'Chitty Chitty Bang Bang' Star Sally Ann Howes Dies at 91
Sally Ann Howes, the British actress and singer fondly remembered internationally for her performance in the 1968 musical-fantasy "Chitty Chitty Bang Bang," died December 19 at 91. No cause was specified.
Born July 20, 1930, in London, into a show-biz family that included her variety star father Bobby Howes and his stage-actress wife Patricia Malone, Howes first explored acting at school. In 1943, she won a part in the film "Thursday's Child," written and directed by Rodney Ackland, a family neighbor.
That and "The Halfway House" (1944) won Howes a contract at Ealing Studios and launched a six-decade career on stage, screen, radio, and TV.
Howes appeared in such films as "Dead of Night" (1945), "Nicholas Nickleby" (1947), and "Anna Karenina" (1948) ahead of her musical debut in the BBC-TV production of "Cinderella" (1950).
After conquering the West End, she replaced Julie Andrews in "My Fair Lady" on Broadway in 1958. Establishing dual citizenship in the U.K. and the U.S., she became a familiar face on talk shows and game shows, and performed for Presidents Eisenhower, Kennedy, and Johnson.
Howes' first Tony nomination was for "Brigadoon" in 1962, earning the distinction of being the first performer nominated for a revival. She went on to star in the long-running "What Makes Sammy Run?" (1964).
Howes' most lasting contribution to film came with James Bond creator Ian Fleming's "Chitty Chitty Bang Bang" opposite Dick Van Dyke, playing the role of Truly Scrumptious. The lavish film earned mixed reviews at the time and did not recoup its huge budget, but through television reruns it became a family classic.
Among the film's highlights, her meticulous performance of "Music Box," which she told Rosie O'Donnell in 1998 was "my favorite... It's the most difficult thing in the whole world. I really was very proud of it... I did it on the set and I was a bit nervous about it, going on the set, because it was that huge thing with about 150 extras and everything and they put me up on this little box and off I went. And I got it in one [take]!"
She continued her stage career, starring in dozens of productions, and in 1990 performed her one-woman show "From This Moment On" at the esteemed Edinburgh Festival.
While less active on TV and in film, she celebrated her 50th year as an actor with an appearance in the U.S. miniseries "Secrets" in 1992 — her final work on film or TV.
Married three times, Howes was preceded in death by her husband of 49 years Douglas Rae, who died in September, and by one of her adopted sons, Christopher, who died in 1984. She is survived by her adopted son Andrew.