Sunday, 12 January 2014

Just watching the telly by Ann Evans

Happy New Year everyone!

If you're anything like me you've been sitting in front of the TV watching all those old favourite films over the Christmas period – and eating too many chocolates!

Must say it was nice to re-watch some of the films that were on the telly over the Christmas holiday. Amongst my favourites was Chitty Chitty Bang Bang starring Dick Van Dyke as Caractacus Potts who as you all know was an inventor who builds a flying, floating car and goes on a magical journey with his children Jeremy and Jemima.

It was funny because although I must have seen this film many times over the years since its release in 1968, I'd almost forgotten just how brilliant it was. Written by James Bond creator, Ian Fleming, it's such a fabulous story with the creepy child catcher trying to rid the kingdom of all children, and the barmy dictator and Benny Hill as the toy maker, But I'd quite forgotten the beauty of each scene, and just how talented Dick Van Dyke was – and Sally Ann Howe his co-star playing Truly Scrumptious. The scene in the castle with Dick Van Dyke pretending to be a puppet and Sally Ann Howe as a ballerina on a musical box is so perfect. I have to admit that I sat curled up on the sofa watching it as wide-eyed as a ten year old.

I've got a real soft spot for Chitty Chitty Bang Bang actually, as in my non-fiction writer's life, I had the great pleasure some years ago of meeting up with the owner of the famous car, Pierre Picton and writing about the car, the film and him. As a young man back in the 1950s Pierre was a clown along with Coco the Clown in Bertram Mills Circus.

He took care of Chitty Chitty Bang Bang on the film set and even drove it as a stunt double for Dick Van Dyke. He loved that car so much that he bought it and has been doing charity events ever since. The car was designed by James Bond set designer Ken Adams and built by the Ford Racing Team.

A couple of years ago, Pierre Picton decided that the time had come for him to sell his beloved Chitty and it went for sale at a Hollywood Auction House where it fetched $805,000. It was expected to fetch more, and some years ago Pierre had turned down an offer by Michael Jackson to buy it for half a million pounds.

I'm glad that I got the chance to actually sit in this wonderful iconic car - probably the most recognisable car in the world, as it's now settled in New Zealand where it still raises money for charity by giving people rides in it, under the new ownership of Sir Peter Jackson, film director, producer and screen writer famous for The Lord of the Rings trilogy and The Hobbitt trilogy.

What did you watch over Christmas - and did any old films recall special memories for you?

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Andrew said...

I tried hard to avoid watching films over Christmas and New Year. On Boxing day my attentions were fixed on Ibrox Stadium in Glasgow , where my home town football team, Stranraer, played Rangers for a 1-1 draw. Ecstacy

As a 17 year old in the late 60's I recall having a quiet, unobserved, play with my younger brother's Corgi toy Chitty Chitty Bang Bang.

Years later, I trained as a glider pilot. One of my instructors was a man named Derek Piggot. He augmented his income with film work. He flew on the Chitty Chitty Bang Bang film. Also 'The Red Baron'.., 'The Blue Max' and many others. Cool and very, very able in the air.

Karen said...

What a fascinating article, Ann. I've watched Chitty Chitty Bang Bang many times with my children when they were younger. I'd love a car like that, it would save all the hassle of parking!

Ann Evans said...

Thank you Andrew and Karen for your comments.
Andrew that is really interesting. It's a small world!
btw, glad your fav football team got a pretty good result!

C.J.Busby said...

I've got a character in my new book called Caractacus. I had no idea I'd dredged it out of my subconcious memories of watching Chitty Chitty Bang Bang (which I loved as a child!) Isn't the bran weird?


C.J.Busby said...

Brain, that would be...