Glynis Johns

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Glynis Johns
Glynis Johns - still.jpg
Glynis Johns (1952)
Born (1923-10-05) 5 October 1923 (age 98)
Pretoria, South Africa
Occupation Actress, dancer, pianist, singer
Years active 1935–1999
Spouse(s) Anthony Forwood
(m.1942–48, divorced); 1 child
David Foster
(m.1952, divorced)
Cecil Henderson
(m.1960–62, divorced)
Elliott Arnold
(m.1964, divorced)
Children Gareth Forwood (1945–2007)

Glynis Johns (born 5 October 1923) is a British stage and film actress, dancer, pianist and singer. She is best known for creating the role of Desiree Armfeldt in A Little Night Music on Broadway, for which she won a Tony Award, and for playing Winifred Banks in Walt Disney's musical motion picture box office smash Mary Poppins. In both roles, she originated songs written specifically for her, including "Send in the Clowns", composed by Stephen Sondheim, and "Sister Suffragette", written by the Sherman Brothers.

Early life

Johns was born in Pretoria, South Africa, the daughter of Alys Maude (née Steele-Payne; died 1971), a pianist, and Mervyn Johns (1899–1992), the British stage and film actor.[1] Her roots are in West Wales, and she was born in Pretoria while her parents were performing on tour there. She attended Clifton High School in Bristol for a short time.[citation needed] Her ancestors on the Johns side are recorded as living at the farm Glanmorlais Uchaf, Trimsaran, Carmarthenshire in 1701.[citation needed]


Johns made her first stage appearance in Buckie's Bears as a child ballerina at the Garrick Theatre in 1935. She made her film debut in 1938 in the movie version of Winifred Holtby's novel South Riding. In 1944, she appeared with her father in Halfway House and in 1948 starred as a mermaid in Miranda (Johns later reprised the role in a 1954 sequel, Mad About Men). In 1952, she co-starred in the movie version of Arnold Bennett's novel The Card. She was voted by British exhibitors the tenth most popular local star at the box office in 1951 and 1952.[2][3]

She made a successful transition to Hollywood, appearing in Personal Affair (1953) starring Gene Tierney and in The Court Jester (1956) as Danny Kaye's love interest. The following year, she starred in the especially sad Christmas film All Mine to Give. Johns received an Academy Award nomination for Best Supporting Actress for the 1960 film The Sundowners.

She was cast in 1961 in the ABC/Warner Brothers crime drama, The Roaring 20s. She portrayed Kitty O'Moyne, an Irish immigrant who falls overboard into the harbor as she arrives in the United States. Tim McCool, played by Philip Carey, rescues her, and the two fall in love. Tim, however, is mixed up with gangsters.[4]

In the 1962–1963 television season, Johns guest starred in the CBS anthology series The Lloyd Bridges Show. In the fall of 1963, she and Keith Andes starred as a married couple in her eponymous CBS television series Glynis, in which she appears as a mystery writer and Andes portrays a criminal defense attorney. The program was cancelled after thirteen episodes.

One of her best-known film roles was that of Winifred Banks, the children's mother, a suffragette, in Mary Poppins (1964).

From 1988-89, she played Trudie Pepper, a senior citizen living in an Arizona retirement community, in the television sitcom Coming of Age on CBS.[5]

Johns also appeared on stage, most memorably in the original Broadway production of Stephen Sondheim's musical A Little Night Music. The song "Send in the Clowns" was reportedly written with her in mind. In 1973, she won a Tony award for her role in the musical. She later appeared in London in Cause Célèbre by Terence Rattigan. She played opposite Rex Harrison in his final acting role in a Broadway revival of W. Somerset Maugham's play The Circle in 1990. (Harrison's death in his New York apartment from cancer ended the show's run.) Johns starred in the premiere of Horton Foote's A Coffin in Egypt in 1998 at the Bay Street Theatre as Myrtle Bledsoe.[citation needed]

Her last film appearance to date was as Molly Shannon's grandmother in the 1999 film Superstar.[6]

Personal life

Johns has been married four times. Her first husband was Anthony Forwood (m. 1942–48), with whom she had her only child, Gareth Forwood (1945–2007), an actor, who predeceased his mother.[5]


Theatre (selected)

  • 1936–36 St Helena, Old Vic
  • 1937 Judgement Day, Embassy and Strand
  • 1938 Quiet Wedding, Wyndham's
  • 1941 Quiet Weekend, Wyndham's
  • 1943 Peter Pan (Peter), Cambridge Theatre
  • 1950 Fools Rush In, Fortune
  • 1950 The Way Things Go, Phœnix
  • 1952 Gertie (title role), Broadway
  • 1956 Major Barbara (title role), Broadway
  • 1963 Too True to Be Good, Broadway
  • 1966 The King's Mare, Garrick
  • 1969–70 A Talent to Amuse, Phoenix Theatre
  • 1969–70 Come As You Are, New Theatre
  • 1971–72 Marquise, The Hippodrome, Bristol
  • 1973 A Little Night Music (Tony Award for best musical actress), Broadway
  • 1975 Ring Round the Moon, Los Angeles
  • 1976 13 Rue de l'Amour, Phœnix
  • 1978 Cause Celebre (Best Actress Award, Variety Club), Her Majesty's Theatre
  • 1980–81 Hay Fever, Yvonne Arnaud Theatre, Guildford
  • 1980–90 The Boy Friend, Toronto
  • 1989–90 The Circle, Broadway
  • 1998 A Coffin in Egypt, Bay Street Theatre


  1. "Glynis Johns Biography". Retrieved 8 April 2013.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  2. "Vivien Leigh: Actress of the Year". Townsville Daily Bulletin. Qld.: National Library of Australia. 29 December 1951. p. 1. Retrieved 9 July 2012.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  3. "COMEDIAN TOPS FILM POLL". The Sunday Herald. Sydney: National Library of Australia. 28 December 1952. p. 4. Retrieved 9 July 2012.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  4. ""Kitty Goes West", The Roaring 20s". Internet Movie Data Base. 14 October 1961. Retrieved 20 January 2013.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  5. 5.0 5.1 Glynis Johns at the Internet Movie Database
  6. "Superstar". Retrieved 7 April 2013.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>

External links