Recalling the 007-Mary Poppins collaboration

Songwriter Robert B. Sherman died this week at age 86 and, understandably, much of the attention has focused on the many songs he did with his brother Richard for Walt Disney. But Sherman’s passing also reminds us of producer Albert R. Broccoli’s attempt to combine the best available talent from Disney’s Mary Poppins movie and the James Bond film series.

Chitty Chitty Bang Bang by Ian Fleming

To adapt Ian Fleming's children novel to the screen, producer Albert R. Broccoli enlisted the best available talent from 007 films and Disney's Mary Poppins


That would, of course, be Chitty Chitty Bang Bang, the 1968 film that would be Broccoli’s final non-007 project, based on Ian Fleming’s children novel.

Officially, Chitty wasn’t made by Eon Productions, which produced by Bond movies. Harry Saltzman, Broccoli’s Eon partner at the time, wasn’t involved with Chitty. So another company, Warfield, was the production company of record.

Broccoli looked to Mary Poppins for key personnel, bringing on board the Sherman brothers, who had written the songs for Mary Poppins, to do the same for Chitty as well as Irwin Kostal (composer/conductor/music director) and Dee Dee Wood (choreographer) not to mention actor Dick Van Dyke to play the lead character, Caractacus Potts.

From the 007 films, the producer hired actors Gert Frobe and Desmond Llewelyn. Behind the camera, Broccoli had even more 007 film veterans: screenwriters Roald Dahl and Richard Maibaum; Peter Hunt (billed as a production associate); production designer Ken Adam; associate producer Stanley Sopel; art director Harry Pottle; production supervisor David Middlemas; assistant director Gus Agosti; assistant art directors Peter Lamont and Michael White; special effects guru John Stears….well, you get the idea. (To see the complete cast and crew CLICK HERE; some crew members on Chitty would end up working on later Bond films.)

Financially, Chitty wasn’t a big success. The film had an estimated budget of $10 million, with U.S. ticket sales of only $7.12 million, not the kind of return that studio United Artists was used to seeing from Broccoli productions. With worldwide tickets sales and later home video sales, UA (and its successors) probably did just fine. But it wasn’t the breakout hit that Mary Poppins was for Disney.

Still, Chitty seems to be mostly well remembered today. Here’s a sample of the work that Robert and Richard Sherman did the for the film:

One Response

  1. Chitty’s director said in a L.A Times interview that Chitty was financially successful. He could have meant in the long run, over all he was complaining about how miserable it was to make the movie, how unrewarding it was even though it was financially successful.

    “I did ‘Chitty Chitty Bang Bang,’ and I didn’t enjoy making it. The film made a lot of money, but that doesn’t really make me feel any better about it. On the other hand, I’ve made pictures that got awards at Berlin and places and didn’t make any money, and that doesn’t make me feel any better either.”
    http://articles.latimes.com/2001/apr/30/local/me-57618

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