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Recollection of Disney Icon Glynis Johns


Disney Icon Glynis Johns passed away from natural causes on Thursday, January 4, in Los Angeles, her manager confirmed. She was 100 years old.

Perhaps most recognized by Disney enthusiasts as feminist Winifred Banks in the Academy Award®-winning Mary Poppins (1964), Johns became everyone’s cherished sister suffragette. Walt Disney himself personally handpicked her to portray the career-defining role, captivated, like many a film buff, by her radiant screen persona. His selection of casting was spot on, as film critic Leonard Maltin noted in his book The Disney Films: “She brightens the screen the instant she appears [in Mary Poppins],” he wrote. “She makes every minute count, and her amusing suffragette song is most enjoyable.”

Inducted as a Disney Legend in 1998, Johns was born to Welsh parents on October 5, 1923, in Pretoria, South Africa. She etched her name in history when she achieved a degree to instruct dance by age 10. By 12, she clinched 25 gold medals for dance in England and, by 13, made her inaugural appearance in the film, South Riding (1938). Her maiden adult role materialized in Michael Powell and Emeric Pressburger’s 49th Parallel (1941), released in America as The Invaders and featuring Laurence Olivier, Leslie Howard, and Raymond Massey. By 19, she became the youngest actress to take on the lead role in the stage presentation of Peter Pan.

She became affiliated with The Walt Disney Studios in the early 1950s, when it commenced producing live-action films in England.

She portrayed the capricious Mary Tudor in 1953’s The Sword and the Rose, co-starring Richard Todd. As Helen Mary MacGregor in Rob Roy, the Highland Rogue (1953), she depicted the spirited wife of a Scottish freedom fighter. A decade later, in 1964, she reappeared at Disney to star in Mary Poppins. The sensational musical accrued 13 Academy Award® nominations and clinched five Oscars®.

Johns also starred in various television shows such as General Electric Theatre and The Cavanaughs, alongside her very own series, Glynis. She made appearances in other series including Batman, Cheers, and Murder She Wrote, co-starring with another Disney Icon, the late Angela Lansbury.

In 1960, Johns nabbed an Academy Award nomination for Best Supporting Actress for her portrayal as Mrs. Firth in The Sundowners, starring Robert Mitchum. Subsequently, she received a Tony Award® in 1973 for her extraordinary stage performance as Desiree Armfeldt in the original cast of Stephen Sondheim’s A Little Night Music. About Johns, Sondheim once expressed that her rendition of “Send in the Clowns” remained his personal favorite.

Altogether, she participated in over two dozen stage productions and more than 50 motion pictures, including Oscar Wilde’s An Ideal Husband (1947) featuring Paulette Goddard and Dear Brigitte (1965) starring James Stewart. She also made an appearance in a children’s TV anthology adaptation of The Secret Garden alongside Derek Jacobi, for ABC.

In 1994, Johns made a comeback to The Walt Disney Studios to co-star in the Touchstone comedy The Ref. The subsequent year, she appeared in Hollywood Pictures’ blockbuster While You Were Sleeping, alongside Sandra Bullock. Johns was also showcased in archival footage in the documentary Supercalifragilisticexpialidocious: The Making of ‘Mary Poppins’ (2004) from Buena Vista Home Entertainment and the HBO documentary Six by Sondheim (2013).



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