Glynis Johns


Actor
Glynis Johns

About

Birth Place
Pretoria, ZA
Born
October 05, 1923

Biography

Fondly remembered for the breathy quality of her husky voice and her eternally upbeat persona, British actress Glynis Johns delivered a myriad of memorable roles in a varied career that spanned over 60 years. Born into a theatrical family, Johns began performing on the stage by the age of 12 and in film while still in her teens. Early films roles included her starring turn as a flirtatio...

Family & Companions

Anthony Forwood
Husband
Manager, former actor. Divorced; father of Johns' son Gareth; later had long relationship with actor Dirk Bogarde.
Antony Darnborough
Companion
Producer. Born on October 16, 1913; became engaged in 1951; produced "Encore" (1951) in which Johns starred; separated; died on September 24, 2000.
David Ramsey Foster
Husband
Was WWII hero; married on February 1, 1952; divorced.
Cecil Peter L Henderson
Husband
Married in 1960; divorced c. 1961.

Notes

On her star-making turn as a mermaid in "Miranda": "I was quite an athlete, my muscles were strong from dancing, so the tail was just fine. I swam like a porpoise."As for her taking on the role of Madame Armfeldt for the 1991 revival of "A Little Night Music" after having played her daughter 18 years before: "To tell you the truth, I hadn't liked that part (originally Hermione Gingold's), and I wasn't sure if I could listen to someone else singing 'Send in the Clowns', the song Stephen Sondheim wrote for me." --Glynis Johns quoted in the Daily News, June 14, 1998.

Biography

Fondly remembered for the breathy quality of her husky voice and her eternally upbeat persona, British actress Glynis Johns delivered a myriad of memorable roles in a varied career that spanned over 60 years. Born into a theatrical family, Johns began performing on the stage by the age of 12 and in film while still in her teens. Early films roles included her starring turn as a flirtatious mermaid in the popular fantasy-comedy "Miranda" (1948), the thriller "State Secret" (1950) and the "Miranda" sequel "Mad About Men" (1954). Following a well-regarded run on Broadway in a revival of "Major Barbara" in 1956 and a disappointing outing as the star of her own television sitcom, "Glynis" (CBS, 1963), the actress appeared in one of the most popular family musicals in film history, "Mary Poppins" (1964), as the well-intentioned suffragette, Winifred Banks. Even more memorable was her lengthy performance as Desiree Armfeldt in the 1973 premiere of the Wheeler-Sondheim musical comedy "A Little Night Music," in which she immortalized the heart-breaking ballad "Send in the Clowns." In the years after her Tony Award-winning tour with the show, Johns went on to dozens of endearing roles in films like "While You Were Sleeping" (1995) well into the late-1990s. Whether portraying a sultry sea creature, a neglectful mother or a delightfully eccentric grandmother, Johns was never anything less than an absolute joy onscreen.

Glynis Johns was born on Oct. 5, 1923 in Pretoria, South Africa while her parents, actor Mervyn Johns and pianist Alys Maude were performing on tour. Her Welsh parents had met while studying at the Royal Academy of Music and it was Johns' grandmother, violinist Elizabeth Steele, who had suggested they embark on the South African tour. Drawn to dancing by the time she learned to walk, Johns was a certified ballet instructor by the unbelievably young age of 10, and qualified as an advanced teacher by 12. Partly a matter of necessity due to her parents' profession, the young girl soon began acting and made her London stage bow as a child in a 1935 production of "Buckie's Bears" at the Garrick Theatre. She followed a year later with a turn as Mary Tilford in Lillian Hellman's "The Children's Hour," in addition to performing in "St. Helena" at the Old Vic. At the age of 14, Johns made her screen debut in Victor Saville's "South Riding" (1938), in which she showed promise as the headstrong daughter of local politician Ralph Richardson. After several more film appearances, she appeared with Sir Laurence Oliver - a theatrical contemporary of her father's - in the World War II spy thriller "The 49th Parallel" (1941), directed by Michael Powell.

Never one to stay away from the theater for long, Johns returned to the London stage at the age of 19 in order to take on the title role in a mounting of the family favorite "Peter Pan" in 1943. A versatile actress most often associated with comedy, Johns showed her dramatic mettle with her performance in "Frieda" (1947), playing a sister-in-law who befriends the German war bride (Mai Zetterling) of an English schoolteacher (David Farrar). It was, however, with her playful embodiment of the flirtatious, titular mermaid in the comedic fantasy "Miranda" (1948) that Johns made her first big splash at the box office. Shortly after appearing as a sympathetic actress helping a targeted doctor on the run (Douglas Fairbanks, Jr.) in the conspiracy-thriller "State Secret" (1950), Johns made her brief Broadway debut in 1952 as the eponymous star of the comedy "Gertie" before it closed after only five performances. Returning to the U.K., Johns reprised the role of Miranda - in addition to a dual role as a look-alike human counterpart - for the comedy sequel "Mad About Men" (1954), which found the boy-crazy mermaid causing mischief on dry land once again.

Johns enjoyed far greater success with her second crack at Broadway, this time cast as playwright George Bernard Shaw's "Major Barbara" (1956) in a production directed by legendary actor Charles Laughton. By this time, the actress' spirited personality had become her signature, enlivening whatever material she chose, be it on stage or film. She proved a vivacious delight in her Oscar-nominated supporting turn as a hotelkeeper who sets her sights on a matrimonially-adverse Peter Ustinov in the Australian adventure "The Sundowners" (1960), co-starring Robert Mitchum and Deborah Kerr. Other work included a starring role in the Robert Bloch scripted "The Cabinet of Caligari" (1962), a psychological thriller which bore scant resemblance to the similarly titled 1920 German expressionist classic. Johns also made inroads in the medium of television, where the actress starred in her own sitcom, "Glynis" (CBS, 1963), a short-lived effort that cast her as a novice mystery writer and amateur sleuth who solves murders, much to the chagrin of her clueless husband (Keith Andes).

Of all her numerous roles on stage and screen, Johns was best remembered as the distracted suffragette wife of the order-obsessed Mr. Banks (David Tomlinson) in the Disney live-action smash hit musical "Mary Poppins" (1964), starring Julie Andrews in the title role. During the same period, she was a standout as James Stewart's practical wife in "Dear Brigitte" (1965), then had some fun with tongue-in-cheek villainy as Lady Penelope Peasoup in several 1967 episodes of the popular campy adventure series "Batman" (ABC, 1966-68). Always fiercely proud of her Welsh roots, she particularly enjoyed her work on screen opposite fellow Welshman Richard Burton in the film version of Dylan Thomas' sardonic masterpiece of modern language, "Under Milkwood" (1972). John's most indelible Broadway turn came as Desiree Armfeldt, the leading lady of the Hugh Wheeler-Stephen Sondheim hit musical "A Little Night Music" (1973). After a particular scene was staged by director Harold Prince, Sondheim, realizing a song was required for her character, quickly tossed off the contemporary standard "Send in the Clowns," which the composer tailored for Johns' particular vocal qualities - what Sondheim equated with "a rumpled bed." Her bravura performance in the role later won the actress a Tony Award as Lead Actress in a Musical.

Never shy about tackling genre material in film, she appeared in a segment of the Amicus-produced portmanteau "The Vault of Horror" (1973), followed by a similarly structured frightfest four years later, appropriately titled "Three Dangerous Ladies" (1977). After an extended period away from the camera, Johns returned to TV with several guest spots, followed by a run as a series regular in "Coming of Age" (CBS, 1989-1990), playing the perpetually perky Trudie Pepper. The actress returned to Broadway once again in a 1989 revival of the Somerset Maugham play "The Circle," starring opposite Rex Harrison and Stewart Granger, and later took part in a 1991 Los Angeles revival of "A Little Night Music," this time portraying Madame Armfeldt, the mother of the character she had originated on Broadway. As she matured, her spunky persona lent itself readily to roles as eccentric grandmothers in comedic efforts such as "The Ref" (1994) and "While You Were Sleeping" (1995). In one of her final stage performances, Johns starred in a 1998 Long Island staging of Horton Foote's play "A Coffin in Egypt," playing a 90-year-old grand dame reminiscing about her life on and off a Texas ranch. After an appearance as the grandmother of eternally nerdy and hyperactive schoolgirl Mary Katherine Gallagher (Molly Shannon) in the "Saturday Night Live" (NBC, 1975- ) spin-off comedy "Superstar" (1999), Johns effectively retired from acting, although a return to the screen was never out of the realm of possibility for the venerable actress.

By Bryce Coleman

Filmography

 

Cast (Feature Film)

Superstar (1999)
While You Were Sleeping (1995)
Elsie
The Secret Garden (1994)
Voice
The Ref (1994)
Nukie (1988)
Sister Anne
Zelly And Me (1988)
Coco
Spraggue (1984)
The Vault of Horror (1973)
Under Milk Wood (1971)
Myfanwy Price
Lock Up Your Daughters (1969)
Mrs. Squeezum
Don't Just Stand There! (1968)
Sabine Manning
Dear Brigitte (1965)
Vina
Mary Poppins (1964)
Mrs. Banks
Papa's Delicate Condition (1963)
Ambolyn Griffith
The Cabinet of Caligari (1962)
Jane Lindstrom
The Chapman Report (1962)
Teresa Harnish
The Sundowners (1960)
Mrs. Firth
The Spider's Web (1960)
Clarissa Hailsham-Brown
Shake Hands with the Devil (1959)
Kitty Brady
Another Time, Another Place (1958)
Kay Trevor
All Mine to Give (1958)
Mamie Eunson
The Court Jester (1956)
Maid Jean
Around the World in 80 Days (1956)
Tart, London
Loser Takes All (1956)
The Beachcomber (1955)
Martha
Josephine and Men (1955)
Rob Roy: The Highland Rogue (1954)
Helen Mary MacGregor
The Weak and the Wicked (1954)
Jean [Raymond]
Mad About Men (1954)
Land Of Fury (1954)
Marion Southey
The Sword and the Rose (1953)
Princess Mary Tudor
Personal Affair (1953)
Barbara
Encore (1952)
Stella Cotman
The Card (1952)
Ruth Earp
No Highway in the Sky (1951)
Marjorie Corder
The Magic Box (1951)
Flesh and Blood (1951)
Appointment With Venus (1951)
State Secret (1950)
Helter Skelter (1949)
Dear Mr. Prohack (1949)
Third Time Lucky (1948)
Miranda (1948)
Frieda (1947)
Judy Dawson
An Ideal Husband (1947)
Vacation from Marriage (1945)
Dizzy Clayton
Sabotage Agent (1943)
Pavla Palacek
The Adventures of Tartu (1943)
The Prime Minister (1942)
49th Parallel (1941)
Under Your Hat (1940)
Winnie
Prison Without Bars (1939)
Nina
South Riding (1938)
Midge Carne
Murder in the Family (1938)

Cast (Special)

Jean Simmons: Picture Perfect (2001)
Safari (1962)
Rosie Sayer

Cast (TV Mini-Series)

Scooby-Doo and the Ghoul School (1988)
Voice
Little Gloria, Happy At Last (1982)

Life Events

1923

Born in South Africa and carried onstage by her violinist-impresario grandmother while the family's performing company was touring there

1935

London stage debut, as Ursula in "Buckie's Bears"

1938

Made feature film debut in the Victor Saville directed drama "South Riding"

1943

Starred on the London stage at age 19 in the title role of "Peter Pan"

1947

Delivered warm turn as the sister-in-law of German war bride "Frieda," adapted from the stage play

1948

Scored a hit as a mermaid in "Miranda," adapted by playwright Peter Blackmore from his stage play; initial screen work with David Tomlinson

1951

First film with father Mervyn Johns, "The Magic Box"; Tomlinson was also in the cast

1952

Broadway debut in title role of "Gertie"

1954

Reprised her mermaid role for the "Miranda" sequel "Mad About Men"

1956

Returned to Broadway in title role of "Major Barbara," directed by Charles Laughton

1960

Received an Oscar nomination as Best Supporting Actress for her role as a hotelkeeper in "The Sundowners"; second film with her father

1962

Acted opposite James Coburn in NBC adventure pilot "Safari," based on "The African Queen"

1963

Starred as Glynis Granville on the CBS sitcom "Glynis"; network aired reruns during the summer of 1965

1964

Played nutty suffragette wife of Tomlinson in "Mary Poppins"

1965

Offered a standout turn as James Stewart's practical wife in "Dear Brigette"

1967

Portrayed villainess Lady Penelope Peasoup on three episodes of the campy series "Batman" (ABC)

1968

Had brief bit as screwball author in "Don't Just Stand There"

1971

Joined the likes of Richard Burton, Elizabeth Taylor and Peter O'Toole in film version of Dylan Thomas' "Under Milkwood"

1973

Had a major hit on Broadway in the leading role of Desiree Armfeldt in the Stephen Sondheim-Hugh Wheeler musical, "A Little Night Music"; introduced the contemporary standard "Send in the Clowns"; received a Tony Award for her performance

1982

U.S. TV miniseries debut, "Little Gloria...Happy at Last" (NBC)

1983

Appeared as the mother of Diane Chambers (Shelley Long) on an episode of the NBC sitcom "Cheers"

1988

Played featured role of Trudie Pepper on the CBS sitcom "Coming of Age"

1991

In Los Angeles revival of "A Little Night Music," undertook role of Madame Armfeldt (originated by Hermione Gingold), the mother of the character she created in the original; Lee Remick was to have played Desiree but withdrew because of illness and was replaced by Lois Nettleton

1994

Essayed the 'Mom from Hell' in Ted Demme's "The Ref," starring Judy Davis, Kevin Spacey and Denis Leary

1995

Portrayed Peter Gallagher's grandmother in the romantic comedy "While You Were Sleeping," starring Sandra Bullock

1998

Starred in Horton Foote's play "A Coffin in Egypt" as a 90-year-old grand dame reminiscing about her life on and off a Texas ranch

1999

Played grandmother to Mary Katherine Gallagher (Molly Shannon) in "Superstar"

Photo Collections

The Sword and the Rose - Movie Posters
The Sword and the Rose - Movie Posters

Videos

Movie Clip

All Mine To Give (1957) - Not On The Lord's Day New in 1857 Wisconsin, Eunson (Cameron Mitchell) and pregnant wife Marnie (Glynis Johns) have a rough visit with Mrs. Runyon (Reta Shaw), then get a better shake from neighbors, Roy Engel and Royal Dano leading the way, in All Mine To Give, 1957, from the Cosmopolitan story by Katherine Eunson.
All Mine To Give (1957) - I'm Scottish! Immigrant frontiersman Eunson (Cameron Mitchell) awakened (by Hope Emerson) at the birth of his first child, mother Marnie (Glynis Johns) glowing, the grown boy (Rex Thompson narrating) then describing the first meeting with Cullen (Alan Hale Jr.), in RKO's All Mine To Give, 1957.
Dear Brigitte (1965) - Ludwig Von Beethoven On A Sweatshirt? Professor Leaf (James Stewart) who lives on an old steamboat, is baffled at his daughter (Cindy Carol) and her boyfriend (Fabian), who have plans to sell sweatshirts featuring his suddenly famous math-whiz son, his wife Vina (Glynis Johns) trying to reconcile, in Dear Brigitte, 1965.
Miranda (1948) - You're My First Adventure London doctor Paul (Griffith Jones) and wife Clare (Googie Withers) agree he’ll go alone on fishing vacation at Pendower, Cornwall, neither knowing he will hook mermaid Glynis Johns (title character), as light comedy leaps into fantasy, in director Ken Annakin’s hit Miranda, 1948.
Miranda (1948) - Did You Catch Any Big Ones? Chauffeur Charles (David Tomlinson) and wife Clare (Googie Withers) worry about doctor Paul (Griffith Jones) bringing home a mysterious patient (Glynis Johns, title character) from the south coast, whom he hasn’t quite explained is a young mermaid eager to see London, in Miranda, 1948.
Miranda (1948) - Have An Oyster Difficulties for doctor Paul (Griffith Jones), who hasn’t told his wife (Googie Withers) or staff (Yvonne Owen, David Tomlinson) that his live-in invalid patient (Glynis Johns, title character) is a mermaid, so he takes the nurse (Margaret Rutherford) into his confidence, in Miranda, 1948.
Ideal Husband, An (1947) - Center Of The Universe Following the titles, original Oscar Wilde prose from the published edition of his play, producer-director Alexander Korda and brother Vincent's design on display, with the actor's credits, from An Ideal Husband, 1947.
Court Jester, The (1956) - Pellet With The Poison Danny Kaye as Hawkins (posing as "Giacomo") challenged to a duel, in the famous routine with Jean (Glynis Johns) and Griselda (Mildred Natwick) plotting his escape, in The Court Jester, 1956, from Norman Panama and Melvin Frank.
Court Jester, The (1956) - Outfox The Fox Introduction of the star, Danny Kaye as minstrel Hawkins, with a number by Sammy Cahn and Kaye's wife Sylvia Fine, singing the praises of "The Fox" (Edward Ashley), soon joined by athletic Maid Jean (Glynis Johns), in The Court Jester, 1956.
Encore (1951) - Le Plonge De La Mort Early in the second of three Somerset Maugham stories, titled "Gigolo and Gigolette," Heather Thatcher and David Hutcheson as Monte Carlo dinner hour thrill seekers, watching the act introduced by Terence Morgan and performed by Glynis Johns, from Encore, 1951.
Vacation From Marriage (1945) - What Have You Done With Him? Her husband (Robert Donat) off at sea, 1940, Cathy (Deborah Kerr) on her first day with the Women's Royal Naval Service (the "Wrens"), meets brassy colleague Dizzy (Glynis Johns), in Alexander Korda's Vacation From Marriage, 1945.
Ideal Husband, An (1947) - She's Mistaken Her Man Family friend Viscount Arthur (Michael Wilding) with host's younger sister Mabel (Glynis Johns), finding a brooch after the party, visiting Lady Gertrude (Diana Wynyard) and Sir Robert (Hugh Williams) as he departs, in An Ideal Husband, 1947, from Oscar Wilde's play.

Trailer

No Highway in the Sky - (Original Trailer) An engineer (James Stewart) fights to prove that a new airplane is not safe in No Highway in the Sky (1951) co-starring Marlene Dietrich.
Beachcomber, The - (Original Trailer) Glynis Johns and Robert Newton make an unlikely couple trying to save a South Seas island from an epidemic in The Beachcomber (1954).
Adventures of Tartu, The - (Original Trailer) An undercover agent (Robert Donat) battles Nazis to save an aviation plant in The Adventures of Tartu (1943).
Sundowners, The - (Original Trailer) An Australian sheep-herder and his wife clash over their nomadic existence and their son's future in The Sundowners (1960) starring Robert Mitchum and Deborah Kerr.
Prime Minister, The - (Original Trailer) John Gielgud stars as the British parliamentarian Benjamin Disraeli who bests all Europe as The Prime Minister (1941).
Vacation From Marriage - (U.S. Trailer) After World War II service changes them, a married couple dread their postwar reunion in Vacation from Marriage (1945) starring Robert Donat and Deborah Kerr.
Chapman Report, The - (Textless trailer) A research psychologist gets involved in the personal lives of four women in The Chapman Report (1962).
49th Parallel - (Original Trailer) Director Michael Powell and a host of British and Canadian all-stars tell the story of shipwrecked Nazis who invade Canada in 49th Parallel (1941).
Around the World in 80 Days - (Wide Release Trailer) A Victorian gentleman (David Niven) bets that he can beat the world's record for circling the globe in Around the World in 80 Days (1956).

Family

Mervyn Johns
Father
Actor. Born in 1899; died in 1992; acted together in "The Magic Box" (1951) and "The Sundowners" (1960).
Alys Maude Johns
Mother
Concert pianist.
Gareth Forwood
Son
Actor. Father, Anthony Forwood.

Companions

Anthony Forwood
Husband
Manager, former actor. Divorced; father of Johns' son Gareth; later had long relationship with actor Dirk Bogarde.
Antony Darnborough
Companion
Producer. Born on October 16, 1913; became engaged in 1951; produced "Encore" (1951) in which Johns starred; separated; died on September 24, 2000.
David Ramsey Foster
Husband
Was WWII hero; married on February 1, 1952; divorced.
Cecil Peter L Henderson
Husband
Married in 1960; divorced c. 1961.
Elliot Arnold
Husband
Writer. Married on October 4, 1964.

Bibliography

Notes

On her star-making turn as a mermaid in "Miranda": "I was quite an athlete, my muscles were strong from dancing, so the tail was just fine. I swam like a porpoise."As for her taking on the role of Madame Armfeldt for the 1991 revival of "A Little Night Music" after having played her daughter 18 years before: "To tell you the truth, I hadn't liked that part (originally Hermione Gingold's), and I wasn't sure if I could listen to someone else singing 'Send in the Clowns', the song Stephen Sondheim wrote for me." --Glynis Johns quoted in the Daily News, June 14, 1998.