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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.  I loved it as a child, but I have trouble enjoying it as an adult.  Time began its review saying the film is a “picture 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 (especially with Dick Van Dyke at the fair, performing Me Ol’ Bamboo, and several others). As well as the first half of the movie, up until the fantasy dream sequence.

Lionel Jeffries does a wonderful job as the children’s grandfather (Posh! 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. His inept spies (Alexander Dore and Bernard Spear) are very clownish, inept and funny.

Contrasted with the book

It should also be mentioned that the book is grossly different from the original book by Ian Fleming.  Yes, the author of the James Bond series of books actually wrote a children’s book.  It’s about a married couple with 2 children, who with the help of their magical flying car 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.  But this movie has little in common with it.

There’s a fair amount of verbal humor as well – be sure to check out the funny movie quotes from Chitty Chitty Bang Bang.

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

Songs in Chitty Chitty Bang Bang

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.
  • Lionel Jeffries played Dick Van Dyke’s father.  However, 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 “tout de suite”, a French expression meaning “right away”.
  • Heather Ripley recalled that she did not realize until much later that Dick Van Dyke was an alcoholic when the film was made.
  • The name “Chitty Chitty Bang Bang” was inspired by a series of actual race cars named “Chitty Bang Bang” I, II, etc.  In the early 1920s, they were notable for their use of enormous aircraft engines.
  • In his 2011 autobiography Dick Van Dyke: My Lucky Life In and Out Of Show Business, 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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