Glynis Johns

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Not to be confused with Glyn Johns.
Glynis Johns
Glynis Johns - still.jpg
Glynis Johns (1952)
Born (1923-10-05) October 5, 1923 (age 93)
Pretoria, Union of South Africa
Nationality British
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 October 5, 1923) is a retired South African-born Welsh 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[edit]

Johns was born in Pretoria, South Africa, the daughter of Alys Maude (née Steele-Payne; (1920-1971), 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 Christmas film All Mine to Give. Johns received an Academy Award nomination for Best Supporting Actress for the 1960 film The Sundowners. One of her best-known film roles was that of Winifred Banks, a suffragette in Mary Poppins (1964).

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. 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 played a mystery writer and Andes a criminal defense attorney. The program was cancelled after thirteen episodes. During the first season of NBC's hit sitcom Cheers, Johns guest starred as Diane Chambers' mother, Helen Chambers, a rich eccentric who, due to a stipulation in Diane's late father's will, will lose all her money unless Diane is married by the next day. 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.

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.[citation needed] 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 from cancer ended the show's run.) Johns starred as Myrtle Bledsoe in the premiere of Horton Foote's A Coffin in Egypt in 1998 at the Bay Street Theatre.[citation needed]

Her last film appearance to date was as Molly Shannon's grandmother in the 1999 film Superstar.[4]

Personal life[edit]

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)[edit]

  • 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. 
  2. ^ "Vivien Leigh: Actress of the Year". Townsville Daily Bulletin. Qld.: National Library of Australia. 29 December 1951. p. 1. Retrieved 9 July 2012. 
  3. ^ "COMEDIAN TOPS FILM POLL". The Sunday Herald. Sydney: National Library of Australia. 28 December 1952. p. 4. Retrieved 9 July 2012. 
  4. ^ "Superstar". Retrieved 2013-04-07. 
  5. ^ Glynis Johns at the Internet Movie Database

External links[edit]