I can identify with this dude. To be honest, I don't like working 9 -5pm and god help me if I end up doing something I don't like to do - I'd probably be the worse worker in the world.
Obituary : Hugh Millais (1929 - 2009)
Hugh Millais, who has died aged 79, wafted genially through life – sailing around the Caribbean in his own yacht as a calypso singer; starting an ambitious house building scheme in Spain; and appearing in two of Robert Altman's films – without ever having to suffer the indignity of full-time employment.
From the Daily Telegraph
Quite whether these adventures occurred exactly as Millais recounted them was largely unimportant. Those who had never met him could not believe such a character existed; even close acquaintances were sometimes tempted to rub their eyes. A 6ft 6in tall hedonist with an eye for the ladies, he was kindly, selfish and ready to take off to the far ends of earth in a moment.
He counted many of the rich and the famous as friends but dedicated most of his energies in old age to cooking – as The Name-Dropper's Cookbook (2007), a collection of memories and recipes, attested. If his affairs were suffering a reverse he was always happy to pay for his supper by settling down afterwards with his guitar to sing for it, spinning verses about those who sat around the table.
Even his father, the equestrian painter Raoul Millais, would shake his head and say: "I don't know what poor Hughie does. He cannot… even draw a salary."
The great-grandson of the Pre-Raphaelite painter Sir John Everett Millais, Bt, Hugh Geoffroy Millais was born on December 23 1929. Bereft of artistic talent, as a small boy he was taken ferreting by his father, and was going to shoots throughout the country with his .410 shotgun at the age of eight.
Hughie already showed a well-developed sense of mischief when he was sent to Ampleforth. In 1940 he and his older brother John boarded a train to Yorkshire; it was crammed with troops, but they soon found seats by releasing their two ferrets in the carriage.
When he saved up his pocket money to take his nanny out to tea at Gunter's in Curzon Street, he recalled a bomb going off nearby – and being told as the smoke and dust lifted: "Take your elbows off the table."
By the time he left what he described as the Ampleforth "deep freeze" he had learned to carve meat properly; write a passable "bread and butter letter" in Latin; and had obtained "an A-level in name dropping". In addition, he had been taught to play rugby by Father Basil Hume, though he commented: "It wasn't really for me, or for him. I returned to my rodents and he went on to become Cardinal Lord Archbishop of Westminster."
After learning to sail with Captain OM Watts's school on the Hamble, Millais' picaresque life began with a voyage to Venice, where he and a friend sold his boat and then were robbed of the proceeds in St Mark's Square. They walked to Milan, were arrested as vagrants and then visited in their cell by a Benedictine monk who gave them some money to get to France after Hugh had poured out their plight in Latin.
His Irish-Canadian mother next sent him off to gain some discipline as a Mountie. Instead he obtained a job covering the city's mortuaries for the Montreal Star and took in a lodger, the singer Josh White, who offered no rent but taught him to play the calypso guitar. When they parted company Millais, like many an Englishman in wintry Montreal before and since, longed for warmth; so he hitchhiked to South America. In Mexico he contracted a brief first marriage and enrolled in a philosophy course conducted in Latin while earning extra money driving two bullfighters around in their Hispano-Suiza.
Back in New York after inheriting $100,000 from his mother, Millais paid $15,000 for a dilapidated 60ft yacht, and competed in races while touring the Caribbean islands with musicians such as Lord Melody, Mighty Sparrow and Cowboy Jack; they regarded him as a "token whitey" and called him "Lord Bamboo" because of his great height. On entering Havana harbour, he was shot in the arm by some troops, but met Ernest Hemingway, a friend of his grandfather, who took him to a doctor and invited him to stay.
An article he wrote on the Austrian-born architect Richard Nuetra so impressed a group of businessmen that he recalled them inviting him to start a construction company in Venezuela. It lasted until the country's president fled and the Millais yacht was stolen and wrecked by four escaping naval officers. After a spell back in Oxfordshire with his father, Millais went to Paris, where he fell in with Rita Hayworth, who agreed to dine with him in Montmartre and left him to pay the bill.
In Paris he met his second wife Suzy Falconnet, a 20-year-old hotel manager with whom he was to have three children. He left her for a time to join one of the many aid organisations in Austria during the Hungarian Uprising, helping to feed a flood of refugees in an old monastery.
On moving to Spain, he recalled building a house for Salvador Dali, who changed the floor arrangement half a dozen times but did not once pay for the work. Millais then took in Orson Welles as a lodger, who also failed to settle his bill, and persuaded the architect Philip Jebb to build homes near Algeciras.
Unfortunately, rich friends passed up the larger houses to buy the flats; and the development's restaurant was such a disaster that the painter Dominick Elwes wrote on the door: "The service is non-existent, the food is disgusting. But, thank God, it's expensive."
It was while in Pamplona, running the bulls and staying with Hemingway, that Millais met a drunken Altman, who said "You must be in my picture" and invited him to London. After a poker session at the Dorchester that lasted much of the night, Altman told him to report to Vancouver a few months later. When shooting began on the Western McCabe and Mrs Miller (1971), Millais was cast as an English remittance man who is to murder Warren Beatty. He put on an American accent and was immediately halted. "If I wanted an American heavy, I would have got Lee Marvin," said Altman.
On the strength of critical plaudits Millais appeared as Susannah York's lecherous neighbour in Altman's Images (1972), and had John Gielgud as his butler in Michael Winner's unfortunate remake of The Wicked Lady (1973). He was in John Irvin's Dogs of War (1980) and Chicago Joe and the Showgirl (1990) and had some television parts. On taking to the boards with Susannah York in Wolf Mankowitz's Samson Riddle at the Gate theatre in Dublin, he was taught to cook baked potato eggs by the director, Michael MacLiammoir.
An unpublished author of novels and short stories, Millais recorded a CD of his own songs, dabbled in the oil business and went into partnership with his third wife, Anne Jeffrey, an architect and designer. This enabled him to demonstrate his flair for developing – he converted some stables in Oxfordshire for himself, and an Irish Georgian house for the actor John Hurt.
Hugh Millais summed up his recipe for life: "75 years, 0 hours of labour, 40,000 bottles of wine, a pinch of Song, Women (to taste). Sozzle gently over a low lifestyle, leave to marinade slowly, bring to fruition. Garnish the whole thing wildly in the telling."
He died on July 4, fortified by the rites of the Roman Catholic Church, which were administered by an Ampleforth monk who had been a school contemporary.
Published August 13 2009