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The smoky-voiced actress Glynis Johns, best remembered as the singing suffragette Winifred Banks in the 1964 film Mary Poppins, turns 100 on 5th October.

Old Un's Notes | By Harry Mount

Sister Suffragette: Glynis Johns in Mary Poppins (1964)

The smoky-voiced actress Glynis Johns, best remembered as the singing suffragette Winifred Banks in the 1964 film Mary Poppins, turns 100 on 5th October.

The smoky-voiced actress Glynis Johns, best remembered as the singing suffragette Winifred Banks in the 1964 film Mary Poppins, turns 100 on 5th October.

Born in South Africa, where her parents were on a showbusiness tour, Johns came to Britain at the age of five and attended Clifton High School in Bristol while training as a ballerina.

After appearing in the chorus of several West End musicals, she made her big-screen debut alongside Ralph Richardson in 1938 political drama South Riding.

It was the first of 60 films she graced at roughly yearly intervals until her cameo role as a grandmother in the undistinguished American comedy Superstar (1999).

Perhaps it’s due to the proverbial spoonful of sugar, but it’s pleasing to note that many of Mary Poppins’s senior cast members are still with us. The film’s co-stars Julie Andrews and Dick Van Dyke are 87 and 97 respectively, and both are apparently in robust health.

Glynis Johns herself, having outlived all four of her husbands, now lives quietly in a retirement community in Hollywood.

Once a martyr to severe migraines, Johns later said, ‘I finally learned how to relax.

‘And, since I have, the headaches which plagued me for years disappeared. When you let God in on your problems, you can let go and live.’

Of her four marriages she added, ‘It was absolute conservatism on my part. I was brought up to feel that if you wanted to have an affair with a man, you married him. I have friends who, if they’d followed that rule, would have collected an awful lot of pieces of paper by now.’

Surely it’s high time we recognised this enduring


This story was from September 2023 issue. Subscribe Now