephant Man co-star, Maxwell Caulfield (who starred in Grease 2 alongside Michelle Pfeiffer), sparks flew between the two immediately. It was a whirlwind courtship, and towards the end of the year, Maxwell became Juliet's third husband.



At the time, the pairing was rather unconventional, and immediately garnered some media attention. At the time they met, Juliet Mills was 39. Maxwell was only 21. Certainly, people speculated at to whether a relationship could last if the woman was eighteen years older than the man. I am happy to report that Juliet and Maxwell proved that age was just simply a number. On December 2, 2011, they will be celebrating 31 years of wedded bliss.

It appears as though the third time was the charm for Juliet to find her Romeo.

So, now that you know a bit about the actress, I think it's time to talk about one of the major roles she played on television in recent years. I already talked about how she played someone who had magical powers in the short-lived sitcom Nanny and the Professor. Well, this role that I would like to talk about was on a daytime soap opera that was canceled a few years ago. Yet it was a role that while unusual for a daytime drama, was quite the memorable character. A character that Mills loved playing.



When the daytime drama Passions began airing in July of 1999, it was the replacement show for Another World, which had just gone off the air just days earlier. But Passions wasn't exactly your typical daytime drama either.

Oh, sure, you still had your affairs, and your murders, and your love scenes. But this soap opera was something special.

Many of the storylines of Passions were supernatural in nature. Many storylines in that show surrounded such topics as witches, warlocks, and closet doors leading to Hell. The show employed a chimpanzee to act in a role as the servant of an elderly character on the show (and actually submitted a nomination for a Daytime Emmy award for the chimpanzee, which was rejected), and frequently reenacted several scenes from film, movies, and television as either dream sequences, or oddly enough were written into storylines.

Yes, Passions was definitely not your typical soap opera. It certainly stood out with its wacky plotlines and overexaggerated characterizations. The closest show that remotely resembled Passions was the 1960s daytime drama Dark Shadows, and even it wasn't as out there as Passions.

Regardless, Passions managed to last eight years on NBC and an additional season on DirecTV before ending its nearly ten year run in the summer of 2008.

And one of the main players of the soap opera was the character that Juliet Mills played for the entire series run.



When Tabitha Lenox was introduced onto the canvas just one day after Passions premiered, she was initially seen as being that of a crabby, cantankerous elderly woman who complained about everything and everyone. Of course, none of the residents of Harmony knew exactly what kind of secrets she kept behind closed doors.

Like the fact that Tabitha was a WITCH!!!

(I told you I'd find a wizards and witches connection in this entry somehow!)



Anyways...it's unclear just how old of a person Tabitha Lenox really was, but we know that she is at least three centuries old, as that's about the length of time she has resided in the town of Harmony. Because of her longevity, Tabitha has witnessed many significant historical events. In a few cases, Tabitha has claimed to have actually been the cause of many of these historical events. Among the list of events that Tabitha claimed she caused were the destruction of Pompeii, the Black Plague, the great fire of London, the Lisbon earthquake of 1755, the Great Chicago Fire, the San Francisco Earthquake of 1906, and the sinking of the Titanic.

Quite the busy lady, wasn't she?

Tabitha was born to a mortal father named Darrin, and a Witch mother named Samantha (and if this sounds really familiar, you may want to check out my upcoming Friday blog post), and when Tabitha was a child, she initially had green hued skin, just like that of a frog. Apparently, her mother's side of the family was descended from a Frog Prince. Because of her skin colour, she was teased mercilessly by her classmates at the magic school she attended as a child (proving that in some weird way, racism was sadly alive and well in the world of witches). Her only friend was a fellow wizard girl who went by the name of Esmeralda. Esmeralda helped Tabitha hide her green skin with makeup until Tabitha learned a spell to permanently change her skin colour to a more normal shade (which actually kind of disappoints me because I would have wanted her to accept who she was, but then again, we're talking about a fictional witch, so what do I know?)

Tabitha was forced to separate from Esmeralda when she made the decision to study the Black Arts further, but she was never too far from her mind.

Going back to the story, Tabitha has a score to settle in Harmony. A score that was three hundred years in the making. Back in the 17th century, her witchcraft was exposed by a citizen of Harmony named Prudence Standish. And back in those days, if a person was suspected of being a witch, they were tied to a stake and burned alive. This was the fate that Tabitha suffered back then until the next time she was resurrected (because in the world of Harmony, witches possessed the power of immortality). Since that event, Tabitha's main goal in life is to make the people who burned her at the stake pay, especially the Standish and Crane families.

A few people seem to have remarked that Tabitha never seemed to age, and that she currently looked the same as she did when they were children themselves. Tabitha managed to keep the townspeople at bay by insisting that they were probably remembering her mother, who she claimed also had the same name.

Nobody said the townspeople of Harmony were intelligent...

If they had been, perhaps the might have figured out the truth about Tabitha a long time ago, and that the noises coming from the basement of her home weren't just coming from her boiler. Tabitha actually harbours a group of demons and devils called 'The Dark Forces' which oversee Tabitha's wicked doings on Earth.

Therefore, it is interesting to note that while Tabitha has ill feelings towards the people of Harmony, she does have a soft spot for some people. Particularly one person in particular who wasn't really a person at all.



In perhaps what was one of most unbelievable plots in the history of Passions...and quite frankly the whole genre of soap, Tabitha brings a MyBuddy style doll to life, and names her Timmy. Tabitha and Timmy set off towards their next act of evil. Remember how I said that Tabitha was burned at the stake because a woman named Prudence Standish ratted her out? Well, this time, Tabitha sought to get revenge on one of Prudence's descendants...one Charity Standish. Apparently, Charity was the embodiment of goodness, and according to the Dark Forces, Charity had to be stopped. Because if Charity was to mate with her one true love, one Miguel Lopez-Fitzgerald, the union would eradicate all evil from the world, and goodness would prevail.

And of course, they couldn't have that now...could they?

Of course, one problem that arose was the fact that Tabitha would send Timmy over to do the deed to harm Charity. What she didn't count on was that Timmy would develop feelings for Charity (are you weirded out yet?) and he couldn't bring himself to harm her. So to say that Tabitha had to get creative to get Charity out of the picture once and for all was an understatement. But in order for me to get into all of the things that Tabitha has done over the time she was on the show, I would need a whole week of blog entries. But some of the most dastardly things that Tabitha has done are...

  • Setting the Standish house ablaze to kill Charity, but ended up killing her mother Faith Standish instead.
  • Used Charity's cousin, Kay, as a tool to keep Charity and Miguel apart
  • Wrote a tell-all book that Timmy sent to a publishing company called Hidden Passions against her wishes (the book later ended up being published for real in 2001).
  • Made an enemy out of a woman called Norma Bates in a bizarre plotline based on the 1960 movie Psycho.
  • Had an affair with Julian Crane which against all odds resulted in Tabitha having a daughter named Endora (another reference to an upcoming entry)
  • conjured up a Demon Elf which wreaked havoc on the town of Harmony

By the end of the series, in a rather contrived plot (well, okay, all the plots of Passions were contrived, but I digress), Tabitha becomes a good witch after confessing over 400 years of sins to a priest. Nice to know that even the wickedest witches can turn good.

Of course, part of the reason why Tabitha went good was due to the love she still had for Timmy. In one plot line, Timmy had wished on a star to become human (which was a complete ripoff of Pinocchio, but again, Passions did this quite a bit), and when he did, he lost all of his immortality. So when he sustained deadly injuries trying to protect Charity from a doppelganger (aptly named 'Zombie Charity'), it really broke Tabitha's heart to say goodbye to what was likely the only friend she ever had.



And here's the kicker. Yes, Passions was a difficult show to understand, and the plot lines were more unbelievable than anything one could have read in any book dealing with the occult. But the thing is that Juliet Mills made the material work, and she was clearly one of the best actresses in the world. The scene was made even more poignant and sad when you consider that Timmy's final scene aired in August 2002...on the same day that Josh Ryan Evans (the actor who played Timmy) passed away at the age of 20.

Yes, the role that Juliet Mills played on Passions was unbelievable and hard to follow...but yet, her acting ability sort of made you want to root for her, and she easily become a favourite character on the show.

That's about all I have to say about Tabitha, and Juliet Mills for that matter. Her sister Hayley may have been the more famous of the two sisters, but don't count Juliet out either, because she had what it took to have a rewarding career in the arts.

More importantly, she loved every project that she worked on (or if she didn't, did a fairly good job of hiding it). And really, how can you fault anyone for loving what they do?

I guess if there's a lesson that one can learn from Juliet, it's that you really should never give up on your dream, because eventually, you'll find that it will come true. But, another lesson one can learn from her is not to reject any opportunity, no matter how bizarre or kooky it may sound...it could end up being one of the most rewarding and memorable things one ever does.

And, if there's one word you could use to describe Juliet Mills' portrayal of Tabitha Lenox, it would be memorable.

3 comments:

  1. You are nuts! We obviously were separated at birth. Good article

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  2. "I had two possible subjects for Across The Pond and Beyond Wednesday. One happens to have played a witch on daytime television. The other one was a teenaged female wizard."

    Phoebe Figalilly (I always thought she was a Hogwarts graduate Hufflepuff) and Hermione Granger. THANK YOU!!!!

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  3. You're welcome! Luckily, I had the foresight to do them back to back! :D

    ReplyDelete