Anyone who has ever seen Chitty Chitty Bang Bang, the film based on the Ian Fleming novel, knows who Truly Scrumptious is. Played by the late Sally Ann Howes, the character becomes the love interest of Caractacus Potts, played by Dick Van Dyke. When I was a little girl, I thought Truly Scrumptious was beautiful…and she was.
Chitty Chitty Bang Bang is, quite possibly, my favorite film of all time. Well, that and Mary Poppins, which also happened to star Mr. Van Dyke. I loved both films then, and I love both films now…and the soundtracks! I feel sure I wore out both LPs on my record player as a child. In fact, I have both soundtracks on But the first time I went to the movie theater to see Chitty Chitty Bang Bang, I didn’t see the whole movie. I was a little girl, and we were visiting our cousins in Florida. I’m not sure how old I was…three or four? My mother took a bunch of us to the theater in downtown Marianna, Florida, but I think she spent half the movie outside on the sidewalk with me. The child catcher in the movie terrified me, and being a particularly strong-willed child (imagine!), I refused to sit through the movie. Later, when I was eight or nine, I grew to love the movie, but even then, the child catcher scared me…not enough to make me leave the room when he appeared, but he scared me…much like the flying monkeys in The Wizard of Oz and the Sleestaks in Land of the Lost. If you know, you know.
I have a favorite scene in CCBB…the doll scene near the end of the movie in which Caractacus Potts and Truly Scrumptious, disguised as dolls, begin their rescue of the children. Oh, I still find the scene glorious! You can see it here.
Fast forward more than 35 years, and I had a daughter of my own. When she was two or three, I introduced her to Chitty Chitty Bang Bang via DVD, and she fell in love with the movie. This was a child who had no interest in animated movies like Cinderella, Bambi, or The Fox and The Hound…but she loved Chitty Chitty Bang Bang. In fact, she wanted to watch it all the time. Specifically, she had a scene she loved. The doll scene? Nope. The flying car scene? Nope. My child loved the child catcher scene…the very scene that terrified me as a child…she found it hilarious! Who knew any child could find that hilarious?!?! But she did. And she wanted to see that scene over and over and over.
Since you know that, you won’t be surprised at all to know she found the Sleestaks in Land of the Lost hilarious. And the flying monkeys and wicked witch in The Wizard of Oz? Also hilarious. Wow…I had a brave child. Even as a little girl, she would laugh at the special effects in Land of the Lost and The Wizard of Oz. The charm of one of the greatest films ever made was completely lost on her, because the wicked witch and the flying monkeys were funny…not just funny, but hilarious. Nonetheless, she still enjoyed watching both, but Chitty Chitty Bang Bang was her favorite…we still talk about it.
So today, when I learned Ms. Howe, the actress who played Truly Scrumptious had passed away at 91, I was a little sad. Frankly, I hadn’t even investigated whether she were still alive or not. I guess I just assumed, incorrectly, that she had died, but I shouldn’t have. Apparently, she lived a long, full life. And even though I cannot name one other film she was in, she has a special place in my heart as Truly Scrumptious.
I haven’t had the chance to tell my daughter yet, but I will tell her soon, and hopefully, she will sit down and watch Chitty Chitty Bang Bang with me while we eat cake batter popcorn…just like old times. And I’ll drink a toast to Truly Scrumptious.