His name is synonymous with James Bond.
But that wasn’t the only fantastic character he brought to life. He also wrote the original story Chitty Chitty Bang Bang.
In 1968 Albert “Cubby” Broccoli, who had overseen the James Bond series of films from the beginning, brought Fleming’s other famous creation to the big screen, with a lot of help from his Bond producing team.
This included a screenplay worked on by Roald Dahl who had written the James Bond film, You Only Live Twice (as well as Charlie & The Chocolate Factory, James & The Giant Peach and The Fantastic Mr. Fox), production associate Peter Hunt, and production designer Ken Adam (who’s sets are always grandiose and larger than life).
He also brought over a couple of actors as well… Q himself, Desmond LLewelyn appears as Cogggins, who is looking to sell the beat up ole wreck that Chitty has become, while Auric Goldfinger, Gert Frobe plays Baron Bomburst the leader of Vulgaria.
Dick Van Dyke takes the lead as eccentric inventor Caractacus Potts, a single father of two children, Jemima (Heather Ripley) and Jeremy (Adrian Hall), who all share a rustic farmhouse and windmill with Potts’ equally eccentric father, Grandpa Potts (Lionel Jeffries).
The children are equally taken with a beat up old car (whose history we see in the opening credits… she used to be a Gran Prix winner in the first decade of the 20th Century), now possibly in the mid to late 20s, the car is rusting, and falling apart, but is a wonderful source of play for the Potts children.
When the car is about to be sold as junk, they convince their father to buy it – which he does in a huge musical number that happily makes him the 30 shillings he needs, they are a poor, but very happy family.
The daughter of a candy magnate, Truly Scrumptious (Sally Ann Howes) gets involved with the family, and on an outing to the beach, Potts weaves a tale featuring all four of them in a sweeping adventure with their splendid car, spies, toymakers, a country that has outlawed children…
It also has something that has stayed with me since childhood, and the first time I saw it… the Child-Catcher (Robert Helpmann), There’s something about him that frightened me as a kid, the thin face, the angular jutting nose, the undertaker’s attire, his hunt for children with his prowling walk and net with his horse-drawn cage.
It just stayed with me.
The Sherman Brothers, who are renowned for the songs featured in Mary Poppins, also created the tunes featured in Chitty Chitty Bang Bang. Most of them are a lot of fun, though Lovely Lonely Man seemed to bring the film to a stop for me.
Still, after all these years, the movie still enchants me, I’ll be humming the songs fof days to come…
Van Dyke is a lot of fun, singing, dancing and capering about, balancing physical comedy and the struggles of being a single dad, that shows on his face and in his eyes.
As the story unfolds, Bomburst is trying to steal the fantastic Chitty, she floats, she flies… she’s pretty amazing. When his first attempt fails, he decides to kidnap Potts and make him craft a car for him. He grabs the wrong Potts though, grabbing Grandpa instead, and it’s up to the rest of the family, Truly included to rescue Grandpa, and escape Vulgaria to hopefully find their happy ending.
The film takes it’s time. even working in an intermission, clocking in at almost 2 1/2 hours, not the most ideal length for a family feature, but it holds the attention… and those wonderful songs…