Glynis Johns, the beloved actress best known for playing Mrs. Banks in the original 1964 film “Mary Poppins”, has died at the age of 100. Johns passed away peacefully at her home on January 4th, 2024 from natural causes, according to family members.
Early Life and Career
Born in Pretoria, South Africa in 1923, Johns embarked on an acting career from a young age, training at the Royal Academy of Dramatic Art in London. Her breakout role came in the 1948 film “No Room at the Inn”, for which she received wide critical acclaim and a nomination for a BAFTA Award for Best Actress in a Leading Role.
Over the next few decades, Johns built up an impressive resume in both film and theater. Some of her most notable movie roles included “The Court Jester” (1956), “The Sundowners” (1960), and “The Chapman Report” (1962). On stage, she starred in Broadway productions of “Goodbye, Charlie” and the Stephen Sondheim musicals “A Little Night Music” (originating the role of Desiree Armfeldt) and “Sweeney Todd”.
Portrayal of Mrs. Banks in Mary Poppins
However, Johns is undoubtedly most recognized for her role as the vain but loving Mrs. Banks in “Mary Poppins”. Starring opposite Dick Van Dyke and Julie Andrews, Johns lit up the screen as the wife of a distant banker and mother of Jane and Michael Banks, who comes to realize what’s truly important in life with the help of their whimsical, magical nanny.
Johns’ performance was full of humor and heart, perfectly balancing Mrs. Banks’ initial stuffiness with her later warmth and empathy. Her gorgeous rendition of “Sister Suffragette” also became an iconic movie music moment. Johns continued her association with Disney by voicing roles in “The Sword in the Stone” and “Robin Hood”.
Later Career Highlights
While nothing quite matched the magic of “Mary Poppins”, Johns continued working steadily through the 1970s, 80s, and 90s. Her later career highlights included films like “The V.I.P.s” (1963), “Fate Is the Hunter” (1964), “The Psychopath” (1966), and “The Ref” (1994).
She also returned to the stage frequently during this period. In one signature late career role, Johns played Hesione Hushabye in a 1985 production of George Bernard Shaw’s “Heartbreak House” – the same role her mother, Meriel Forbes, had played over 50 years earlier. Johns won a Tony Award for Best Featured Actress in a Play for this performance at the age of 62.
Reaction to Johns’ Passing
The news of Johns’ death at the incredible age of 100 has been met with an outpouring of fond tributes and remembrances from the entertainment world and her legions of fans.
Co-star Dick Van Dyke said he “lost a beloved friend” and that “her talent and kindness will live on.”. Julie Andrews stated she was “so very saddened by Glynis’ passing” and recalled her “wonderful and opportunistic performance” in Mary Poppins.
Current Mary Poppins star Emily Blunt posted that Johns was “one of finest, funniest and most generous scene partners any actor could wish to play opposite”, while Angela Lansbury called her “one of our last links to Hollywood’s Golden Age” and “an actress of extraordinary range”.
Fans and cinema lovers everywhere have also been sharing their favorite Glynis Johns’ moments and mourning the loss of the legendary performer. Her portrayal of Mrs. Banks remains a constantly endearing highlight of a film that continues to enchant each new generation.
With her iconic roles and reputation as an incredibly kind, fun presence during her seven decades in showbusiness, Glynis Johns leaves behind a lasting legacy. For movie musical aficionados, she’ll always be the vain but good-hearted Mrs. Banks. For Broadway fans, she’ll remain the first ever Desiree in Sondheim’s beloved “A Little Night Music”.
While the lights on Johns’ extraordinary, 100-year life have now dimmed, audiences of every generation will continue to fall in love with her work. Her immortal performances ensure that her talent, spirit, and warmth will carry on for years to come. Glynis Johns – actress, singer, dancer, and delightfully memorable performer – takes her place among the greatest stars of Hollywood’s golden era.
Johns had apparently finished filming a small role for an upcoming project from acclaimed director Guillermo Del Toro prior to her death. While details remain undisclosed, fans eagerly anticipate seeing her posthumous final performance.
Additionally, her family has stated there will be a private memorial service attended by relatives and close friends in the coming weeks. A public tribute celebration of Johns’ life and career is also reportedly in the early planning stages, potentially coinciding with the 60th anniversary of “Mary Poppins” this year.
As the world mourns Glynis Johns and the undeniable mark she left on cinema history, her iconic film performances stand out as her ultimate memorial. For decades to come, viewers will still gasp at her showstopping entrance in “Mary Poppins,” still laugh uproariously at her comedic antics, and still find themselves fighting back tears during poignant emotional moments like her lovely rendition of “Let’s Go Fly a Kite.”
That is Johns’ magic – connecting profoundly and memorably across the ages through her legendary art. Even the harshest, most distant patriarch would need a handkerchief upon hearing her melodic voice begin “Sister Suffragette.” For generations of movie and music lovers, Johns crafted indelible, heartwarming impressions that will never fade away.
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