Mary Hayley Bell, 94, an actress and writer who was the widow of actor John Mills, died Dec. 1, it was reported in England. She had Alzheimer's disease.

Her best-known work was the novel "Whistle Down the Wind," which was turned into a successful film by director Bryan Forbes in 1961 and starred her younger daughter, Hayley Mills, as the eldest of three farm children who mistake an escaped murderer for Jesus Christ. Andrew Lloyd Webber later turned it into a stage musical, relocating it to the American Deep South.

Miss Bell was born in Shanghai, where her father was a customs official. She had a promising career as an actress in the 1930s, making her London debut in 1934 with "Vintage Wine" and later working with the Manchester Repertory Company. In 1937 and 1938, she toured Australia in "Victoria Regina."

She gave up the stage after marrying Mills in 1942, saying: "It was no good my being in Birmingham while John was in the West End [of London]. I believe that if you want to keep a marriage together, you have to be together."

While at home bringing up their three children, she discovered a talent for writing that produced her first play in 1942: "Men in Shadow," about war behind enemy lines. It starred her husband as the leader of a group of British airmen shot down over occupied France.

Mills directed her next play, "Duet for Two Hands," in 1945, and starred as a young poet given the hands of a murderer during surgery.

Other works included "Angel" (1947), "The Uninvited Guest" (1953) -- featuring her husband as a long-term mental patient -- and "Foreign Field" the same year. In 1968, she published her autobiography, "What Shall We Do Tomorrow?"

John Mills died in April.

Survivors include a second daughter, actress Juliet Mills, and a son, Jonathan Mills.