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Chitty Chitty Bang Bang

Chitty Chitty Bang Bang (1968), starring Dick Van Dyke, Sally Ann Howes, Lionel Jeffries, Benny Hill

I’m very conflicted writing this review of Chitty Chitty Bang Bang, since I loved it as a child, but I have trouble enjoying it as an adult.  Time began its review saying the film is a — €œpicture for the ages — €”the ages between five and twelve — € — €” and that’s probably accurate. Even as an adult, I truly enjoy the various musical numbers (specially with Dick Van Dyke at the fair, performing — €œThe Old Bamboo — €, and several others), and the first half of the movie, up until the fantasy dream sequence.

Lionel Jeffries does a wonderful job as the children’s grandfather ( — €œPosh — € is a wonderful routine that I enjoy immensely), the actors playing the children are appropriately cute, Sally Ann Howes does a good job as the love interest (with a great singing voice as well), and some of Dick Van Dyke’s inventions (especially the breakfast-making machines)  are appropriately Rube Goldberg-esque. The extended fantasy scene isn’t all bad, either — €” the bombastic Baron (Gert Frobe) is very comedic, and his inept spies (Alexander Dore and Bernard Spear) are very clownish, inept and funny.

It should also be mentioned that the book is grossly different from the original book, — €œChitty Chitty Bang Bang — € by Ian Fleming — €” yes, the author of the James Bond series of books actually wrote a children’s book, about a married couple with 2 children, who  with the help of  their magical flying car who rescue a French candy maker and his family from ordinary gangsters — €” a very enjoyable book, that I’ve long thought would have made an enjoyable movie — €” that this movie has little in common with.

Editorial review of  Chitty Chitty Bang Bang, courtesy of Amazon.com

This 1968 kiddie-car caper is flawed but solid family fare. It retains a quaint charm while some of the songs — €“including the title tune — €“are quite hummable. A huge plus is Dick Van Dyke, who is extremely appealing as an eccentric inventor around the turn of the century. With nimble fingers and a unique way of looking at the world, he invents for his children a magic car that floats and flies. Or does he? The special effects are tame by today’s standards, and the film is about 20 minutes too long — €“but its enthusiasm charms. The script was cowritten by Roald Dahl and based on the novel by Ian Fleming, best known for his James Bond adventures. — €”Rochelle O’Gorman

Trivia for  Chitty Chitty Bang Bang

  • In an interview during filming in October 1967 Dick Van Dyke revealed that he only accepted the role of Caracatus Potts on the condition that he would not have to attempt an English accent. This was after Van Dyke’s attempt at a Cockney accent in Mary Poppins had been widely mocked by critics.
  • Dick Van Dyke originally turned the part down but was repeatedly offered the part with more money added in each offer. When the offer reached seven figures plus a percentage of the profits, he accepted the role.
  • Lionel Jeffries played Dick Van Dyke’s father, despite the fact that Dick Van Dyke is actually six months older than Jeffries.
  • According to Dick Van Dyke, director Ken Hughes hated children and Van Dyke would often have to tell him to stop cursing in front of the child actors.
  • The name Toot Sweet is a play on — €œtout de suite — €, a French expression meaning — €œright away — € or — €œquickly — €.
  • Heather Ripley recalled that she did not realize until much later that Dick Van Dyke was an alcoholic when the film was made.
  • In a 2011 episode of SyFy Channel’s Hollywood Treasure (2010) Dick Van Dyke got to sit in the — €œhero — € car for the first time in over 40 years, and noted that he could have purchased it for $30,000 after the movie wrapped.
  • The name — €œChitty Chitty Bang Bang — € was inspired by a series of actual race cars named — €œChitty Bang Bang — € — €“ I, II, etc — €“ in the early 1920s, notable for their use of enormous aircraft engines.
  • While not the huge financial failure it had often been described as, the film did nevertheless lose money on its release and received generally negative reviews.
  • The current owner of the Chitty car is director Peter Jackson. He could be seen near the WETA Workshop in New Zealand driving cast members of The Hobbit films around in the car while playing the main theme song through a sound system.
  • In his 2011 autobiography — €œDick Van Dyke: My Lucky Life In and Out Of Show Business — €œ, Dick Van Dyke revealed that he did not get along with producer Albert R. Broccoli or director Ken Hughes during filming.
  • Dick Van Dyke, who was smoking up to 40 cigarettes a day, found the dance numbers very demanding.

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