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RIP Glynis Johns, 100, Mrs Banks in Mary Poppins. By the Old Un

Blog | By The Old Un | Jan 04, 2024

Glynis Johns in The Sundowners (1960)

The smoky-voiced actress Glynis Johns, best remembered as the singing suffragette Winifred Banks in the 1964 film Mary Poppins, has sadly died. She turned 100 on 5 October 2023.

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’s political drama South Riding. It was the first of sixty films she graced at roughly yearly intervals up until her cameo role as a grandmother in 1999’s undistinguished American comedy Superstar.

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 88 and 98 respectively, and both apparently in robust health. Glynis Johns herself, having outlived all four of her husbands, lived 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 we should have recognised this enduring British icon with a damehood, in time for her century?