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.
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. 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. Her ancestors on the Johns side are recorded as living at the farm Glanmorlais Uchaf, Trimsaran, Carmarthenshire in 1701.
Johns made her first stage appearance in Buckie's Bears as a child ballerina at the Garrick Theatre in 1935. She made her 1938 film debut 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.
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. One of her best-known film roles was that of Winifred Banks, the children's mother, a suffragette, in Mary Poppins (1964). Her last film appearance was in the 1999 film Superstar.
Johns also appeared on television and 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.
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.
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. From 1988-89, she played Trudie Pepper, a senior citizen living in an Arizona retirement community, in the sitcom Coming of Age on CBS.
- 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