Two great influences on 1960’s film combined in Chitty Chitty Bang Bang: the story came from Ian Fleming, creator of superspy James Bond; and the setting, composers and lead actor Dick Van Dyke came from Disney’s classic Mary Poppins (1964).
The result was a quirky children’s adventure story complete with precocious tots, bombastic song and dance routines and a flying car called ‘Chitty Chitty Bang Bang’.
Eccentric inventor Caractacus Potts (Van Dyke) is a widower with a penchant for things mechanical. He and his children rescue an old car from the scrap heap and create a new vehicle with the ability to fly and float – They call this car ‘Chitty Chitty Bang Bang’ because of the noise it makes.
Potts takes his kids and the truly scrumptious Truly Scrumptious (daughter of candymaker Lord Scrumptious) out for a picnic, where he spins a tale of the car’s magical abilities to float and fly.
Trouble looms in the form of Baron Bomburst, the monarch of a small but wealthy principality, who hates children and employs a vicious Child Catcher, played by Sir Robert Helpmann in a brilliant role which guaranteed thousands of children sleepless nights in the late 60s.
The baron is after the magical car and wants the vehicle and its inventor kidnapped. The Baron gets the wrong man, abducting Pott’s loony father instead, forcing Potts, kids and Truly to fly to the rescue.
While not the spectacular success that Mary Poppins was (or that the Bond franchise was, for that matter), Chitty Chitty Bang Bang performed admirably, earning an Oscar nomination for its title song.
Several cars were used in the filming of Chitty Chitty Bang Bang. The car used for the hovercraft scenes was lighter since some of it was constructed from aluminium instead of brass. It also had its engine removed for the flying scenes, so that it would be light enough to hang from a helicopter.
The car used in most of the shots, driving along roads, was built by Alan Mann in Hertfordshire in 1967 and was fitted with a Ford 3000 V6 engine and automatic transmission.
Dick Van Dyke
Sally Ann Howes
James Robertson Justice