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Glynis Johns
Glynis Johns - still.jpg
Johns in 1952
Born (1923-10-05) 5 October 1923 (age 98)
CitizenshipSouth Africa
United Kingdom
  • Actress
  • dancer
  • pianist
  • singer
Years active1935–1999
(m. 1942; div. 1948)

(m. 1952; div. 1956)

Cecil Henderson
(m. 1960, divorced)

(m. 1964; died 1980)
ChildrenGareth Forwood

Glynis Johns (born 5 October 1923) is a South African-born British retired actress, dancer, musician and singer. Born in Pretoria, South Africa, while her parents were on tour, she is best known for originating 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 Mary Poppins. In 2020, with the death of Olivia de Havilland, Johns became the oldest living Academy Award-nominee in any acting category.

In both roles, Johns sang songs written specifically for her, including "Send In the Clowns", composed by Stephen Sondheim, and "Sister Suffragette", written by the Sherman Brothers.

Johns was nominated for the Academy Award for Best Supporting Actress for her work in the 1960 film The Sundowners. She is one of the last surviving stars from the Golden Age of Hollywood and class years of British cinema. She is known for the breathy quality of her husky voice and her upbeat persona.[1]

Early life and education

Johns was born in Pretoria, Union of South Africa, on 5 October 1923,[2] while her parents were on tour. She was the daughter of Alice Maude Steele (née Wareham), a pianist, and Mervyn Johns, a Welsh stage and film actor. Her roots are in West Wales.[citation needed]

Hoping to study with the Sadler's Wells Ballet, Johns was enrolled instead at Clifton High School in Bristol, balancing academia with the two hours a week she spent at the Cone School of Dancing (which later merged with the Ripman School to form Tring Park School for the Performing Arts).[3]

Early career

Johns made her first stage appearance in Buckie's Bears as a child ballerina at the Garrick Theatre in 1935. (She later became a qualified ballet teacher.) She was spotted dancing in a children's play during the Christmas holidays and cast in her first notable stage production, St Helena, at the Old Vic in 1936. That year, she was also in productions of The Children's Hour and The Melody That Got Lost. She followed this with Judgement Day (1937) and A Kiss for Cinderella (1937).[4]

Stage and film

Johns in 1951
Johns in 1951

Johns made her screen debut in 1938 in the film version of Winifred Holtby's novel South Riding. She had small roles in Murder in the Family (1938), Prison Without Bars (1939), On the Night of the Fire (1940), Under Your Hat (1940), and The Briggs Family (1940). On stage, she was in Quiet Wedding (1938).

Johns' scene in The Prime Minister (1941) did not make the final cut, but she had a role in 49th Parallel (1941) as Anna, replacing Elisabeth Bergner at the last minute. She was in Quiet Weekend (1941–43) on stage, which ran for two years.[4]

Johns had roles in The Adventures of Tartu (1943) and The Halfway House (1944). On stage, she appeared in Peter Pan (1943), I'll See You Again (1944), and Fools Rush In (1946).

Johns received good reviews for her performance as Deborah Kerr's best friend in Perfect Strangers (1945) (also titled Vacation from Marriage).

Johns continued in supporting roles: This Man Is Mine (1946), Frieda (1947), and An Ideal Husband (1947).


Johns played the title role in Miranda (1948), a mermaid who causes havoc in a London household, directed by Ken Annakin.[5]

Johns starred in Third Time Lucky (1949), Dear Mr. Prohack (1949), and State Secret (1950). On stage, Johns was in Fools Rush In and The Way Things Go.

Johns supported Richard Todd in Flesh and Blood (1951) and also appeared in the Hollywood-financed No Highway in the Sky (1951). She co-starred with David Niven in Appointment with Venus (1951) for director Ralph Thomas, and was one of several names in Encore (1951) and The Magic Box (1951).

Johns was one of Alec Guinness' love interests in The Card (1952). On Broadway, she played the title role in Gertie. She was voted by British exhibitors as the 10th-most popular local star at the box office in 1951 and 1952.[6][7]

Johns was reunited with Richard Todd for two swashbucklers made for Walt Disney: The Sword and the Rose (1953) (directed by Annakin) and Rob Roy, the Highland Rogue (1953). In between, she made Personal Affair (1953) supporting Gene Tierney.

Johns had the starring role in The Weak and the Wicked (1954) about women in prison, which was a big hit.

Johns did another for Annakin, The Seekers (1954) with Jack Hawkins, then co-starred with Robert Newton in The Beachcomber (1954). For both these films, she was paid £12,500 a picture.[8]

Mad About Men (1954) was a sequel to Miranda, directed by Thomas.

Johns starred in a comedy Josephine and Men (1955) and supported Danny Kaye in The Court Jester (1956). Annakin used her again in Loser Takes All (1956) and she was one of the many actors who made cameos in Around the World in 80 Days (1956).

Johns returned to Broadway to play the title role in a production of Major Barbara (1956). Johns stayed in America to make the melodrama All Mine to Give (1956).

Character actress

Johns in 1959
Johns in 1959

Johns returned to Britain to make Another Time, Another Place (1958) with Lana Turner and was in Shake Hands with the Devil (1959). Johns starred in The Spider's Web (1960) and had a supporting role in The Sundowners (1960), which earned her an Oscar nomination.

Johns starred in the remake of The Cabinet of Caligari (1962), and was one of several stars in The Chapman Report (1962). She supported Jackie Gleason in Papa's Delicate Condition (1963), and was in Too True to Be Good on Broadway in 1963.

Johns was cast in 1961 in the ABC/Warner Bros. crime drama The Roaring '20s. She portrayed Kitty O'Moyne, an Irish immigrant who falls overboard into the harbour as she arrives in the United States. In the 1962–63 television season, Johns guest-starred in the CBS anthology series The Lloyd Bridges Show. In the autumn 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 defence attorney. The programme was cancelled after thirteen episodes.[9]

Johns appeared as Winifred Banks in Mary Poppins (1964) and played James Stewart's wife in Dear Brigitte (1965). She was in The King's Mare at the Garrick Theatre in 1966.

Johns appeared in various character roles in Don't Just Stand There! (1968) and Lock Up Your Daughters (1969). She made a guest appearance as villainess Lady Penelope Peasoup in the Batman TV series in 1967. She turned increasingly to stage work, appearing in A Talent to Amuse (1969), Come as You Are (1969–70), and Marquise (1971–72).

Johns appeared in A Little Night Music (1973) on Broadway. The song "Send In the Clowns" was written with her in mind.[10] In 1973, she won a Tony Award for Best Actress in a Musical for her role as Desiree Armfeldt.

Later career

Her later film roles included The Vault of Horror (1973) and The Happy Prince (1974), but her focus was the stage: Ring Round the Moon (1975), 13 Rue de l'Amour (1976), Cause Célèbre (1978), Hay Fever (1980–81), and The Circle (1989–90). Johns starred as Myrtle Bledsoe in the premiere of Horton Foote's A Coffin in Egypt in 1998 at the Bay Street Theatre.[11]

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. During 1988–89, she played Trudie Pepper, a senior citizen living in an Arizona retirement community, in the television sitcom Coming of Age on CBS.[12]

Johns played the camera-toting grandmother in the 1995 Sandra Bullock hit While You Were Sleeping. Her last film appearance to date was as the grandmother of Molly Shannon's character in the 1999 film Superstar.

Personal life

Johns has been married four times. Her first husband was Anthony Forwood (m. 1942–48), with whom she had her only child, actor Gareth Forwood, in 1945.[13] From 1952 to 1956, she was married to David Foster, a Royal Navy officer and later president of Colgate-Palmolive.[14] She married Cecil Henderson, a businessman, in 1960.[15] She married Elliott Arnold, a writer, in 1964.[16][17][18][19]

Johns' son Gareth predeceased her, dying in 2007.[13]

Johns resides at the Belmont Village Hollywood Heights, a senior living community, located in Los Angeles, California near the Hollywood Bowl.[20]

She is a niece of the Oxford academic Howard Johns and a cousin of British judge John Geoffrey Jones.[citation needed]


Year Title Role Notes
1938 South Riding Midge Carne
Murder in the Family Marjorie Osborne
Prison Without Bars Nina
1939 On the Night of the Fire Mary Carr
1940 Under Your Hat Winnie
The Briggs Family Sheila Briggs
The Thief of Bagdad Princess' Maid Uncredited
The Prime Minister Miss Sheridan Uncredited
1941 49th Parallel Anna Won - National Board of Review Awards 1942 for Best Acting
1943 The Adventures of Tartu Paula Palacek U.S. title Sabotage Agent
1944 The Halfway House Gwyneth
1945 Perfect Strangers Dizzy Clayton U.S. title Vacation from Marriage
1946 This Man Is Mine Millie
1947 Frieda Judy
An Ideal Husband Miss Mabel Chiltern
1948 Miranda Miranda Trewella
1949 Third Time Lucky Joan Burns
Helter Skelter Miranda Trewella Uncredited
Dear Mr. Prohack Mimi Warburton
1950 State Secret Lisa Robinson U.S. title The Great Manhunt
1951 Flesh and Blood Katherine
No Highway Marjorie Corder U.S. title No Highway in the Sky
Appointment with Venus Nicola Fallaize U.S. title Island Rescue
Encore Stella Cotman segment "Gigolo and Gigolette"
The Magic Box May Jones
1952 The Card Ruth Earp U.S. title The Promoter
1953 The Sword and the Rose Princess Mary Tudor
Personal Affair Barbara Vining
Rob Roy, the Highland Rogue Helen Mary MacPherson MacGregor
1954 The Weak and the Wicked Jean Raymond U.S. title Young and Willing
The Seekers Marion Southey U.S. title Land of Fury
The Beachcomber Martha Jones
Mad About Men Caroline Trewella / Miranda Trewella
1955 Josephine and Men Josephine Luton
The Court Jester Maid Jean
1956 Loser Takes All Cary
Around the World in 80 Days Sporting lady's companion
1957 All Mine to Give Jo Eunson
1958 Another Time, Another Place Kay Trevor
1959 Shake Hands with the Devil Kitty Brady
1960 Last of the Few Narrator
The Spider's Web Clarissa Hailsham-Brown
The Sundowners Mrs. Firth Nominated -Academy Award for Best Supporting Actress
1962 The Cabinet of Caligari Jane Lindstrom
The Chapman Report Teresa Harnish Nominated - Golden Globe Award for Best Actress in a Motion Picture – Drama
1963 Papa's Delicate Condition Amberlyn Griffith
1964 Mary Poppins Winifred Banks
1965 Dear Brigitte Vina Leaf
1968 Don't Just Stand There! Sabine Manning
1969 Lock Up Your Daughters! Mrs. Squeezum
1972 Under Milk Wood Myfanwy Price
1973 The Vault of Horror Eleanor (Segment "The Neat Job")
1974 The Happy Prince Swallow Voice, Short
1975 Mrs. Amworth Mrs. Amworth Short
1977 Three Dangerous Ladies Mrs. Amworth (Segment "Mrs. Amworth")
1982 Little Gloria... Happy at Last Laura Fitzpatrick Morgan TV movie
1987 Nukie Sister Anne
1988 Scooby-Doo and the Ghoul School Grimwood Voice, TV movie
Zelly and Me Co-Co
1994 The Ref Rose
1995 While You Were Sleeping Elsie
1999 Superstar Grandma Final film role

Partial television credits

Year Title Role Notes
1956 The Errol Flynn Theatre Lou McNamara / Susan Tracey 2 episodes
1958 The Frank Sinatra Show Christine Nolan Episode: Face of Fear
1961 Adventures in Paradise Esther Holmes
The Naked City Miss Arlington
1963 Glynis Glynis Granville 13 episodes
1964 12 O'clock High Jennifer Heath
1967 Batman Lady Penelope Peasoup 4 episodes
1968 ITV Playhouse Lorraine Barrie Episode: Star Quality
1983 Cheers Mrs. Helen Chambers
1984 The Love Boat Edna Miles
1985 Murder, She Wrote Bridget O'Hara Episode: Sing a Song of Murder
1987 The Cavanaughs Maureen Episode: The Eyes Have Had It
1988-89 Coming of Age Trudie Pepper 15 episodes

Theatre (selected)


  1. ^ "Glynis Johns Biography". Retrieved 3 November 2017.
  2. ^ Pender, Rick (15 April 2021). The Stephen Sondheim Encyclopedia. Rowman & Littlefield Publishers. p. 247. ISBN 9781538115879. Retrieved 20 January 2022.
  3. ^ "Glynis Johns". The Powell & Pressburger Pages. Picturegoer. 28 September 1946. Retrieved 26 September 2022. she came to this country when she was still a child, and attended Clifton High School. Then she attended the Cone School of Dancing. For two hours each day she put in intensive training at the rail in the ballet class
  4. ^ a b "THE LIFE STORY OF Glynis Johns". The Voice. Vol. 25, no. 38. Tasmania, Australia. 20 September 1952. p. 4. Retrieved 31 August 2017 – via National Library of Australia.
  5. ^ "Glynis Johns has a mermaid tail in "Miranda"". The Australian Women's Weekly. Vol. 15, no. 6. 19 July 1947. p. 36. Retrieved 31 August 2017 – via National Library of Australia.
  6. ^ "Vivien Leigh: Actress of the Year". Townsville Daily Bulletin. Qld. 29 December 1951. p. 1. Retrieved 9 July 2012 – via National Library of Australia.
  7. ^ "COMEDIAN TOPS FILM POLL". The Sunday Herald. Sydney. 28 December 1952. p. 4. Retrieved 9 July 2012 – via National Library of Australia.
  8. ^ "Croaky-voiced actress in big roles". Brisbane Telegraph. Queensland, Australia. 29 October 1953. p. 23 (LATE CITY). Retrieved 7 July 2020 – via National Library of Australia.
  9. ^ Leszczak, Bob (2012). Single Season Sitcoms, 1948–1979: A Complete Guide. McFarland. p. 58. ISBN 9780786493050. Retrieved 12 August 2017.
  10. ^ Gussow, Mel (11 March 2008). "Send In the Sondheim; City Opera Revives 'Night Music,' as Composer Dotes". The New York Times. Retrieved 10 June 2008.
  11. ^ "Glynis Johns Opens Foote's Coffin in Egypt at Bay Street June 17 – Playbill". Playbill. 17 June 1998.
  12. ^ Terrace, Vincent (2011). Encyclopedia of Television Shows, 1925 through 2010 (2nd ed.). Jefferson, North Carolina: McFarland & Company. p. 203. ISBN 978-0-7864-6477-7.
  13. ^ a b Lentz, Harris M. "Gareth Forwood" Obituaries in the Performing Arts, 2007: Film, Television, Radio, Theatre, Dance, Music, Cartoons and Pop Culture, McFarland, 2008, ISBN 0786434813, p. 124
  14. ^ "Obituary" The Telegraph, 18 July 2010
  15. ^ "1960 Press Photo British actress Glynis Johns and husband Cecil Henderson", retrieved 7 April 2019
  16. ^ "British Actress Married" Tucson Daily Citizen (archives), October 2, 1964
  17. ^ Berkvist, Robert. "Miss Johns Hits a High Note" The New York Times, March 11, 1973
  18. ^ "Glynis Johns Companions", retrieved 7 April 2019
  19. ^ "Glynis Johns Is Engaged" The New York Times, June 25, 1964
  20. ^ "Glynis Johns".
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