Star of ‘Mary Poppins’ Dies at the Age of 100

( – Actress and singer Glynis Johns, who starred as Mrs. Winnifred Banks in the 1964 film classic “Mary Poppins,” died on January 4 in a West Hollywood assisted-living facility of natural causes after having reached the advanced age of 100 years old. While generations of youngsters came to know Johns for her turn in the Disney film, her career spanned 60 years on screen and stage.

Johns was born into a show business background to a mother, Alice, who performed as a concert pianist, and a father, Mervyn Johns, renowned for his character acting abilities. Her parents were on tour in South Africa for Glynis’s birth in Pretoria. She first started appearing on stage regularly at 12 as a dancer at the Garrick Theater in London.

Her early stage appearances led to her first film appearance at 14 in South Riding, where she played a politician’s daughter. However, in her breakthrough 1948 film, “Miranda,” she played a flirtatious mermaid who caused an uproar in London when she asked a married doctor to show her the sights. David Tomlinson played Charles, one of the romantic leads in the film. Tomlinson later played Mr. George Banks, Johns’s on-screen husband, in “Mary Poppins.”

Johns helped develop the character of Desirée Armfeldt in Steven Sondheim’s Broadway production of “A Little Night Music” in 1973. Sondheim wrote “Send in the Clowns” specifically to suit Johns’s voice. In a 1998 interview with AP News, Johns said, “I always said that Send In The Clowns was the best gift I was ever given.” Although Johns received a Tony in 1973 for her performance, the 1977 film role went to Elizabeth Taylor.

Johns told the story that when Walt Disney cast her in “Mary Poppins,” she thought she had the lead role. Disney asked his production team to write a musical number for Johns to make it up to her and showcase her musical talents. “Sister Suffragette” was the result of their efforts.

Johns married and divorced four times but had only one child, Gareth Forwood, who predeceased his mother in 2007. The actress leaves behind a grandson, Thomas Forwood, and three great-grandchildren. She asked to have her remains buried beside her father’s in the UK.

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