Despite her significant contributions to the industry, the prolific star was previously overlooked for a prestigious British title bestowed on other entertainers, and now her family is calling on the government to mark her 100th year with their request.
Born on October 5, 1923, Glynis Johns, an actor and ballerina, spent much of the 1930s playing to audiences on theatre stages across London.
Since she made her big screen debut in the 1938 film South Riding, Johns appeared in countless films, including 1948’s Miranda, 1960’s The Sundowners–a performance that earned her an Oscar nod–and her Golden Globe-nominated appearance in 1962’s The Chapman Report.
But the part she is probably best known for was as Winifred Banks, the beloved and bumbling mother in Disney’s 1964 box office hit Mary Poppins, where she starred opposite Julie Andrews and Dick van Dyke.
Her fabulous career has seen her evolve from a child star to a glamorous leading lady in genre-crossing titles from soap operas to sitcoms and horror, where she starred alongside legendary actors like Frank Sinatra, Roger Moore, Deborah Kerr, Richard Attenborough, Jane Fonda, and Christopher Plummer.
The South African-born Johns also appeared in several TV series like her eponymous 1963 show Glynis, as a villain on Batman, the mother to Diane (Shelley Long) on Cheers, a cruise passenger on the Love Boat, and Murder She Wrote with Angela Lansbury, whom she first shared the screen within the 1955 film The Court Jester.
Despite being a staple star of stage, film, and TV for decades, Johns–unlike numerous other British actresses of her generation–was never honored with Damehood, a title equal to Knight.
And her family is arguing the case of the matriarch who has outlived all of her previous four husbands.
“I am so delighted that my grandmother is set to make it to this landmark birthday, and we send her many congratulations.” her grandson, Thomas Forwood, 48, told MailOnline. “Glynis enjoyed a fabulous career over many decades during which she showed her immense talent and versatility in a range of parts on screen and stage. Almost everyone will have seen her work and be familiar with her face and voice–she’s in so many pieces that people hold dear.”
Forwood, a Paris-based screenwriter, added “It would be fitting on this occasion for the UK government to formally acknowledge her cultural contribution by making her a Dame.”
Johns’ grandson is not the only one calling for her rightful recognition. British Labour MP Chris Bryant, who’s championing her Damehood, said, “Glynis certainly deserves recognition for her stellar and incredibly enduring career on both stage and screen. She bears comparison with some of the greatest actors of her era–I’m thinking of people like Angela Lansbury, Judi Dench, Joan Collins, and Maggie Smith.”
Bryant also called the star of Lock up your Daughters! “a lifetime ambassador for the creative arts.”
Meanwhile, Johns is enjoying retirement in a care home in Beverly Hills.
She last appeared in the 1999 Saturday Night Live comedy film Superstar with Will Ferrell and Molly Shannon. Though she has not had a public profile since she entered her nineties, still has scores of fans across the world, and online users are voicing their support.
One netizen shares, “I love her! What an excellent gift that would be,” while a second writes, “This should not be a petition, this should have been granted decades ago. Glynis is a living legend.”
A third is shocked to learn she hasn’t yet been awarded the title of Dame. “How can this be? She is a treasure!”
In her 100th year, Forwood explains that his grandmother deserves to join the honorific order of Dames, populated by actors like Dame Joan Collins, Dame Penelope Keth, Dame Maureen Lipman, and Dame Olivia de Haviland (1960 to 2020), who received her honors two weeks before she turned 101.
“And while I would never seek to diminish their achievements, I do feel that in this context it’s clear that Glynis has been overlooked. It would be fitting if the government could bypass the usual slow processes involved in these things and make up for lost time by making her a Dame immediately.”
Forwood continues, “I cannot see this being anything but a popular and deserved move.”
First, we’d like to wish Glynis Johns a very happy birthday! We hope she gets to join the Order of Dames, it would be the best 100th-birthday gift!
Please share this story and let us know what you think about this fabulous actor, and let’s start the rally to see her add the title of Dame to her name!
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