By Mary Miller Cullins
On December 18, 1968, the musical film “Chitty Chitty Bang Bang” opened in New York City.
When I was growing up we always looked forward to watching holiday cartoons, holiday movies, and family specials that usually aired around Thanksgiving and Christmas. ”Chitty Chitty Bang Bang” was definitely a favorite at my house. The movie, featured Dick Van Dyke, who had made a splash with kids four years earlier in the Disney musical “Mary Poppins”, (another holiday time classic). Its real star, however, was Chitty Chitty Bang Bang herself! A magical flying car that always knew how to save the day.
Chitty Chitty was based on three real cars, also named Chitty Chitty Bang Bang, owned and raced by a British count. The filmmakers didn’t use those actual cars in the movie, though. Instead, they built one careful replica that was more than 17 feet long and weighed two tons. For the flying and swimming scenes, they used prop versions instead.
The film did receive some good reviews when it was released, the New York Times said, ”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”.
The movie, based on the only novel by Ian Fleming that is not about James Bond, takes place in the early part of the 20th century and tells the story of Caractacus Potts, an eccentric and unsuccessful inventor who lives in a windmill with his two children and their batty grandfather. The children spot a broken-down old racing car at the local junkyard and ask their father for 30 shillings to buy it. You’ll have to watch the movie to hear the rest of the story, I know sometime between now and the New Year, I will!