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Glynis Johns, actress who played 'Mary Poppins' suffragette, dead at 100

Glynis Johns, actress who played 'Mary Poppins' suffragette, dead at 100
January 6, 2024 Web Desk

LONDON (Reuters) - Glynis Johns, the husky-voiced British actress most widely known for her role as a suffragette who reconnects with her children thanks to a magical nanny in the blockbuster 1964 movie musical "Mary Poppins," has died at the age of 100.

Johns, a versatile film and stage veteran who won a Tony Award in 1973 for her role in the Stephen Sondheim musical "A Little Night Music" and was nominated for an Oscar for the 1960 film "The Sundowners," died of natural causes at an assisted living facility in the Los Angeles area, said her manager, Mitch Clem.

She appeared in dozens of films in a movie career that spanned more than 60 years but her role in "Mary Poppins" as Winifred Banks, the distracted suffragette mother who seems to care more about her cause than her two children, was the one for which she will be most remembered.

With an appealing blend of music and fantasy, "Mary Poppins" stands as one of the most enduringly popular films made by Walt Disney, with Julie Andrews and Dick Van Dyke in the starring roles backed by winning performances in key supporting parts by Johns and David Tomlinson as her rigid banker husband.

Donning a blue dress with white gloves, a straw hat and a sash stating "Votes for Women," Johns sings the song "Sister Suffragette," declaring, "We're clearly soldiers in petticoats, and dauntless crusaders for women's votes."

The movie was nominated for 13 Oscars and won five. Andrews, as the nanny who flies with the help of an umbrella and brings together the family, won as best actress.

Johns also played a flirtatious mermaid in "Miranda" (1948), and then appeared in dual roles in the 1954 mermaid sequel, "Mad About Men" (1954). She said she had no problem with the mermaid outfit.

British actress Glynis Johns poses as she arrives at the British Academy of Film and Television Arts Los Angeles first ever Stanley Kubrick Britannia Award for Excellence in Film ceremony honoring director Steven Spielberg, November 4, 2000 in Los Angeles. Johns is best known for her role in "Mary Poppins" as Mrs. Banks./File Photo Acquire Licensing Rights

"I was quite an athlete, my muscles were strong from dancing, so the tail was just fine. I swam like a porpoise," Johns told Newsday in 1998.

She was nominated for an Academy Award as best supporting actress for her role as a hotel keeper in the Australian-set adventure "The Sundowners" alongside Robert Mitchum, Deborah Kerr and Peter Ustinov.

Johns was an accomplished stage actress as well. Sondheim penned the bittersweet song "Send in the Clowns" especially for Johns, who sang it in the original Broadway production of "A Little Night Music." "I always said that 'Send in the Clowns' was the best gift I was ever given," said Johns.

She also made frequent TV appearances and starred in a short-lived U.S. sitcom "Glynis" in 1963. She even played a villain, Lady Penelope Peasoup, in the popular "Batman" series in the 1960s. Her last acting role was in the 1999 film "Superstar" starring Molly Shannon and Will Ferrell.

A member of a show business family, Johns was born on Oct. 5, 1923, in South Africa while her Welsh parents were performing there, and she took to acting as a child. Johns had one son who predeceased her.