Mary Poppins actress Glynis Johns has died | Ents & Arts News

January 5, 2024
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Glynis Johns, the actress who played Mrs Banks in 1964 film Mary Poppins, has died.

The British actress, born in South Africa, was 100 years old.

She died on Thursday at an assisted living home in Los Angeles of natural causes, her manager said.

Mitch Clem added: “Glynis powered her way through life with intelligence, wit, and a love for performance, affecting millions of lives.”

Glynis Johns (centre) starred in the film Mary Poppins. Pic: Rex/Everett/Shutterstock
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Glynis Johns (centre) starred in the film Mary Poppins. Pic: Rex/Everett/Shutterstock

Glynis Johns in Mary Poppins in 1964. Pic: Rex/Glasshouse Images/Shutterstock
Image:
Glynis Johns in Mary Poppins in 1964. Pic: Rex/Glasshouse Images/Shutterstock

“She had a wit that could stop you in your tracks powered by a heart that loved deeply and purely,” he said.

“Today is a somber day for Hollywood. Not only do we mourn the passing of our dear Glynis, but we mourn the end of the golden age of Hollywood.”

Johns is best known for appearing in Mary Poppins, in which she played suffragette Mrs Winifred Banks, the mother who reconnects with her children thanks to Julie Andrews’ magical nanny.

Her star turn in the classic film included her performance of the rousing song “Sister Suffragette”.

Johns in an image from her role in the 1951 film 'The Magic Box'
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Johns as her character May Jones from the 1951 film The Magic Box

Johns arriving for the premiere of the 'The Magic Box' at the Odeon in Leicester Square
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Johns arriving for the premiere of The Magic Box at the Odeon in Leicester Square

Wearing a blue dress with white gloves, a straw hat and a ‘Votes for Women’ sash, Johns sings: “We’re clearly soldiers in petticoats, and dauntless crusaders for women’s votes.”

Mary Poppins won five Oscars from 13 nominations and remains one of the most enduringly popular movies made by Walt Disney.

Throughout her decades-spanning career, Johns took on multi-faceted roles and became known for being a perfectionist.

“As far as I’m concerned, I’m not interested in playing the role on only one level,” she said in 1990. “The whole point of first-class acting is to make a reality of it. To be real. And I have to make sense of it in my own mind in order to be real.”

Johns played Desiree Armfeldt in A Little Night Music, for which she won a Tony in 1973 for Stephen Sondheim’s Send in the Clowns – but lost the part in the film version to Elizabeth Taylor in 1977.

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Glynis Johns with Robert Newton during a script rehearsal on the set of 'The Beachcomber' in 1954
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Glynis Johns with Robert Newton during a script rehearsal on the set of The Beachcomber in 1954

Glynis Johns in 1982. Pic: AP
Image:
Glynis Johns in 1982. Pic: AP

Sondheim wrote Send in the Clowns to suit Johns’ distinctive, husky voice and she later said: “I’ve had other songs written for me, but nothing like that. It’s the greatest gift I’ve ever been given in the theatre.”

In 1960, she was nominated for a best supporting actress Oscar for The Sundowners. Her final acting role was in the 1999 film Superstar, starring Molly Shannon and Will Ferrell.

Johns was the fourth generation of a theatrical family. She was born to her actor father and pianist mother in South Africa, as they were on tour there at the time of her birth.

By the age of 12, she was a dancer and became an actor in London’s West End by the time she was 14 years old.

Her big screen breakthrough came when she played the titular mermaid in the 1948 comedy Miranda.

Johns had one son, who died in 2007. She is survived by a grandson Thomas who lives in Paris, and her three great-grandchildren.



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