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Mr. Movie: Glynis Johns

Her principal area of show business was the stage. And she had a beautiful voice, but unfortunately, her range was limited. So Stephen Sondheim wrote Send In The Clowns just for her to sing in A Little Night Music


Her movie resume is sterling.

She lived to be 100, so you have to go back to 1938 to find her starting point as a movie actress. In South Riding, the 15-year-old gets into a fight with another girl. Maybe not the beginning she would hope for, but from there it was straight up.


Perhaps her best-known part was as Mrs. Banks in Mary Poppins (1964). She is the mother of children under the care of nanny Mary. Mrs. Banks is a suffragette and also perhaps a little scatter-brained. This film was nominated for 13 Oscars. It won five, including of course Julie Andrews as Mary.


In the very underrated and largely forgotten The Sundowners (1960), Johns was nominated for an Oscar for her part as Mrs. Firth, the owner of the pub featured prominently in the film. She lost her one shot at a statue to Shirley Jones for Elmer Gantry. Paddy Carmody (Robert Mitchum) is an itinerant sheep sheerer, always on the move. His wife (Deborah Kerr) wants to settle down. He does not.

The Court Jester (1955) is pretty much owned by Danny Kaye (as Hubert Hawkins) but Johns has a nice turn as the captain of the rebels, Maid Jean. She and Hawkins are ordered to deliver the imperiled royal child to safety. They encounter the king’s jester on the road. Jean knocks him out and convinces Hawkins to infiltrate the king’s court by impersonating the jester. There are several songs, all sung by Kaye, wasting Johns’ considerable talent.


Skip forward to 1994 for The Ref,  a somewhat complicated tale about a married couple who constantly quarrel and are taken hostage by Gus, a cat burglar. They continue to argue while with him and he has to tell them to shut up. Glynis Johns portrays Rose, the mother-in-law from Hell who browbeats and terrorizes everyone else in the movie.


In While You Were Sleeping (1995), Sandra Bullock plays Lucy, a lonely toll taker. She rescues Peter Callahan (Peter Gallagher), who is pushed onto the tracks of an oncoming train. He is taken to the hospital where Lucy tells the nurse she wishes she could marry Peter. The nurse misunderstands and tells everyone, including the entire Callahan family, that Lucy and Peter are engaged. Lucy then falls in love with Peter’s younger brother, Jack (Bill Pullman). Johns is on board as the slightly deluded grandmother. When Peter wakes up from his coma and says he doesn’t know Lucy, it is assumed he has amnesia. It all ends well for everyone — hey, this is Hollywood!

All of the films in this article are fine for all ages. And, you can actually find some of these on streaming sites if you’ve a mind to.