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Glynis Johns gangs warily
Picturegoer, September 28, 1946
By Laurence Tree

"I would sooner play in a good British picture than in the majority of American pictures I have seen," says Glynis Johns.

It is typical of her attitude to life and her work. Glynis Johns wants to know where she is going before she goes.

One of the most sought-after of all young British stars, she nevertheless has one small cloud on her horizon, and that is that people, conscious of the place which her father, Mervyn Johns, occupies on the British screen, will say, "Oh, she's just following in her father's footsteps." She has always made her own way.

"Relatives cannot help you in the studios," she says. "You stand or fall by your own efforts. My father and I have only ever worked in one picture together - that was "Halfway House" [They later worked together in The Sundowners (1960).] - and the producer was casting a father and daughter. Perhaps it was natural that he chose us, but my father did not get me that job, neither did I get him his."

Notice how Glynis Johns refers to jobs, not roles, It is typical.

Ever since she sprang into prominence by taking over Elisabeth Bergner's role in "49th Parallel", the name of Glynis Johns has meant a good deal to British pictures.

Hollywood has tempted her with a couple of substantial contracts, both from major companies, but she turned both of them down, for her creed is that screen stardom is all right as long as you are a success, and she is certain that at the moment she can be more successful in British pictures because she can follow the road she has set her feet to.

By choosing roles carefully, rather than by sky-rocketing to the heights in a splurge of publicity, with the risk of a "let down" at the end of it, Glynis Johns is convinced that she will do better for herself in the long run.

"It is sensible to have a safeguard against unemployment" is another of her tenets.

Ballet was her first love. She started her training at the age of five, and ballet is still, as she calls it, a standby - a second string.

Born in Pretoria, South Africa, she came to this country when she was still a child, and attended Clifton High School. Then she attended the Cone School of Dancing. For two hours each day she put in intensive training at the rail in the ballet class.

It was hard work for a child, but Glynis was already taking her career seriously.

At Blackpool she won a medal, a trophy and fifty guineas for being the best dancer of the year. Altogether, from her ballet training, she emerged with twenty medals and sixty certificates.

That took care of the standby. Because she loved the stage, she set out on her real career - to become an actress.

Her first part was in a children's play, "Buckie's Bears", at the Garrick Theatre. She was still only a child.

Then Ursula Jeans [The wife of Roger Livesey, Frau von Kalteneck in Blimp] asked her to go into "!The Children's Hour" at the little Gate Theatre, the play which, under the title of "These Three", was a big screen success, but the film was made in America.

Yet she was adding a third string to her bow - film work.

Her debut in the studios was auspicious. She played Ralph Richardson's daughter in "South Riding". Highlight of the role was a fight with a "common little girl".

Glynis, supposedly the daughter of a mentally-deranged mother in the film, threw herself into the scrap with gusto and registered an impression which stood her in good stead with both the critics and the casting directors.

Glynis found herself about to make another decision. She was trained for ballet, for singing, she had been on the stage - and now a film career beckoned.

"Originally my father was a medical student", she explains. "He suddenly gave up his studies and walked out to become an actor.

"I thought perhaps I ought to make a decision like that, too, and so I decided to plump for being a film actress. I have not given up the stage, but I am concentrating on the screen until I reach the top.

"I thought at first I had chosen wrongly. I could not get another film job. The war was on and everything was at sixes and sevens.

"I thought I had better have another 'in case' string to my bow, so I went to school again to learn shorthand and typing.

"The first day was a bleak one. I went home feeling depressed. That night the phone rang. It was Michael Powell. He told me Bergner had left '49th Parallel' and he wanted to know if I would like the part.

"Would I like it! I accepted gratefully, for it meant that I was back in pictures, and that was what mattered most.

There were interludes in the theatre in between film roles.

It was while she was playing in "Quiet Weekend" at Wyndham's Theatre that she met her husband Captain Anthony Forward.

"I had known him for about a year. He was a great friend of Michael Wilding and he kept popping in and out of the theatre.

"Then he had a week's leave and he asked me to go out with him and we fell in love." A month later they were married.

They have a son, Gareth, and a flat at Regent's Park.

She would like to do another picture with her father because "he helps me by criticizing my performance - constructive criticism, for which I am grateful."

Now she has branched out in another line - screen comedy. She has just finished "This Man is Mine", the Columbia British production, which deals with the experiences of a lonely overseas visitor who is invited to share the festive board of a typical middle-class British family, and who finds himself being competed for by two ladies of the household.

"I am eager to hear what the critics think of me in "This Man is Mine", and even more anxious to learn what the public thinks of me in comedy", says Glynis. ["This Man is Mine" was not very successful, but Glynis went on to play many other great comedy roles, especially in "Miranda"]

"You see, money isn't everything - I know it sounds corny but I really mean it - success means a lot more."

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