Chitty Chitty Bang Bang star Sally Ann Howes has died in her sleep at the age of 91 following a stage and screen career that spanned six decades.
The actress, who made her movie debut aged 14 but will be best remembered by millions worldwide for her 1968 role playing Truly Scrumptious alongside Dick Van Dyke, passed away on Sunday – three months after the death of her husband of 48 years.
Ms Howes was said to be inseparable from her British literary agent spouse Douglas Rae, who she married in 1973. The couple lived together in New York.
The star, a US citizen, had two adopted sons from her eight-year marriage to Broadway composer Richard Adler. She continued to raise the boys even after her divorce from their father. Christopher, a songwriter, died in 1984, while Andrew survives her.
Ms Howes’ nephew Toby wrote on Twitter: ‘I can also confirm the passing of my beloved Aunty #SallyAnnhowes who died peacefully in her sleep yesterday. My brother & I thought Sally Ann might hold on until the #Christmas screening of Chitty Chitty Bang Bang as this would have greatly appealed to her mischievous side.’
Jeffrey Sherman, son of Chitty Chitty Bang Bang writer Robert Sherman, said his ‘heart is broken’ after the death of ‘gorgeous and regal’ Ms Howes.
Ms Howes was born in London in 1930 to actress Patricia Malone and actor Bobby Howes. Aged 14 she appeared in the film Thursday’s Child and went on to be put under contract with Ealing Studios.
She was nominated for a Tony Award for Best Lead Actress in a musical in 1963 for her appearance in Brigadoon and starred in children’s classic Chitty Chitty Bang Bang as Truly Scrumptious alongside Dick Van Dyke in 1968.
But her passion was theatre, which she likened to ‘a drug’, making her first appearance in Fancy Free and going on to star in My Fair Lady as Eliza Doolittle.
She became a household name after replacing Julie Andrews in the production on Broadway in 1958, once saying she heard a groan when she was announced as a last-minute matinee performance replacement for Ms Andrews.
‘The audience felt cheated and I immediately felt I had been thrown to the wolves. By the end of the performance, I had turned them,’ she previously said. She would later come to know that afternoon as ‘the best I ever had’.
Sally Ann Howes married British literary agent Douglas Rae (pictured together) in 1973. They remained together for 48 years before Mr Rae died in September and were described by Ms Howe’s nephew as ‘inseparable’. Ms Howes passed away on Sunday aged 91
She starred in children’s classic Chitty Chitty Bang Band as Truly Scrumptious alongside Dick Van Dyke in 1968. Pictured, Ms Howes as Truly sits in her motorcar
She was nominated for a Tony Award for Best Lead Actress in a musical in 1963 for her appearance in Brigadoon. Pictured, in Chitty Chitty Bang Bang as they escaped the film’s villain Baron Bomburst, who wants to steal their flying car
Tributes have poured in since the star’s death was announced, with four-time Olivier nominated actress Emma Williams describing her as ‘the epitome of class’.
Ms Williams’ first West End role was as Truly Scrumptious in the premiere of Chitty Chitty Bang Bang.
She said: ‘Sad news today about Sally Ann Howes, the original and best Truly Scrumptious. She was the epitome of class, a generous and kindly soul who offered the sweetest words of advice and support to me when I met her. I will forever be grateful.’
The estate of actor Kenny Moore’s Twitter page wrote: ‘Saddened by the news of the passing of dear #SallyAnnHowes. Sally and Kenny were friends throughout their lives, as too was @ImAngelaDouglas. Sally and her late husband, #DouglasRae were later witnesses at Angela and Bill Bryden’s wedding. Our thoughts are with their families.’
Jeffrey Sherman, son of Chitty Chitty Bang Bang writer Robert Sherman, said his ‘heart is broken’ after the death of Ms Howes.
He wrote online: ‘Another artistic genius and diva has left us. Sally Ann Howes embodied Truly Scrumptious in my dad and uncle’s movie musical Chitty Chitty Bang Bang.
‘Dad and Dick adored this woman who gave life to so many of their heartfelt songs in Chitty. Doll on a Music Box, Truly Scrumptious, Toot Sweets, Hushabye Mountain, and especially for me, her rendition of the magnificent Lovely Lonely Man.
‘God. This is tough. She was gorgeous and regal. And the way she beamingly addressed me, I felt she was as happy to meet me as I was her.
‘Anyway, Sally, thank you for immortalizing agruably one of my dad and uncle’s greatest and most beloved films and song scores. You were and will remain forever divine. Scrumptious as a cherry peach parfait.
‘I’m so happy and grateful you were a big part of my family’s journey. Safe travels and please give dad a big hug for me.’
Ms Howes at the Hilton Hotel in London on December 12, 1968 while she was in the capital for the royal world premiere of Chitty Chitty Bang Bang
Ms Howes and British actor Peter Wyngarde publicising their appearance in the stage musical ‘The King and I’ on a barge on the River Thames in 1973
In 1945, aged 15, Ms Howe appeared in her fourth film, ‘Pink String and Sealing Wax’, at Ealing Studios, London
In 1966 Ms Howe played Fiona McLaren in Brigadoon. When two Americans become lost on a hunting trip in Scotland they find a small village, not on the map, called Brigadoon, where there is a mysterious secret, and the people behave like they were still 200 years in the past
Left: In 1973 Ms Howe starred in Female Artillery as Sybil Townsend. When she was 19, in 1949, she was Pamela Dickson in Fools Rush In
Fans have praised their ‘Truly Scrumptious forever’ as hundreds took to social media to share their favourite moments from Ms Howe’s decades-long career.
Saskia Hannah Hirsh wrote: ‘So sad to hear about the passing of the glorious Sally Ann Howes. Her performance in Chitty as Truly Scrumptious means so much to me. Iconic.’
Another said: ‘RIP Sally Ann Howes (you will always be Truly Scrumptious to us).’
One wrote: ‘Sad news about Sally Ann Howes – she was a marvellous Truly Scrumptious – she was the perfect doll on the music box.’
Another added: ‘Thanks for the wonderful childhood memories ! Rest in Peace Sally Ann Howes.’
Another penned: ‘RIP actress Sally Ann Howes, who has died at the age of 91. Ever remembered as Truly Scrumptious in Chitty Chitty Bang Bang. Miss Howes was daughter of Bobby Howes, the leading musical comedy star of 1930s and 40s.’
Another said: ‘What sad news to wake up to. Sally Ann Howes has died aged 91. Always overshadowed by Julie Andrews, but on stage and on film she was in every respect her equal. Forever Truly Scrumptious. Here she is in her best remembered role (filmed in one take!)…’
One penned: ‘So sad to hear of the passing of Sally Ann Howes. Chitty Chitty Bang Bang is one of those films that has always been a big part of my life and her performance as Truly Scrumptious is sublime.’
Another said: ‘Caractacus Potts and Truly Scrumptious aka Dick Van Dyke and Sally Ann Howes in that charming film Chitty Chitty Bang Bang. I do believe I had a little boy crush on Sally, who has died aged 91. A generation of little ones loved her. RIP.’
Ms Howe is pictured in the 1970 film Prudence and the Chief, where she starred as Prudence MacKenzie
In 1948, aged 18, Ms Howe played Kitty Shcherbatsky in an adaption of Leo Tolstoy’s Anna Karenina
Ms Howes was born in London in 1930 to actress Patricia Malone and actor Bobby Howes. Aged 14 she appeared in the film Thursday’s Child (pictured) and went on to be put under contract with Ealing Studios
1945: Dead Of Night, a rare horror of the 1940s because the genre was banned to keep spirits up during the war
In Chitty Chitty Bang Bang Ms Howes performed as a wind up doll alongside Mr Dyke. She described the performance as very difficult but said the film crew gave her an applause because she got it in one take. In the film Truly was performing for Baron Bomburst, pretending to be a doll for his birthday so they could rescue the children he had captured
Ms Howes is pictured in Chitty Chitty Bang Bang alongside child stars Adrian Hall, then nine, and Heather Ripley, then eight, as they took a drive in their magic flying car
Ms Howes and Mr Dyke starred together in Chitty Chitty Bang Bang. Pictured is the moment the couple stood next to the toymaker as they realised the children had been taken by the child catcher
When she was asked whether she could dance during her audition for her role in Chitty Chitty Bang Bang, she said she could – thinking her feet would be hidden behind large Edwardian-era skirts. Pictured during a dance number at Truly’s father’s sweet factory early on in the film
The star’s passion was theatre, which she likened to ‘a drug’, making her first appearance in Fancy Free and going on to star in My Fair Lady as Eliza Doolittle (pictured). She became a household name after replacing Julie Andrews in the production on Broadway in 1958, once saying she heard a groan when she was announced as a last-minute matinee performance replacement for Ms Andrews
Ms Howes was taught by her parents to say yes to anything she was asked to do, and once told a casting director she smoked to secure a role. She previously said: ‘I auditioned for a role and was asked if I smoked. Naturally, I said yes’
The star, a US citizen, had two adopted sons from her eight-year marriage to Broadway composer Richard Adler. She continued to raise the boys even after her divorce from their father. Christopher (pictured in 1984), a songwriter, died in 1984, while Andrew survives her
Jeffrey Sherman, son of Chitty Chitty Bang Bang writer Robert Sherman, said his ‘heart is broken’ after the death of Ms Howes
Tributes have poured in since the star’s death was announced, with four-time Olivier nominated actress Emma Williams describing her as ‘the epitome of class’
Fans have praised their ‘Truly Scrumptious forever’ as hundreds took to social media to share their favourite moments from Ms Howe’s decades-long career
Hollywood and Broadway star Sally Ann Howes appeared in 26 movies from the age of 13 until she was 43
1980 Death Ship – Margaret Marshall
1973 Female Artillery – Sybil Townsend
1972 The Hound of the Baskervilles – Laura Frankland
1971 The Virginian (TV Series)
1970 Prudence and the Chief – Prudence MacKenzie
1968 Chitty Chitty Bang Bang – Truly Scrumptious
1966 Brigadoon – Fiona McLaren
1961 Jane Eyre – Jane Eyre
1960 The Fifth Column
1958 The Gift of the Magi – Della Young
1957 The Admirable Crichton – Lady Mary
1955 Romance in Candlelight – Margaret
1954 Paint Your Wagon – Jennifer Rumson
1952 Bet Your Life – Jane
1951 Honeymoon Deferred – Katherine Fry
1951 The Golden Year – Susan Halliday
1950 Cinderella – Cinderella
1949 Stop Press Girl – Jennifer Peters
1949 Fools Rush In – Pamela Dickson
1949 The History of Mr. Polly – Christabel
1948 My Sister and I – Robina Adams
1948 Anna Karenina – Kitty Shcherbatsky
1947 The Life and Adventures of Nicholas Nickleby – Kate Nickleby
1945 Pink String and Sealing Wax – Peggy Sutton
1945 Dead of Night – Sally O’Hara
1944 The Halfway House – Joanna French (Richard and Jill’s Daughter)
1943 Thursday’s Child
Ms Howe’s theatre roles included What Makes Sammy Run?, The King and I, and Cinderella. ‘I would have liked a film career, but I didn’t pursue it – I just loved connecting with an audience,’ she previously told the Palm Beach Post. ‘The theatre is a drug. The problem is that to be remembered, you have to do films.’
Ms Howes was taught by her parents to say yes to anything she was asked to do, and once told a casting director she smoked to secure a role. She previously said: ‘I auditioned for a role and was asked if I smoked. Naturally, I said yes.
‘My father had taught me long before that when a casting director asked if you could do something, you immediately said yes, and if you couldn’t you learnt darn fast. At any rate, I learnt to smoke for that role and when I finished it, I stopped.’
Similarly, when she was asked whether she could dance during her audition for her role in Chitty Chitty Bang Bang, she said she could – thinking her feet would be hidden behind large Edwardian-era skirts.
She then had to perform a solo routine in front of the entire cast and crew during a pivotal scene in the film, Baron Bomburst’s birthday party – when she pretended to be a wind-up doll on a music box. She did the scene in one take and earned a large applause from the 150 extras who were watching.
Born in St John’s Wood, London, in 1930, Ms Howe spent the Second World War in the family’s home in Hertfordshire, where her father regularly entertained theatrical guests.
One, an agent, remembered Ms Howe and told her parents to bring her for a screen test when she was 12 years old. She earned glowing reviews in Thursday’s Child (1943) and was signed by Ealing Studios.
She would go on to perform in Dead of Night in 1945, The Life and Adventures of Nicholas Nickleby in 1947 and The History of Mr Polly in 1949.
When she was 20 she began a career in musical theatre, making her debut in Caprice in 1950.
In 1953, she appeared alongside her father in the original 18-month West End run of the Lerner and Loewe musical Paint Your Wagon. The same year she divorced her husband of three years, Maxwell Coker, an American actor,
Some five years later she married Broadway composer Richard Adler and moved permanently to the US, where she adopted her husband’s two sons – Christopher and Andrew – following their mother’s death. She continued to raise them even after her divorce. Christopher, a songwriter, died in 1984, while Andrew survives her.
She was engaged to the society photographer Sterling Henry Nahum, but it ended with his unexpected death in 1956.
She then had a short marriage to Andrew Maree from 1969 to 1970 and ultimately spent the rest of her life married to Mr Rae following their wedding in 1972.
Later on in her career Ms Howes appeared in films including 1980’s Death Ship and Female Artillery in 1973.
By 2000 she returned to Broadway to play Aunt Julia Morkan in Richard Nelson and Shaun Davey’s musical adaptation of James Joyces’s The Dead. Her performance earned a Drama Desk nomination for Outstanding Featured Actress in a Musical.
Where are the Chitty Chitty Bang Bang cast now? As tributes are paid to Sally Ann Howes, 91, Femail reveals the varied fortunes of the stars – from Dick Van Dyke still acting at 96 to the child star arrested for being an eco-warrior
By Jo Tweedy for MailOnline
Fans of enduring children’s Christmas classic Chitty Chitty Bang Bang have been paying tribute to Sally Ann Howes, who played Truly Scrumptious in the film, after her death on Sunday at the age of 91.
During a glittering career on stage and screen, Ms Howes, who was born in London in 1930 to actress Patricia Malone and actor Bobby Howes, was nominated for a Tony Award for Best Lead Actress in 1963 musical Brigadoon and starred in My Fair Lady as Eliza Doolittle.
However, for many, it will be for the role of Truly Scrumptious in the Disney classic that Ms Howe will be remembered. The 1968 film, which has been reinvented for global stages including the West End and Broadway in the decades since, was based on a novel by Bond writer Ian Fleming – and adapted for screen by Roald Dahl.
It tells the story of a charismatic inventor Caractacus Potts (Dick Van Dyke) who creates a magical flying car. The plot follows the adventures of Potts, newly widowed, and his two children Jeremy and Jemima, played by Adrian Hall and Heather Ripley, as they recount a story to Truly Scrumptious about the evil Baron Bomburst (Gert Frobe) and his attempts to steal the Potts’ fantastical flying machine.
Here, FEMAIL looks at what happened to the film’s cast after Chitty Chitty Bang Bang made them household names in the late Sixties…
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Caractacus Potts, played by Dick Van Dyke
Dick Van Dyke, cast in Chitty Chitty Bang Bang while in his early forties, was already a major star when he agreed to take on the role of inventor Caractacus Potts in the Disney classic – a 1964 appearance as loveable chimney sweep Bert in Mary Poppins alongside Julie Andrews had made him instantly A-list.
Five decades on the actor, singer and dancer, who has just celebrated his 96th birthday, is still going strong – with acting work still apparently pouring in.
The Hollywood legend now lives under the sun in Malibu with makeup artist wife Arlene Silver, who at 50 is more than 40 years his junior.
Dick Van Dyke, then in his early forties, played charismatic inventor Caractacus Potts in the Disney classic; he was already a global star thanks to his role as chimney sweep Bert in 1964 film Mary Poppins alongside Julie Andrews. Right: Still going strong! Now 96, the actor, singer and dancer is still working. He was honoured at the 43rd Annual Kennedy Center Honors in Washington DC in May this year
His career now spans more than seven decades and Van Dyke has earned five Emmys, a Tony, a Grammy, a BAFTA, the SAG Lifetime Achievement Award, and induction into the Television Hall Of Fame.
His ventures in TV saw him also win awards; he played Rob Petrie in The Dick Van Dyke Show (1961-1966), as well as The New Dick Van Dyke Show (1971-1974) and appeared on The Carol Burnett Show in 1977.
The actor’s most recent project is a role in the upcoming film, Capture The Flag, which is currently in pre-production. Van Dyke and Silver will celebrate 10 years of marriage next February.
He has four children: sons Barry and Christian and daughters Stacy and Carrie that were born during his first marriage to Margie Willett, which lasted from 1948 until their divorce in 1984. The proud family man also now has five grandchildren and four great-grandchildren.
The Hollywood legend lives in Malibu with his wife of nine years, professional makeup artist Arlene Silver, 50. Pictured, with Ms Howe in October 2010 in Los Angeles
He first met his current wife of nine years Silver, when she was working as a make-up artist at the SAG Awards in 2005. And like many people and fans, she was initially drawn to him, in part, by his infectious and beaming smile.
She recalled to The Huffington Post: ‘I remember seeing Dick at the catering table with his bow tie and his big smile. Right when I sat down, he was sitting next to me.
He said, “Hi, I’m Dick.” The first thing I asked him was, “Weren’t you in Mary Poppins?”‘
Earlier this summer, Van Dyke’s career in entertainment was celebrated at the 43rd annual Kennedy Center Honors, where he was introduced by his longtime friend and colleague, Julie Andrews.
Kennedy Center honorees are recognized for their contributions to American culture through the performing arts in music, dance, theater, opera, motion pictures, or television, and are confirmed by the Executive Committee of the Center’s Board of Trustees.
During the ceremony, Van Dyke reflected on his time in show business, and how he has truly lived up to the old saying: ‘Do what you love and you’ll never work a day in your life…
‘All those numbers reminded me of how much fun I had over the years,’ he said at the prestigious event, adding, ‘I wasn’t working for a living – they were paying me to play!’
Jemima Potts, played by Heather Ripley
Heather Ripley, who starred in the film aged just eight, is now 62 but her elfin features still exude the same mischievous defiance that made her an instant child star as Jemima Potts.
Her acting career was short-lived though. The Scot has largely shunned publicity in adulthood.
Despite appearing bound for Hollywood, and even presenting flowers to the Queen at the film’s premiere at London’s Odeon Leicester Square on December 16, 1968, Ripley has always maintained that she regretted starring in the film; she would eventually drop out of society and reinvent herself as an eco-warrior, peace campaigner and anti-roads protester.
At one point, Ripley lived rough for six months in a ‘bender’ (a shelter made from branches and tarpaulin) to try to stop the building of the Newbury bypass. Another time, she was arrested after lying down in the road and blocking traffic at the Faslane nuclear submarine base on the River Clyde in Scotland and spent 15 hours in a police cell.
Heather Ripley shot to fame as Jemima Potts in Chitty Chitty Bang Bang; she was just eight when she took on the role – but has spent much of the rest of her life shunning fame, saying she regrets making the film
The children in the film, Heather Ripley and Jeremy Potts, enjoyed a taste of the Hollywood working alongside Dick Van Dyke, who was already an A-lister – but both the films’ child stars have turned their backs onthe limelight in adulthood
Now a grandmother, she insists such wildness is behind her, having long since re-trained as a massage therapist based at the Findhorn Foundation, the spiritual community on the Moray Firth which has offered a haven for so many of life’s untamed souls.
‘I’m a hippy and proud of it,’ she previously said. ‘I never liked fame,’ she says. ‘I don’t understand what kids’ big thing is about wanting to be famous. It just means you have no privacy and you are constantly being asked the same questions.
‘I do regret being in that film. I regret the effect it had on my mental health. I felt overwhelmed by the amount of attention I got after the film came out. I had photographers trying to snap me in the school playground and follow me down the street.
‘This was after working for 14 months solidly on the film when I was so lonely. I had no friends apart from Adrian [Hall, who played her screen brother Jeremy Potts] and he would usually go home after filming each day.’
After years of therapy and counselling, she describes herself as a survivor of post-traumatic stress, adding: ‘I was only eight at the time. I was away from most of my family and all my friends for more than a year and felt completely isolated. It’s not good for any child.’
Overwhelmed: The Scottish former actor said the role wreaked havoc on her mental health because there was so much attention from the film on its young stars (Heather Ripley pictured in 2013) – she’s now a massage therapist. Right: Ripley, now in her early 60s, has dedicated much of her life to campaigning to save the environment – and once spent 15 hours in a police cell for lying down in the road and blocking traffic at the Faslane nuclear submarine base on the River Clyde in Scotland
She was plucked from obscurity when she stood in for a sick cast member at Dundee Rep Theatre, where her mother Nanette was wardrobe mistress. Her performance was spotted by a talent scout, who sent a note south to casting agents who were looking for confident youngsters for a new film based on a children’s novel by 007 author Ian Fleming.
Six months before filming began, Ripley and her family went to London for a screen test with producer Cubby Broccoli and director Ken Hughes. She said: ‘The first question he asked was, “How old are you?”, and I said, “Seven and three-quarters!” They just fell about laughing.
‘Ken almost immediately said: “I think we’ve found Jemima, but what are we going to do about the Scots accent?”
‘Cubby said: “Oh don’t worry, we’ll fix that.” I was worried they meant brain surgery.’
What they actually meant was elocution lessons, provided initially by a woman called Paddy O’Neill, a friend of her mother, who just happened to be having an affair with Heather’s father.
Aged 16, Heather ran away to London in the hope of securing acting or modelling work but, crushingly, no one was interested. Instead, she survived by waitressing and working as a chambermaid. Her fee for Chitty, after ten years’ investment, was worth just £7,500 when she received it at 18.
Disillusioned and broke, she decided to train as an optician before returning to Scotland to work for her father’s business. It was here that she met the man who was to be the father of her children, William Hall, a labourer and oil-rig worker.
After ten years living in a tenement flat with their two children, with Heather reduced to taking cleaning jobs and William labouring, she bolted again — this time with the children in a gipsy caravan.
Not long after being photographed trying to throw himself on to a mechanical digger at the Newbury protests in 1997, Cosmo, then aged 12, asked his mother if he could go back to live with his father. Her daughter, Josie, lasted until she was 11 before heading back to the family home.
Heather had a brief role in a short film called The Interview screened at 2004’s Edinburgh Film Festival and helps film the foundation’s occasional live-streaming events.
Recently, she lent her voice to a short animation by amateurs from the Scottish Borders. She phoned in her performance — all two lines of dialogue.
Jeremy Potts, played by Adrian Hall
Playing blonde haired Jeremy Potts (pictured right), Adrian Hall seemingly had the world at his feet, but after performances on stage and in TV in his teens, he turned his attentions to teaching
Caractacus Potts played by Dick Van Dyke, (centre) Heather Ripley as Jemima Potts and Jeremy Potts played by Adrian Hall in Chitty Chitty Bang Bang
Adrian Hall, now 62, was aged nine when he appeared in Chitty Chitty Bang Bang – and his performing career peaked with the Disney film.
He said he had no clue how big the film was when he was shooting it at Pinewood, and went back to school straight after filming.
Playing blonde haired Jeremy Potts, he won audiences over with his cheeky smile and in went on to appear in several UK television programs and performed on stages in London’s West End through his teenage years in the early 1970s.
Mr Hall became an acting teacher and eventually, principal at a the Academy of Live and Recorded Arts before his resignation earlier this year (appearing on Lorraine in 2018)
However, he made the decision to turn his attention to teaching acting, instead of performing and held the role of Principal of The Academy Of Live and Recorded Arts, in Wigan, before handing in his resignation earlier this year. He admitted on the Lorraine show in 2018 that he made it clear to students at the school about his famous past and said his two sons, now grown up, are at the ’embarrassment stage’ when it comes to discussing their father’s child star status.
Hall has continued to appear at fan conventions and is a regular at new productions of the show on Broadway and in the West End.
In 2018, he told Wigan Today: ‘Chitty is part of my history and I would never try to hide it or deny it. It’s a piece of British film history and in the course of my life I’ve met some incredible people and been to some brilliant places, all because of it. It has done nothing but good for me.’
The child catcher, played by Robert Helpmann
Australian ballet dancer Sir Robert Helpmann, known as ‘Bobbie’ was anything but graceful in the role of the child catcher, a whole generation of children lived in fear of such a character after Helpmann’s portrayal in the film.
When the camera’s stopped rolling though, Helpmann was the opposite of his macabre on-screen persona, with co-stars reporting the then 60-year-old as kind and friendly.
A child star himself, he was heralded as one of his country’s greatest young dancers; later he would try his hand at burlesque too.
The stuff of nightmares! The child catcher terrified children who watched the film…but Sir Robert Helpmann, who was 60 at the time he played the role, was said to be kind and charming on set
Heralded as one of the greatest young dancers in Australia when he was a teenager, Helpmann had a troubled relationship with his home country, describing how he was once ‘dumped in the sea’ for wearing nail polish on Bondi Beach
After Chitty Chitty Bang Bang, Helpmann focused again on his first love of ballet, returning to his native Australia and becoming a co-director of the Australian Ballet Company. By the early Seventies though, he fled back to London, slamming the country’s approach to arts: ‘It has been made abundantly clear that I am not wanted in Australia’, he said at the time.
Celebrated as an early advocate for LGBT+ rights, he was open about his sexuality and lived with partner Michael Benthall, until the latter’s death in 1974. In the 60s, he revealed how he’d been ‘dumped in the sea’ at Bondi Beach by homophobic thugs who were affronted by his painted nails and plucked eyebrows.
His fractured relationship with his home country took a better turn, he returned to live in Sydney, where he died aged 77 in 1986.
Grandpa Potts, played by Lionel Jeffries
A 40-year-old Grandpa Potts – Lionel Jeffries grew a beard and shaved his head to look older for the film. He continued to act in his later years, pictured right in an episode of the BBC television series ‘Casualty’ in 1992 – he died in Dorset at the age of 83 in 2010
Although he was playing a grandfather in the film, Lionel Jeffries, born in London in 1925, was actually younger – by half a year – than Dick Van Dyke, born in 1926, at the time of filming.
Already an established character actor, Jeffries had starred in films such as The Colditz Story (1955) and Camelot (1967), playing King Pellinore in the latter.
Smitten with children’s movies after Chitty Chitty Bang Bang, he turned his attentions to writing, and penned 1970s children’s favourite The Railway Children, and The Amazing Mr Blunden in 1972.
A brush with death came via a TV appearance in the comedy Tom, Dick and Harriet in 1983; he was involved in a stunt scene that plunged a car into a lake…but Jeffries struggled to get out and dodged drowning by seconds.
The actor died in 2010 at the age of 83 in 2010.
Baron Bomburst, played by Gert Frobe
A symbol of the aristocracy gone wrong, Gert Frobe played Baron Bomburst, who was hated for his attempts to steal the Potts’ Chitty Chitty car
Remember this? German actor Gert Frobe left Bond fans unnerved after appearing as Goldfinger in 1964…his role as Baron Bomburst didn’t help enhance his image either…
The child-hating Baron Bomburst saw German actor Gert Frobe rival Robert Helpmann’s child catcher as the most loathed star in Chitty Chitty Bang Bang.
He made a career out of playing baddies, just four years earlier he’d appeared as the villainous Auric Goldfinger in 1964.
Born in Saxony, Germany, Frobe starred in 100 films during his career. His politics were controversial; he was a member of the Nazi party during the war and negative sentiment lingered towards him – even after it was revealed he’d helped shield Jewish people from German police.
In 1965, he was reported to have told the Daily Mail: ‘Naturally I was a Nazi’ but later denied it, saying: ‘What I told an English reporter during an interview was that during the Third Reich I had the luck to be able to help two Jewish people, although I was a member of the Nazi party.”
The German star passed away in 1988 from a heart attack while staying at a spa resort near Munich at the age of 75.
Baron Bomburst, played by Anna Quayle
Another crook! Birmingham-born Anna Quayle played obnoxious Baroness Bomhurst, who decides to hire the child catcher to try and steal Chitty
The actor, who had worked as a model in her youth, enjoyed a string of hit shows – and won a Tony for Stop the World – I Want to Get Off. Many will remember Quayle’s role as Miss Monroe in British school drama Grange Hill; she died in 2019 at the age of 86
Birmingham-born Anna Quayle took on the slapstick role of obnoxious Baroness Bomhurst, who decides to hire the child catcher to try and steal Chitty.
She’d worked as a fashion model and starred in Beatles’ film hit A Hard Day’s Night and Casino Royale. Her role in the original 1963 production of the musical Stop the World – I Want to Get Off won her a Tony.
The star’s career peaked in the 60s and 70s but she was a regular on screens in the 80s too – appearing on quizzes including Give Us a Clue with Lionel Blair.
Children of the 80s will recognise her as the strict but secretly kind Miss Monroe in Grange Hill, a role she played for four years.
Quayle had one daughter with her husband Donald Baker, who she wed in 1976 although the marriage later ended in divorce. She died at the age of 86 in October 2019.
AND A CAMEO FOR BARBARA WINDSOR…
Nothing like a Dame to be! Barbara Windsor also claimed a small role in the film…but many fans might have missed her. The actor, who died in December 2020 was cast as a ‘blonde’
Windsor, who died last year, pictured with her husband Scott Mitchell in 2019, continued to enjoy huge success as an actor
Blink and you’ll miss her but Barbara Windsor, who went on to be a British national treasure also scored a tiny role in the children’s film.
The Carry On and EastEnders star played, unsurprisingly for the time, ‘blonde’ and was seen wearing a pretty red and white polka dot dress and a straw boater. The Dame to be, who died in December 2020, played the part with her usual exuberance though, showcasing a Carry On-esque expression.
Barbara was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s in 2014 and kept her fight with the illness private for four years.
The star, who died aged 83 following a battle with Alzheimer’s disease, left her husband of twenty years, Scott Mitchell, £4.6million in her will.
Source: Daily Mail UK