Chitty Chitty Bang Bang

Chitty Chitty Bang Bang is a 1968 musical fantasy film directed by Ken Hughes and produced by Albert R. Broccoli. It stars Dick Van Dyke, Sally Ann Howes, Lionel Jeffries, Gert Fröbe, Anna Quayle, Benny Hill, James Robertson Justice, Robert Helpmann, Heather Ripley and Adrian Hall. The film is based on the 1964 children's novel Chitty-Chitty-Bang-Bang: The Magical Car by Ian Fleming, with a screenplay co-written by Hughes and Roald Dahl.

Chitty Chitty Bang Bang
Theatrical release poster
Directed byKen Hughes
Screenplay by
Additional dialogue by
Based onChitty-Chitty-Bang-Bang
by Ian Fleming
Produced byAlbert R. Broccoli
CinematographyChristopher Challis
Edited byJohn Shirley
Music by
  • Warfield Productions
  • Dramatic Features
Distributed byUnited Artists
Release dates
  • 16 December 1968 (1968-12-16) (London premiere)
  • 17 December 1968 (1968-12-17) (UK)
  • 18 December 1968 (1968-12-18) (US)
Running time
145 minutes[1]
  • United Kingdom[2]
  • United States[2]
Budget$10 million[3] or $12 million[4]
Box office$7.5 million (rentals)[5]

Irwin Kostal supervised and conducted the music for the film based on songs written by the Sherman Brothers, Richard and Robert, and the musical numbers were staged by Marc Breaux and Dee Dee Wood. At the 41st Academy Awards, the film's title song was nominated for Best Song – Original for the Picture.[6]



In the year 1909[7] in rural England, Jemima and Jeremy, the two young children of widowed unsuccessful inventor Caractacus Potts, become enthralled by the wreck of a champion racecar. When they learn the car is due to be scrapped, they return home ("You Two") and beg their father to save it. To raise money, he attempts to sell one of his inventions, a musical hard candy, but the candy's whistle attracts a horde of dogs, ruining his sales pitch ("Toot Sweets").

That evening, Caractacus sings his children a lullaby ("Hushabye Mountain") before going to a carnival, where he attempts to raise money with another of his inventions, an automatic hair-cutting machine. It malfunctions, ruining the customer's hair, and, in order to escape the furious customer, Caractacus joins a spirited song-and-dance act ("Me Ol' Bamboo"). He earns enough money in tips to buy the car and rebuilds it, naming it "Chitty Chitty Bang Bang" after its unusual engine sounds. For their first trip in the car ("Chitty Chitty Bang Bang"), Caractacus and the children go to a beach to have a picnic. They are joined by Truly Scrumptious, the wealthy heiress to the candy company, and, though she and Caractacus have previously had heated encounters, everyone has a pleasant time ("Truly Scrumptious"). At the beach, Caractacus tells the children a story, beginning an extended fantasy sequence.

Caractacus' story


The nasty Baron Bomburst, tyrannical ruler of the fictional land of Vulgaria, attempts to steal Chitty. The family escapes thanks to Chitty's miraculous transformation into a boat, and Truly goes home to Scrumptious Manor ("Lovely Lonely Man"). The Baron sends two bungling spies to get the car, but they fail repeatedly and eventually decide to kidnap Caractacus instead, but mistake Grandpa for Caractacus. As they fly away in their airship ("Posh!"), Chitty sprouts wings and propellers, and the family pursues the airship all the way to Vulgaria.

Grandpa is taken to Bomburst's castle, where the Baron has already imprisoned several other elderly inventors, and they are ordered to make another floating car, though their attempts fail ("The Roses of Success"). When the Potts party arrives, they find children have been outlawed in Vulgaria, as the Baron's wife, the Baroness, hates them. The kindly Toymaker harbours the Potts family and Truly in his toyshop. The group disguise themselves as jack-in-the-boxes to hide the children from the Child Catcher, but Chitty is discovered and taken to the castle. While Caractacus and the Toymaker search for Grandpa and Truly searches for food, the Child Catcher returns and traps the children. The Toymaker takes Caractacus and Truly to a grotto beneath the castle where the townspeople have been hiding their children ("Hushabye Mountain" (reprise)), and Caractacus concocts a scheme to free the people from the tyranny of the Bombursts.

The next day, which is the Baron's birthday ("Chu-Chi Face"), the Toymaker sneaks Caractacus and Truly into the castle disguised as dolls that sing and dance ("Doll on a Music Box/Truly Scrumptious (Reprise)"). At Caractacus' signal, the Vulgarian children swarm the banquet hall, overcome the Baron's guests, and capture the Baron, Baroness, and Child Catcher. The Vulgarian adults storm the castle, while Caractacus, Truly, and the Toymaker free Jemima and Jeremy. After that, they join the fight against the Baron's soldiers. Chitty comes to save them and Grandpa is rescued. With the battle won, the Potts family and Truly bid farewell to Vulgaria and fly back home to England.

After the story


As Caractacus' story concludes, an awkward moment ensues when the children ask Caractacus if the story ends with him and Truly getting married. Caractacus does not answer and tries to apologize for his children when he drops Truly off at her manor, saying that the difference in their social status would make a relationship between them ridiculous, offending Truly. Returning glumly to his cottage, Caractacus is surprised to find Lord Scrumptious waiting for him with an offer to buy his candy to sell as a dog treat. Overjoyed that he has finally made a successful invention, he rushes off to tell Truly, inadvertently causing her to crash into the pond once more. He rescues her and they admit their love for each other. Then, as they return home, Chitty flies up into the sky once again, this time without wings. ("Chitty Chitty Bang Bang" (Finale)).







Background and development


After Ian Fleming had a heart attack in 1961, he decided to write a children's novel based on the stories about a flying car that he used to tell his infant son.[9] He wrote the book in longhand, as his wife had confiscated his typewriter in an attempt to force him to rest.

The novel was initially published in three volumes, the first in October 1964, which was two months after Fleming's death.[10] It became one of the best-selling children's books of the year.[11] Albert R. Broccoli, producer of the James Bond films (which were based on novels by Fleming), read the novel and was not initially enthusiastic about turning it into a film, but the success of Mary Poppins (1964) changed his mind.[9]

In December 1965, it was reported Earl Hamner had completed a script based upon the novel.[12] The following July, it was announced the film would be produced by Broccoli, without Harry Saltzman, who was his producing partner on the James Bond films.[13] By April 1967, Ken Hughes was set to direct the film from a screenplay by Roald Dahl,[14] and Hughes subsequently rewrote Dahl's script.[9] Further rewrites were made by regular Bond scribe Richard Maibaum.



Van Dyke was cast in the film after he turned down the role of Fagin in the 1968 musical Oliver!. The role of Truly Scrumptious was originally offered to Julie Andrews to reunite her with Van Dyke after their success in Mary Poppins (1964), but Andrews rejected the part because she felt it was too similar to Poppins;[15] Sally Ann Howes, who had replaced Andrews as Eliza Doolittle in My Fair Lady on Broadway in 1958, was then offered the role, and she accepted.

Broccoli announced the casting of Dick Van Dyke in December 1966.[16] The film was the first in a multi-picture deal Van Dyke signed with United Artists.[17] Sally Ann Howes was cast as the female lead in April 1967,[14] soon thereafter signing a five-picture contract with Broccoli,[18] and Robert Helpmann joined the cast in May.[19] Chitty Chitty Bang Bang was the first film for both of its child stars, Heather Ripley and Adrian Hall, who were cast after an extensive talent search.[20]

Filming locations


Filming began in June 1967 at Pinewood Studios.[9]

Location in film Location of filming
Duck pond Truly drives into Russell's Water, Oxfordshire, England[21]
Potts Windmill/Cottage Cobstone Windmill (also known as Turville Windmill) in Ibstone, near Turville, Buckinghamshire, England.[21]
Scrumptious Sweet Co. factory (exterior) Kempton Park Waterworks on Snakey Lane in Hanworth, Greater London, England.[21]
This location now includes Kempton Park Steam Engines, a museum open to the public.
Scrumptious Mansion Heatherden Hall at Pinewood Studios in Iver Heath, Buckinghamshire, England[21]
Where Chitty passes a train Longmoor Military Railway in Hampshire, England.
This line closed in 1968, the same year the film was released.
Beach Cap Taillat in Saint-Tropez, France
River bridge where the spies attempt to blow up Chitty Iver Bridge in Iver, Buckinghamshire, England.
This bridge is Grade II-listed.
Railway bridge where the spies kidnap Lord Scrumptious Ilmer Bridge in Ilmer, Buckinghamshire, England.
This bridge carries the Chiltern Main Line between Birmingham and Marylebone.
White cliffs Chitty drives off Beachy Head in East Sussex, England
White rock spires in the ocean and lighthouse when Chitty first flies The Needles stacks and lighthouse on the Isle of Wight, England
Baron Bomburst's castle (exterior) Neuschwanstein Castle in Bavaria, West Germany
Vulgarian village Rothenburg ob der Tauber, Bavaria, West Germany

Special effects and production design

The main car used for filming carried a valid UK registration of GEN 11.

John Stears supervised the film's special effects, and Caractacus Potts' inventions were created by Rowland Emett. An article about Emett that appeared in Time magazine in 1976 mentioned his work on the film, saying that no term other than "'Fantasticator' [...] could remotely convey the diverse genius of the perky, pink-cheeked Englishman whose pixilations, in cartoon, watercolor and clanking 3-D reality, range from the celebrated Far Tottering and Oyster Creek Railway to the demented thingamabobs that made the 1968 movie Chitty Chitty Bang Bang a minuscule classic."[22]

Ken Adam designed the film's titular car[23] and six Chitty Chitty Bang Bangs were created for the film, though only one was fully-functional. At a 1973 auction in Florida, one Chitty sold for $37,000,[24] equal to $253,952 today. The original "hero" car, in a condition described as "fully functional" and "road going", was put up for auction on 15 May 2011 by a California-based auction house.[25] Expected to fetch $1 million to $2 million, it was purchased for $805,000[26] by New Zealand film director Sir Peter Jackson.[27]



The songs in the film were written by the Sherman Brothers, who had also worked as the songwriters for Mary Poppins.[28] Poppins' musical supervisor and conductor Irwin Kostal would also work in the same capacity for this movie, as well as the choreographers Marc Breaux and Dee Dee Wood.



United Artists promoted the film with an expensive, extensive advertising campaign, hoping to reproduce the success of The Sound of Music (1965), and it was initially released on a roadshow basis.[4]



Original release


Film critic Roger Ebert wrote: "Chitty Chitty Bang Bang contains about the best two-hour children's movie you could hope for, with a marvelous magical auto and lots of adventure and a nutty old grandpa and a mean Baron and some funny dances and a couple of [scary] moments."[29]

Time began its review by stating the film is a "picture for the ages—the ages between five and twelve", and ended by noting that "At a time when violence and sex are the dual sellers at the box office, Chitty Chitty Bang Bang looks better than it is simply because it's not not all all bad bad." The review also said that the film's "eleven songs have all the rich melodic variety of an automobile horn. Persistent syncopation and some breathless choreography partly redeem it, but most of the film's sporadic success is due to director Ken Hughes's fantasy scenes, which make up in imagination what they lack in technical facility."[30]

Renata Adler of The New York Times wrote that "in spite of the dreadful title, Chitty Chitty Bang Bang [...] is a fast, dense, friendly children's musical, with something of the joys of singing together on a team bus on the way to a game." She called the screenplay "remarkably good" and said the film's "preoccupation with sweets and machinery seems ideal for children", and ended her review on the same note as Time saying: "There is nothing coy, or stodgy or too frightening about the film; and this year, when it has seemed highly doubtful that children ought to go to the movies at all, Chitty Chitty Bang Bang sees to it that none of the audience's terrific eagerness to have a good time is betrayed or lost."[31]



Although the film was the tenth-most popular at the U.S. box office in 1969,[32] because of its high budget, it lost United Artists an estimated $8 million during its initial run in cinemas. The same year, five films produced by Harry Saltzman, Battle of Britain among them, lost UA $19 million. All of this contributed to United Artists' decision to scale back operations in the UK.[33]

Awards and nominations

Award Category Nominee(s) Result
Academy Awards[34] Best Song – Original for the Picture "Chitty Chitty Bang Bang"
Music and Lyrics by The Sherman Brothers
Golden Globe Awards[35] Best Original Score – Motion Picture Richard M. Sherman and Robert B. Sherman Nominated
Best Original Song – Motion Picture "Chitty Chitty Bang Bang"
Music and Lyrics by The Sherman Brothers
Laurel Awards Top Musical Chitty Chitty Bang Bang Nominated

Later responses


Filmink stated: "It's a gorgeous looking movie with divine sets, a fabulous cast and cheerful songs; it's also, like so many late '60s musicals, far too long and would have been better at a tight 90 minutes."[36] Film historian Leonard Maltin disagreed, giving the movie just 1.5 out of a possible 4 stars, and describing it as "one big Edsel, with totally forgettable score and some of the shoddiest special effects ever."[37]

On review aggregator website Rotten Tomatoes, the film has an approval rating of 70% based on 30 reviews, with an average score of 5.9/10.[38]



The film's original soundtrack album, as was typical of soundtrack albums for musical films of the period, featured mostly songs with vocals, and few instrumentals. Some of the songs were edited to accommodate the time constraints of a standard 12-inch LP and help create a fluid listening experience.

The soundtrack has been released on CD four times. The first two releases used the original LP masters, rather than going back to the original movie masters to compile a more complete soundtrack album with underscoring and complete versions of songs. The 1997 Rykodisc release, which has gone out of circulation, included several short bits of dialogue from the film between some of the tracks, but otherwise used the LP master. On 24 February 2004, a few months after MGM released a two-disc "Special Edition" DVD package of the film, Varèse Sarabande reissued a newly remastered soundtrack album without the dialogue tracks, restoring the original 1968 LP format.

In 2011, Kritzerland released a two-CD set featuring the original soundtrack album, plus bonus tracks, music from the "Song and Picture-Book Album", the Richard Sherman demos, and six playback tracks (including a long version of international covers of the theme song). This release was limited to only 1,000 units.[39] Perseverance Records re-released the Kritzerland double-CD set in April 2013, with new liner notes by John Trujillo and a new booklet by James Wingrove.

No definitive release of the original film soundtrack featuring the performances that lock to picture without the dialogue and effects can be made, as the original isolated scoring session recordings were lost or discarded when United Artists merged its archives. All that is left is the 6-track 70MM sound mix with the other elements already added in.



Home media


Chitty Chitty Bang Bang was released numerous times on VHS, as well as on Betamax, CED, and LaserDisc. It was released on DVD for the first time on 10 November 1998,[40] and a two-disc "Special Edition" package was released in 2003. On 2 November 2010, MGM Home Entertainment, through 20th Century Fox Home Entertainment, released a two-disc Blu-ray and DVD combination featuring the extras from the 2003 release, as well as new features. The 1993 LaserDisc release by MGM/UA Home Video was the first home video release of the film with the proper 2.20:1 Super Panavision 70 aspect ratio.




Novelization of the film by John Burke, published by Pan Books in 1968

The film did not follow Fleming's novel closely. A novelisation of the film written by John Burke was published at the time of the film's release. It basically followed the film's story, but there were some differences in tone and emphasis; for example, the novelisation mentioned that Caractacus had difficulty coping after the death of his wife and made it clearer that the sequences including Baron Bomburst were fantasy.[41]

Comic book adaption

  • Gold Key: Chitty Chitty Bang Bang. Gold Key Comics. February 1969.[42]

Scale models


Corgi Toys released a scale replica of the titular vehicle with working features, such as pop out wings.[43] Mattel Toys produced a replica with different features, while Aurora produced a detailed hobby kit of the car.[44] Post Honeycomb cereal contained a free plastic model of Chitty inside specially-marked boxes, with cutout wings for the car on the back of the box.[45]

PC game


An educational PC game titled Chitty Chitty Bang Bang's Adventure in Tinkertown was released in October 1996. It featured the titular car and required players to solve puzzles to win.[46]

Musical theatre adaptation


A musical theatre adaptation of the film with music and lyrics by Richard and Robert Sherman and book by Jeremy Sams premiered on 16 April 2002 at the London Palladium in the West End. This adaptation features six new songs by the Sherman brothers that were not in the film.[47] A Broadway production of the play opened on 28 April 2005 at the Hilton Theatre.[48]

After closing in London, Chitty Chitty Bang Bang toured around the UK, and the UK Tour opened in Singapore on 2 November 2007. The Australian national production of the play opened on 17 November 2012. The German premiere took place on 30 April 2014.[citation needed]


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