A beloved Disney actress is celebrating her 100th birthday this week, and her birthday also earned her a brand-new title within the Disney Kingdom of fandom.
Thursday marked the 100th birthday of one of Disney’s most memorable actresses. Best remembered by Disney fans for her role in a film that went on to be Walt Disney Studios’ highest-grossing film in history at that time, her 100th birthday earned her a new record at Disney this week.
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Born in Pretoria, South Africa, on October 5, 1923 to parents who were also performers, British singer, actress, and dancer Glynis Johns has played a myriad of roles throughout her career in Hollywood.
Johns has enjoyed success from a very early age. As a young child, she took ballet lessons and appeared in stage productions, including St. Helena and The Children’s Hour. She made history when she earned a degree to teach dance at the age of just 10 years old, and by age 12, Johns had won 25 gold medals for dance in England. Seven years later, when she was 19, she starred in a stage production of Peter Pan, making her the youngest actress to take on the role.
Johns made her screen debut in 1938 in the film version of Winifred Holtby’s novel South Riding. This soon led to more roles in films, like 49th Parallel, The Adventures of Tartu, The Halfway House, Perfect Strangers, Miranda, Flesh and Blood, No Highway in the Sky, The Magic Box, The Seekers, Mad About Men, The Weak and the Wicked, The Court Jester, The Sundowners, Dear Brigitte, and The Chapman Report.
During this time, she also continued to act on stage during this time in productions like Quiet Weekend, Fools Rush In, The Way Things Go, Gertie, Major Barbara, Too Good to be True, Hay Fever, The Circle, and A Little Night Music, where she won the Tony Award for Best Actress in a Musical for her role as Desiree Armfeldt and introduced the popular show tune “Send in the Clowns.”
Her television credits include The Roaring ’20s, Batman, Cheers, The Love Boat, Murder, She Wrote, Coming of Age, and her own short-lived sitcom Glynis.
Disney fans will remember her most in her role as the suffragette mother and voice of reason, Winifred Banks, in Disney’s 1964 Mary Poppins, an adaptation of P.L. Travers’s 1934 novel by the same name. According to D23, Johns was disappointed that she wasn’t cast as the practically perfect nanny, but she carried herself with grace and poise, and no one was the wiser.
Mary Poppins was released on August 27, 1964, and became the highest-grossing film of 1964 and Disney’s highest-grossing film ever (at the time of release). In all, the film received 13 Academy Award nominations, including Best Picture. Mary Poppins (1964) won five of those 13.
In 1998, Johns was honored as a Disney Legend before retiring from performing the following year. She is the oldest living and longest-surviving Disney Legend, and as of Thursday, she’s also the only Disney Legend centenarian.