Martin (Marty) Hager Mills, was born in New York on May 5, 1927 and passed away in Los Angeles on June 23, 2007. Depending on who you spoke with, Marty was known as either a music publisher, a theatrical agent or a professional photographer. His varied interests and career choices began in, “the most important generator of popular songs in the Western world,” the Brill Building.
Marty’s father, Jack, founded Jack Mills Music (http://www.perfessorbill.com/pubs/jmills.shtml) in the 1920’s and later, Mills Music with his brother Irving Mills. Mills Music became the largest and most well-known music publishing company in the world up until 1964 when it was sold. Located at the famed Brill Building, Mills clients included Duke Ellington, Hoagy Carmichael, Fats Waller, Mitchell Parish, Willie “The Lion” Smith and many others.
Marty started his professional career in music publishing at Mills Music as a ‘song plugger’, going from city to city meeting disc jockeys he hoped would play titles from Mills Music catalog. He later partnered with singer/songwriter Jerry Keller to form Jaymar music publishing, which published Keller’s 1959 hit “Here Comes Summer.” Mills sold his share of Jaymar to Keller and joined MCA as an agent booking talent for television and advertising agencies. He later became a personal manager for Eddie Fisher, Joey Bishop and Edie Adams. His professional career spawned lifelong friendships with celebrities, musicians and those in the world of film, television and music. This gave Mills a unique entre when he became a professional photographer. He was often able to bypass agents, managers, film and television studios as he was personally invited by his subjects to shoot them.
Married to entertainer Edie Adams in the mid-1960’s, Marty found himself in Rome, Italy for six months on the United Artists film, “Anyone for Venice” which co-starred Adams, Cliff Robertson and Rex Harrison. He was given free reign to shoot on set from noted Director Joesph L. Mankiewicz. With time on his hands, Mills learned how to cook Italian food, which became a life-long passion, as well as taking up photography. Being in a unique position to document a major motion picture starring his wife, Mills picked up a camera and shot on set, on location, street scenes, daily life in Italy, landscapes – just for fun. He shot many rolls of film just to figure out lighting, shading and how to capture an interesting subject on a moment’s notice. He was entirely self-taught.
Upon his return to Beverly Hills, Ca. from Italy, he founded Martin Mills Photography and was hired as a freelance photographer to shoot sports, entertainment and political figures for a diverse set of publications including Look Magazine, Pageant, TV Guide and Sports Illustrated among others. His images graced magazine covers more then 20 times and have been syndicated to publications like the New York Times, Los Angeles Times, People Magazine, Playboy and Newsweek.
Mills was also hired to shoot many publicity portraits, on set photography by the studios and occasionally by the stars themselves. Ironically, it was Mills’ close relationship with celebrities who were also his friends that helped put his subjects at ease in front of the camera. Because he knew many of his subjects socially, he was able to capture them at their most natural because they trusted him. His good friend Dean Martin had Mills on set for a variety of films & television shows including, “Matt Helm”, “Bandalero” and various Dean Martin television specials. Mills also shot on set for “The Glen Campbell Goodtime Hour”, “The Andy Williams Show”, “Battle of the Network Stars”, “The Sonny and Cher Comedy Hour” and film, “Outlaw Blues” starring Peter Fonda.
Mills shot diverse subjects in his 30+ years in professional photography including Joe DiMaggio, Jack Nicklaus, John Wayne, Jackie Gleason, Frank Sinatra, Dean Martin, Sammy Davis Jr. Mel Torme, Bette Davis, Dizzy Gillespie, Mickey Mantle, Lee Marvin, Johnny Carson and Martin Luther King Jr. and many others. He also shot extensively at major PGA, LPGA & celebrity golf tournaments, NBA professional basketball games, NFL professional football games, boxing matches and professional & celebrity tennis tournaments.
Ever resourceful, Mills was one of the first photographers to use technology to develop his career. Mills often used a police scanner to document the times (as was the case during the UCLA riots in the early 1970’s) and in the mid-1970’s when he lost a photography assignment due to being out of the office and “away from the phone”, he installed a ‘ship-to-shore’ mobile phone in his 250 SL Mercedes to make sure it never happened again. He often got professional assignments while driving in his car years before anyone had ever heard of a mobile phone.
Mills was known as a ‘working photographer’ as he didn’t specialize in one specific style – portraits, sports or landscapes. He was hired to shoot publicity photos, spreads for national magazines and sometimes directly by the celebrities themselves for their professional events and parties. He was profiled in a 2006 article, “Legends of the Lens,” in VLife magazine from Daily Variety.