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Mervyn Johns
Johns in The Halfway House (1944)
David Mervyn Johns

(1899-02-18)18 February 1899
Died6 September 1992(1992-09-06) (aged 93)
EducationLlandovery College
Royal Academy of Dramatic Art
Years active1923–1979
Alyce Steele-Wareham
(m. 1922; died 1970)
(m. 1976)
ChildrenGlynis Johns

David Mervyn Johns (18 February 1899 – 6 September 1992) was a Welsh stage, film and television actor who became a star of British films during the Second World War.

After graduating from the Royal Academy of Dramatic Art, Johns began his career in repertory theatre in 1923. He made his screen debut with Lady in Danger in 1934 and went on to become an indelible part of British wartime cinema, with starring roles in such films as Saloon Bar (1940), The Next of Kin (1942), Went the Day Well? (1942), The Halfway House (1944), Twilight Hour (1945), and Dead of Night (1945). In the postwar era, he worked regularly as a character actor at Ealing Studios, first with starring roles in such films as They Knew Mr. Knight (1946), The Captive Heart (1946), Captain Boycott (1947), and Easy Money (1948), and later guest appearances on televised plays and anthology series, ending with his 1979 role in Shoestring.

Johns was the father of actress Glynis Johns, who as at November 2023 remains alive at the age of 100 and living in California.

YouTube Encyclopedic

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  • The Next of Kin (1942) Mervyn Johns, Nova Pilbeam, Jack Hawkins - WWII Security
  • Miranda-1948-Glynis Johns-Googie Withers-Griffith Jones-John McCallum
  • Girl in the News (1940) Saturday Night Movies
  • The Battle of the Sexes (1960) - Peter Sellers/ Constance Cummings | 1080p
  • Albert R.N. (1953) - Anthony Steel/ Jack Warner/ TRUE STORY


Early life

David Mervyn Johns was born on 18 February 1899 in Pembroke, Wales.[1] He attended Llandovery College,[2] an independent boarding school in South Wales,[3] following the graduation of his brother Howard Johns, later rector of Pusey and Weston-on-the-Green.[4] From 1913, he played cricket and rugby for the school's national teams.[5][6]

Upon leaving, he wanted to pursue a career in medicine and so attended Royal London Hospital, where he trained as a medical student. While there, he met concert pianist Alyce Steele-Wareham, who was studying at the Royal Academy of Music. She persuaded him to pursue a career in drama and on her advice, he enrolled at the Royal Academy of Dramatic Art. They married on 17 November 1922 in St Giles, London, and began touring with her family's theatre company. While touring South Africa on 23 October 1923, their only child, Glynis Johns was born.[7] They returned to England a few weeks later and Johns re-enrolled at the Royal Academy of Dramatic Art, where he graduated in 1924 with a gold medal.[1]

Johns also served as a combat patrol pilot in the Royal Flying Corps and later in the Royal Air Force during the First World War.[8][9] Of his time in the service, he declared "I don’t think there was a single moment when I was not scared to death".[9]



Johns made his stage debut while he and his first wife, Alyce Steele-Wareham, were touring South Africa in 1923. He had various roles in West End productions throughout the 1920s following his graduation from the Royal Academy of Dramatic Art (RADA) in 1924. Beginning on 24 January 1926, he portrayed Mr Mingan in Allan Monkhouse's play Sons and Fathers with RADA. From 1931 to 1932, Johns starred in two productions at the Little Theatre in Bristol: When Knights Were Bold by Charles Marlowe and A Cup of Kindness by Ben Travers; at the same theatre from 16 to 21 October 1932, he played Mr Blanquet in John Drinkwater's comedy Bird In Hand. From 1932 to 1933, he starred in two more productions at Bristol's Little Theatre: The Rivals by Richard Brinsley Sheridan and Saint Joan by George Bernard Shaw. Following this, he played the Magistrate's Clerk in Walter Hackett's Hyde Park Corner from 5 October 1934 to 11 April 1935 at the Apollo Theatre in London, the same year as the eponymous film.[10]

Johns made his screen debut in 1934 as the reporter in Ben Travers' comedy thriller Lady in Danger, going on to play Hemp in David MacDonald's 1937 crime film The Last Curtain, Sir Wilfred Lucas in the 1938 TV Movie adaptation of Jane Austen's Pride and Prejudice, and Percival Clicker in Oswald Mitchell's 1938 comedy film Almost a Gentleman.

In 1936, he starred as Sir John Brute alongside Kulia Crawley and Marda Vanne in an Embassy Theatre production of Sir John Vanbrugh's The Provoked Wife,[11] prompting the renowned theatre critic and newspaper journalist James Agate (styled "the best judge of acting of the day") to remark that his acting was "blazingly good" and his role a "magnificent performance which would have warmed the heart's cockles of the old playgoers", saying that "in this actor's hands, Sir John is a brute indeed, not a pewling mooncalf, but a roaring bull. Mr Johns lets us see the pleasure he is taking in the fellow's brutish gusto. There are actors who could make the man as unbearable to an audience as he was to his own circle. Mr Johns, by lifting a corner of the brute's mind to show us his own, is right with Garrick."[1][10]

Two years later, Johns was cast in Ivor Novello's play Comedienne (directed by Murray Macdonald), at the Aldwych Theatre in London. From 26 August 1937 to 12 March 1938, he played Ernest Beevers in J. P. Mitchelhill's adaptation of the J. B. Priestley time play Time and the Conways at the Duchess Theatre in London, and from 17 February to 17 June 1939, he played Sir Patrick Cullen in The Doctor’s Dilemma at the London Mask Theatre, Westminster Theatre and Whitehall Theatre.[10] Of this role, Sieghard Erich Krueger writes that he "acheives [sic] a fine effect of crusted and downright integrity."[12]

Johns' final film role of the interwar era was as Thomas in the 1939 British adventure thriller film Jamaica Inn, directed by Alfred Hitchcock.

Second World War

Johns in The Duke in Darkness (1942-43)

The Second World War ushered in a new era for British theatre and cinema. Johns avoided conscription due to his age, and thus began his career in various roles, though most often as the quirky yet dignified "frightened men" described by Adam Benedick.[1] Among his dozens of film roles were the ultracrepidarian Charlie Wickers in the thriller film Saloon Bar (1940) and the church warden Charlie Sims in the war film Went the Day Well? (1942). In the Second World War propaganda film The Next of Kin (1942), Johns starred as the determined Agent 23 (Mr Arthur Davis), described by Robert Murphy as "the most cautious and effective agent – all the more sinister for being played by the kindly Welshman of so many other films of the period, Mervyn Johns."[13] Following this, Johns played the homicidal maniac Arthur Grimshaw in the black-and-white comedy farce My Learned Friend (1943), the proprietor Rhys in the drama film The Halfway House (1944), and Major John Roberts in the drama film Twilight Hour (1945). Commenting on his role as the fearful architect Walter Craig in the 1945 mystery film Dead of Night, The Independent's Adam Benedick describes his approach as having a "masterly touch".[1]

Of Johns' stage work, Benedick writes that he "showed a relish for Restoration comedy, but was also rated a ‘quintessential’ Priestley and Shavian actor in such shows as... Heartbreak House (1943), in which he replaced Robert Donat as Captain Shotover, and as Dolittle in Pygmalion (1947)"; his work of the prewar era was just the same.[1] Less well-known are his roles in Frank Harvey's play Saloon Bar from 15 November 1939 to 30 March 1940 at Wyndham’s Theatre in London, Ken Attiwill and Evadne Price's play Once a Crook as Hallelujah Harry from 3 June 1940 to 12 July 1941, and Patrick Hamilton's play The Duke in Darkness from 1942 to 1943 at the Bristol Hippodrome.[10]


Following the end of the Second World War on 4 September 1945, Johns continued to be cast in leading roles. In Robert Hamer's 1945 crime drama film Pink String and Sealing Wax, he played the "unexpectedly severe" Mr. Edward Sutton,[14] a middle-class Victorian and newly appointed court analyst;[15] in Norman Walker's 1946 drama film They Knew Mr. Knight, he played the main protagonist Tom Blake, playing to his "fretful features";[16] in Paul L. Stein's 1948 thriller film Counterblast, he played Doctor Bruckner the Beast of Ravensbruck, an escaped Nazi who murders a visiting scientist from Australia and assumes his identity,[17] "in splendid villainous mode".[18] His supporting roles in this era included playing Ernest Bennett in Ralph Thomas' romantic comedy film Helter Skelter, and Bob Cratchit in Brian Desmond Hurst's 1951 Christmas fantasy drama film adaptation of Charles Dickens's A Christmas Carol, with Alastair Sim as the cantankerous title character and miser.

On stage, he appeared in Erskine Caldwell and Jack Kirkland's production of Tobacco Road at the West End in 1949, Michael Norbury's play Love’s a Funny Thing from 10 to 12 March 1949 at The Ambassadors Theatre in London, Harold Martin's play The Martins’ Nest from 12 April to 12 May 1951 at the Westminster Theatre in London, James Forsyth's play Fulbert as the uncle and guardian of Heloise beginning on 14 November 1951 at the Duke of York's Theatre in London, and Eric Linklater's play The Mortimer Touch as Shurie from 30 April to 7 June 1952 at the same theatre.[10]

Though he had appeared in several television films, Johns made his television series debut relatively late when he was cast as Harold Simpson in the episode The Happy Sunday Afternoon of BBC Sunday Night Theatre in 1950. On the same show, he was given the role of Albert Eccles in the 1954 episode Caste, Samuel Pepys in the 1954 episode Ninety Sail, Rough in the 1957 episode Gaslight, and His Excellency the Governor in the 1957 episode His Excellency. In 1956, Johns was given the lead role of J. Philimore Sparkes in six episodes of the television series New Ramps For Old, in which he was cast alongside Harry H. Corbett and Colin Tapley, who played Kegworthy and Detective Inspector Welsh respectively. Following this, he was given the lead role of Lawrence Todhunter in six episodes of the television series Leave It to Todhunter in 1958. He is remembered for standout roles as Arthur Charles Parfitt and Edward Lumsden in five episodes of the courtroom drama television series Crown Court alongside his grandson, actor Gareth Forwood, from 1973 to 1975.

Public image

Johns is recurrently hailed as one of Ealing Studios' most prolific actors. In his book Realism and Tinsel: Cinema and Society in Britain 1939-48, Robert Murphy describes Johns as a "mainstay of so many Ealing films".[19] In September 2022, he was named the 40th most popular Welsh actor of all time, after being absent from public attention for almost fifty years and dead for thirty.[20]

Johns was known for his "mostly mild-mannered, lugubrious, amusing, sometimes moving 'little men'" in over 100 films and television series.[1]

Personal life

Johns married twice. His first wife was the concert pianist Alyce Maude Steele-Wareham, whom he married on 17 November 1927 in Saint Giles, London, and with whom he had his only child, the actress Glynis Johns, while on tour in Pretoria, South Africa. He and Glynis appeared together in two drama films: The Halfway House in 1944 and The Sundowners in 1960. After Alyce's death on 1 September 1971, he married the actress Diana Churchill on 4 December 1976 in Hillingdon, London. He predeceased her by two years, dying on 6 September 1992 in Northwood, London.[1]

Johns was an uncle of judge John Geoffrey Jones.[citation needed]



Year Title Role Notes Ref(s)
1934 Lady in Danger Reporter Film debut [21]
1935 The Tunnel [21]
The Guv'nor Bank Director [22]
Foreign Affaires Courtroom interpreter [23]
1936 Pot Luck Night Watchman [24]
In the Soup Meakin [25]
Everything Is Thunder Karl - Waiter [26]
Dishonour Bright French Postcard Seller [25]
1937 Song of the Forge [27]
Storm in a Teacup Court Bailiff [25]
Night Ride Trapped Miner [28]
The Last Curtain Hemp [29]
1938 Pride and Prejudice Sir Wilfred Lucas Television film [30]
Almost a Gentleman Percival Clicker [31]
1939 Jamaica Inn Thomas [26]
1940 The Midas Touch [26]
Convoy [31]
Girl in the News James Fetherwood [31]
Saloon Bar Charlie Wickers [19]
1942 The Next of Kin No 23: Mr Davis [13]
The Foreman Went to France Passport Official [32]
Went the Day Well? Charlie Sims [32]
1943 The Bells Go Down Sam [19]
My Learned Friend Arthur Grimshaw [33]
San Demetrio London John Boyle [34]
1944 The Halfway House Rhys [35]
1945 Twilight Hour Major John Roberts [36]
Dead of Night Walter Craig [37]
Pink String and Sealing Wax Edward Sutton [15]
1946 They Knew Mr. Knight Tom Blake [16]
The Captive Heart Evans [13]
1947 Captain Boycott Watty Connell [38]
1948 Easy Money Herbert Atkins [39]
Counterblast Dr. Bruckner the Beast of Ravensbruck [17]
Quartet Samuel Sunbury Segment: The Kite [40]
1949 Edward, My Son Harry Sempkin [41]
Helter Skelter Ernest Bennett [31]
Diamond City Hart [42]
1950 Tony Draws a Horse Alfred Parsons [43]
1951 Scrooge Bob Cratchit [44]
The Magic Box Goitz [45]
1952 The Tall Headlines Uncle Ted [46]
1953 The Oracle Tom Mitchum [47]
Valley of Song Minister Idris Griffiths [48]
The Master of Ballantrae MacKellar [49]
1954 Romeo and Juliet Friar Laurence [50]
1955 The Blue Peter Captain Snow [51]
1956 1984 Jones [52]
The Intimate Stranger Ernest Chaple [53]
Moby Dick Peleg [54]
Find the Lady Mr. Hurst [55]
1957 The Counterfeit Plan Louie Bernard [56]
Doctor at Large Smith [31]
A Tale of Two Cities Mr. Jarvis Lorry Television film [57]
The Vicious Circle Dr. George Kimber [58]
The Surgeon's Knife Mr. Waring [31]
1958 The Gypsy and the Gentleman Brook [59]
1959 The Devil's Disciple Rev. Maindeck Parshotter [31]
Danger List Graham Ellis [31]
1960 Once More, with Feeling! Mr. Wilbur Jr. [60]
Never Let Go Alfie Barnes [61]
The Sundowners Jack Patchogue, Mayor of Cawndilla [62]
1961 No Love for Johnnie Charlie Young [63]
The Rebel Manager of Art Gallery, London [31]
Francis of Assisi Brother Juniper [64]
1962 The Keep Ben Morton Television film [65]
1963 The Day of the Triffids Mr. Coker [31]
55 Days at Peking Clergyman [66]
80,000 Suspects Buckridge [55]
The Old Dark House Potiphar Femm [31]
The Victors Dennis [31]
1964 A Jolly Bad Fellow Willie Pugh-Smith [31]
1965 The Heroes of Telemark Col. Wilkinson [31]
1966 Who Killed the Cat? Henry Fawcett [31]
1973 The National Health Rees [67]
Thinking Man As Hero Lord Beale [68]
1976 House of Mortal Sin Father Duggan Final film [31]


Year Title Role Episode number Notes Ref(s)
1950–1957 BBC Sunday Night Theatre Harold Simpson / Albert Eccles / Samuel Pepys / Rough / His Excellency, the Governor 5 episodes Television debut [69]
1955–1961 ITV Television Playhouse Walter Turnbull / Wickers / Jan Konigsveldt / Jack Wilson / Frank Davidson / Sylvan Humphreys 7 episodes [69]
1956 New Ramps for Old J. Philimore Sparkes 6 episodes [70]
1956–1964 ITV Play of the Week Caspar Darde / Rev. Arthur Mottram / Doctor Evans / Eli 4 episodes [71]
1957 A Tale of Two Cities Mr. Jarvis Lorry 7 episodes [72]
1958 White Hunter Mr. Doak 2 episodes [71]
Leave It to Todhunter Lawrence Todhunter 6 episodes [73]
1959 Knight Errant Limited Harry Smith 1 episode [74]
1960 Boyd Q.C. John Parsons 1 episode [75]
1962 Probation Officer Mr. Todd 1 episode [76]
Maigret Inspector Fumel 1 episode [77]
1963 The Third Man Geoffrey Ormsby 1 episode [78]
1964 Detective Father Brown 1 episode [79]
No Hiding Place Alf Turnball 1 episode [80]
Danger Man Armstrong 1 episode [69]
1965 The Sullavan Brothers Benjamin Greenfield 1 episode [81]
Knock on Any Door Mr. Prubright 1 episode [71]
The Avengers Brandon Storey 1 episode [69]
1965–1966 Pardon the Expression Jacob Elijah Burgess / Jeb 2 episodes [71]
1966 The Saint Doctor Davis 1 episode [69]
1972 Kate Mr. Norris 1 episode [71]
The Adventurer Franz Kolmar 1 episode [71]
Dixon of Dock Green Mr. Farmer 1 episode [82]
The Strauss Family Doctor Sarner 1 episode Television Mini Series [83]
1973 The Adventures of Black Beauty Silas Surtees 1 episode [71]
1973–1975 Crown Court Edward Lumsden / Arthur Charles Parfitt 5 episodes [71]
1974 QB VII Mr. Evans 1 episode Television Mini Series [84]
1977 Kilvert's Diary James Jones 1 episode [85]
1977–1979 The New Avengers Elderly man 1 episode [86]
1979 Shoestring Reverend James Appleby 1 episode [71]


Year Title Role Location Ref(s)
1926 Sons and Fathers by Allan Monkhouse Mr Mingan Royal Academy of Dramatic Art, London [10]
1931–1932 The Ghost Train Little Theatre, Bristol [10]
When Knights Were Bold Little Theatre, Bristol [10]
A Cup of Kindness Little Theatre, Bristol [23]
1932 Bird In Hand Mr Blanquet Little Theatre, Bristol [10]
1932–1933 The Rivals Little Theatre, Bristol [10]
Saint Joan Little Theatre, Bristol [10]
1934–1935 Hyde Park Corner Magistrate's Clerk Apollo Theatre, London [31]
1937–1938 Time and the Conways Ernest Beevers Duchess Theatre, London [87]
1938 Comedienne Aldwych Theatre, London [88]
1939 The Doctor's Dilemma Sir Patrick Cullen Westminster Theatre, London / Whitehall Theatre, London [12]
1939–1940 Saloon Bar Wyndham's Theatre, London [89]
1940–1941 Once a Crook Hallelujah Harry Aldwych Theatre, London / New Theatre, London [90]
1942–1943 The Duke in Darkness Bristol Hippodrome [10]
1943 Heartbreak House Captain Shotover Cambridge Theatre, London [91]
1949 Tobacco Road Jeeter Lester Embassy Theatre, London / Royal Central School of Speech and Drama / Playhouse Theatre, London [92]
Love’s a Funny Thing Michael Norbury Ambassadors Theatre, London [93]
1951 The Martins’ Nest Harold Martin Westminster Theatre, London [94]
Heloise Fulbert Duke of York's Theatre, London [95]
1952 The Mortimer Touch Shurie Duke of York's Theatre, London [12]
1961 The Keep Ben Morton Royal Court Theatre, London [96]
1964–1965 Heirs and Graces Theatre Royal, Bath [97]
1971–1972 A Christmas Carol Bob Cratchit Theatre Royal, Brighton [10]


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  81. ^ Mervyn Johns on Kinorium
  82. ^ Mervyn John on WelshIcons "Among his dozens of film roles were Walter Craig in Dead of Night (1945) and Bob Cratchit in Scrooge (1951). He also made many television appearances, in films such as The Avengers, Danger Man and Dixon of Dock Green"
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External links

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