Caractacus Pott

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Caractacus Potts
Chitty Chitty Bang Bang character
First appearance Chitty Chitty Bang Bang
Created by Ian Fleming
Portrayed by Dick Van Dyke
Information
Gender Male
Occupation Inventor
Nationality British

Commander Caractacus Pott is one of the main characters in Ian Fleming's novel Chitty-Chitty-Bang-Bang and its film adaptation. He is an eccentric inventor who lives with his wife and twin eight-year-old children, Jeremy and Jemima, on the Potts' hilltop farm. In the film version he does not have a wife, but he and his children live with Grandpa Pott; the family surname is altered from "Pott" to "Potts".

Caractacus is an inventor who sells a sweet he has invented, Toot Sweets, to sweets magnate Lord Scrumptious. He later turns an old racing car (originally named the "Paragon Panther") into the flying, floating motor-car of the title. He is named after a British chieftain who fought against the Romans under the emperor Claudius. The name "Caractacus Pott(s)" is also similar to "crackpot", a derogatory term for someone who is eccentric.[citation needed]

Caractacus Pott of the book[edit]

In the original 1964 book, Chitty-Chitty-Bang-Bang: The Magical Car, Caractacus Pott's wife and the mother of his children is alive and a part of the story; her name is Mimsie.[citation needed]

Caractacus Potts of the film[edit]

The filmmakers, including screenwriter Roald Dahl, altered a good deal of the book's details when crafting the 1968 film musical version of Chitty Chitty Bang Bang, in which Potts is portrayed by Dick Van Dyke. Pott's name was changed to Potts and it was felt that a burgeoning romance would serve the story better, and so the character of Mimsie was written out of the story. Caractacus' film character was written as a widower who develops a romantic relationship with Truly Scrumptious, the daughter of the sweets magnate, Lord Scrumptious. The film also did not carry over the Naval Commander part of his life and there is no hint of it in any of the set design, dialogue or behavior. Potts' other inventions as seen in the film were designed and created by the craftsman Roland Emett, and have been on display at Mid-America Science Museum for many years.

In the movie the plotline is Caractacus's wife is revealed to have died leaving him as guardian of their two children Jeremy and Jemimah but in poverty. The daily routine is that while Caractacus invents stuff to sell for his and his children's food to keep them alive, Jeremy and Jemimah either walk to go to school or go to play in a garage owned by a neighbor, Mr. Coggins. One day the kids grow fond of a broken rusty rapidly decomposing racecar that blew up on fire in a race, but are told by a frequent customer of Coggins, a junkman, that he and his business will buy the car from Mr. Coggins to turn into resellable scrap metal unless the kids can get the money for the car themselves in three days. The kids are dismayed about the idea but realizing they cannot change Coggin's mind on selling the car they go home to ask their dad to buy it, but they run into a woman from a posh family named Truly Scrumptious who assumes that the kids have illegally skipped school.[citation needed]

They take a liking to her immediately, and she offers to take them home under the hope that she can correct their father's ways of raising them and their supposedly ditching school. But Caractacus reveals their poverty, takes her words offensively and angrily dismisses her despite her protests that she means well. He claims that he does not need a woman to help him raise his kids but through a song "You two" it shows he does (they wash their hands without soap and use their used filthy clothes as dry towels, they play with dishes, they play with tablecloths, and they don't use silverware in a civil manner etcetera). At the same time it introduces Caractacus's only living relative besides his kids; his father or, for the kids, Grandpa Potts as an imaginative, silly, funny relative who spends a lot of time treating the household as if he was still in the army. Grandpa gives several hints to the world that he fought on the African continent during the British Colonial wars and loves to spend his days imagining himself traveling the globe in his "Laboratory," a hut outside near their farm.[citation needed]

The kids ask Caractacus to buy the car before the junkman, but he is unable to because of not having enough money for any hobbies or entertainment. So wanting to see his kids happy despite this fact, Caractacus decides to sell his new invention; a sweet that can be played like a flute, to legendary sweet maker Lord Scrumptious. Caractacus and the kids learn that Truly is the Lord's daughter and realizing what Caractacus wants to do, Truly decides to support Caractacus in his attempts to get wealthy by singing to the workers about buying the candies named "Toot Sweets". But just as Lord Scrumptious is about to write a check for the sweet a stampede of dogs enters the factory and messes it up, causing Lord Scrumptious to get angry and throw Caractacus out.[citation needed]

Then Caractacus tries to make money by starting a stand for his automatic hair-cutting machine at a carnival, but when he is about to be paid and attract other customers, he controls the machine too fast and thus his first customer's hair burns off, rendering him bald. The enraged customer chases Caractacus, forcing him to flee and hide by joining a song-and-dance act singing "Me Ole Bamboo" and the cheering crowd throws tips, thus earning Caractacus the money to buy the car just in time. Caractacus buys the rusty car and takes it home to his cheering kids. For 3 days Jeremy and Jemimah spend a great deal of time watching their father work on fixing the car, and on the fourth morning they see him walk out with a beautiful clean, rebuilt version of the car. They name the car Chitty Chitty Bang Bang for the noises that it makes, and invite Truly for a picnic at the beach. She accepts, although Grandpa rejects their invitation for his own army hobbies at his man-cave.[citation needed]

After the story ends, the Potts family go back home and find Truly's father, Lord Scrumptious already there. He is revealed to have been Grandpa Potts' commanding officer in the British army. He changed his mind about the sweets and offers to buy the Toot Sweets from them for dogs to eat, calling them Wolf Sweets. Potts drives off in a hurry before signing the contract to tell Truly. On the way to her house, meets her halfway because she was driving to his house to tell him the same news. They kiss and drive away. On the ride home, white Potts is talking, Chitty begins flying. Potts and Truly fly over the countryside as the credits begin to roll.[citation needed]

A stage musical based on the film premiered in London's West End in 2002, with Caractacus Potts played by Michael Ball.[1]

References[edit]