Home » Chitty Chitty Bang Bang Actress Sally Ann Howes Passes Away

Chitty Chitty Bang Bang Actress Sally Ann Howes Passes Away

  • by

Chitty Chitty Bang Bang is a 1968 children’s classic co-written by Roald Dahl and its director Ken Hughes to tell the story of an inventor who creates a flying car.

The film then follows the adventures of inventor Caractacus Potts, played by Dick Van Dyke, and his two children Jeremy and Jemima, played by Adrian Hall and Heather Ripley.

The family meet Truly Scrumption, Sally Ann Howes, and during a trip to a beach imagine a tale of pirates, kidnapped children and an evil baron.

But what has happened to the film’s cast since its premiere?

Dick Van Dyke (Caractacus Potts)

Beloved actor, singer and dancer Dick Van Dyke will turn 96 in December, and from the looks of things he’s still going strong.

The Hollywood legend can be found in Malibu with his wife of nine years, professional makeup artist Arlene Silver, 50, by his side.

The couple first met when Silver 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?”‘

Beloved actor, singer and dancer Dick Van Dyke will turn 96 in December, and from the looks of things he’s still going strong. The Hollywood legend can be found in Malibu with his wife of nine years, professional makeup artist Arlene Silver, 50, by his side. Pictured, with Ms Howe

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!’

During his career, that spans more than seven decades, Van Dyke earned five Emmys, a Tony, a Grammy, a BAFTA, the SAG Lifetime Achievement Award, and induction into the Television Hall Of Fame, which was due in large part to his role as Rob Petrie in The Dick Van Dyke Show (1961-1966), as well as The New Dick Van Dyke Show (1971-1974) and The Carol Burnett Show (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 now also has five grandchildren and four great-grandchildren.

Jemima Potts (Heather Ripley)

Heather Ripley, who starred in the film aged 8, may have turned 60 now but her elfin features — delicate bone structure and the clearest green eyes — still exude the same mischievous defiance that made her a child star as Jemima Potts in one of the best-loved musical films of all time.

Heather Ripley as child star as Jemima Potts in one of the best-loved musical films of all time – Chitty Chitty Bang Bang

Sally Ann Howes as Truly Scrumptious, Caractacus Potts played by Dick Van Dyke, Heather Ripley as Jemima Potts and Jeremy Potts played by Adrian Hall in Chitty Chitty Bang Bang

The Scot has been keen to shun publicity since Chitty’s release in 1968.

From presenting flowers to the Queen at the film’s premiere at London’s Odeon Leicester Square on December 16, 1968, she would eventually drop out of society and reinvent herself as an eco-warrior, peace campaigner and anti-roads protester.

At one point she 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.

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.’

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.

Ripley may have turned 60 now but her elfin features — delicate bone structure and the clearest green eyes — still exude the same mischievous defiance that made her a child star as Jemima Potts

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 (Adrian Hall)

Adrian Hall, now 62, was aged nine when he appeared in Chitty Chitty Bang Bang.

He appeared in several UK television programs and performed in the West End through the early 1970s before shifting from acting to teaching.

Mr Hall Hall became an acting teacher and eventually, principal at a the Academy of Live and Recorded Arts before his resignation earlier this year.

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