(m. 1942; div. 1948)
(m. 1952; div. 1956)
(m. 1960, divorced)
(m. 1964; died 1980)
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.
Johns was born in Pretoria, Union of South Africa, on 5 October 1923, 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.
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).
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).
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.
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.
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.
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.
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).
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.
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. In 1973, she won a Tony Award for Best Actress in a Musical for her role as Desiree Armfeldt.
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.
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.
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.
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. From 1952 to 1956, she was married to David Foster, a Royal Navy officer and later president of Colgate-Palmolive. She married Cecil Henderson, a businessman, in 1960. She married Elliott Arnold, a writer, in 1964.
Johns' son Gareth predeceased her, dying in 2007.
Johns resides at the Belmont Village Hollywood Heights, a senior living community, located in Los Angeles, California near the Hollywood Bowl.
She is a niece of the Oxford academic Howard Johns and a cousin of British judge John Geoffrey Jones.
|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|
|An Ideal Husband||Miss Mabel Chiltern|
|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|
|1988||Scooby-Doo and the Ghoul School||Grimwood||Voice, TV movie|
|Zelly and Me||Co-Co|
|1995||While You Were Sleeping||Elsie|
|1999||Superstar||Grandma||Final film role|
|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|
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