Glynis Johns (born 5 October 1923) is a Tony Award-winning British stage and film actress, dancer, pianist and singer (notably of “Send in the Clowns” in Stephen Sondheim’s A Little Night Music).
With a career spanning seven decades, Johns is often cited as the “complete actress”, who happens to be a trained pianist and singer. She is also an accomplished dancer, and was qualified to teach ballet by age ten.
Johns is the daughter of Welsh actor Mervyn Johns, and her roots are in West Wales, although she was born in Pretoria, South Africa while her parents were performing on tour there. Johns’ mother, Alys Steele, was a concert pianist.
Johns made her 1938 film debut in the movie version of Winifred Holtby’s novel, South Riding. In 1944, she appeared opposite 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 made a successful transition to Hollywood, appearing in The Court Jester (1956) as Danny Kaye’s love interest.
One of her best known film roles was that of Winifred Banks, the children’s mother, a suffragette, in Mary Poppins (1964).
Johns has also appeared on television and on stage, most memorably in Stephen Sondheim’s musical A Little Night Music. The song “Send in the Clowns” was written with her in mind, and in 1973 she won a Tony award for her role in the musical. She later appeared in London in Cause Celebre by Terence Rattigan. She briefly had an American television series called Glynis.
Johns has been married four times, including one marriage to Anthony Forwood (1915–1988), father of her only child Gareth Forwood (1945–2007), who was a British actor. (Anthony Forwood was later manager of Sir Dirk Bogarde). She once remarked that she was wed so often because she married all of her lovers. Dame Elizabeth Taylor made a similar statement about her own several marriages. Johns also married David Foster, who at the time was chairman of Colgate Palmolive International.
Johns has been the subject of countless magazine covers and pin-up posters throughout her long career. Her most recent film appearance occurred in the 1999 film, Superstar in which she played the grandmother of the lead character.