In the film the character is portrayed by singer/actress Sally Ann Howes, and develops a romantic relationship with the widower Caractacus Potts (played by Dick Van Dyke). The character does not appear in the original book, in which Caractacus is married to Mimsie Pott (the surname as spelled in the book). The filmmakers felt that a budding romantic relationship would serve the film better than the marriage shown in the book, and so Caractacus was portrayed as a widower.
Truly Scrumptious is introduced near the start of the film while driving her motorcar through the local village, when she almost runs into two children, Jeremy and Jemimah, who suddenly run out across the road in front of her. Truly assumes they have played truant from school and takes them home to inform their father, the absent minded inventor Caractacus Potts. When they arrive Truly is shocked to discover that Caractacus doesn't mind the children playing truant, and the two adults argue over his method of raising his children, before Caractacus loses his temper and asks Truly to leave his property.
As it turns out, Truly is the daughter of a wealthy candy factory owner, Lord Scrumptious. When Truly visits her father at his factory the next day, she sees Caractacus there, waiting to show her father a product he has created. During this unexpected meeting she learns Caractacus is an inventor who has managed to produce 'flawed' candy tubes full of holes, a product he plans to try and sell to her father as a novelty which he calls 'Toot Sweets', as they can be played like a flute. Caractacus cannot understand why the holes keep appearing and Truly casually states that the boiling point of his sugar is too high. Caractacus, who hasn't realised yet that Truly is Lord Scrumptious' daughter, thinks that Truly is being an interfering busybody again, and starts to argue with her once more. At this point Lord Scrumptious enters, and Caractacus realises who Truly is. He thinks that he has ruined his chances of selling the sweets, when Truly unexpectedly supports him and helps him to make a successful pitch to her father (with the help of the song and dance routine (Toot Sweets). Lord Scrumptious is won over, but just as he is about to buy the product from Caractacus, a pack of neighbourhood dogs, responding to the high pitched music notes produced by the sweets, descend on the factory and Lord Scrumptious furiously ejects the Potts' family from his premises. However Truly, who is becoming attracted to Caractacus, realises that the incident with the dogs was an accident and is still in favour of the sweets.
Later when Truly is out in her motorcar again, she almost runs into Caractacus and the children in their newly restored car, and in swerving to avoid them ends up stuck in the village pond once again (this is a running gag throughout the film). Since the car is stranded in the muddy pond, Jeremy and Jemimah ask her to join them on their picnic. Caractacus, in an effort to mend fences after her support at the sweet factory, says if she joins then on their picnic at the beach he will ask Mr. Coggins (the local mechanic) to tow it out later that afternoon. Once they are on their way again, Truly learns that the car is named Chitty Chitty Bang Bang (due to the noises it makes) and they sing the film's title song (Chitty Chitty Bang Bang). During the picnic at the beach, Truly watched Caractacus playing with his children, and realises that she has fallen in love with him. The picnic turns into an unexpected adventure, and afterwards the family escort Truly safely home but invite her to another picnic the next day, which she accepts. As Caractacus and the children leave, she watches them and sings about her love for Caractacus (Lovely Lonely Man) before returning to her family mansion.
The next day Truly and the Potts family encounter some unexpected and comical attempts to take their car, before being overtaken by the airship belonging Baron Bomburst, the ruler of Vulgaria. The Baron wants Chitty Chitty Bang Bang for his own, and kidnapped Caractacus' father under the mistaken impression that he is the one who created the unusual car. The airship is returning to Vulgaria with Grandpa Potts, where the Baron plans to hold him hostage until he can make a new car for the Baron. Truly suggests informing the British government that the rival country has kidnapped a British citizen, but Caractacus wants to save his father so instead they pursue the blimp. Eventually they find the blimp, but see that Baron Bomburst has spotted them with his country government staff and thus they are forced to hide in the nearby village as the Baron releases his army to search for the car. A friendly local Toymaker hides them and informs them that children are forbidden in the country by the Baron's wife, Baroness Bomburst. When a military patrol tries to search the toymaker's shop, the family disguise themselves as life sized Jack-in-the-Boxes, which the toymaker has made for the Baron. Fortunately the soldiers fall for the trick and leave, however the group hear that the soldiers have found Chitty and have taken it to the Baron.
Caractacus and the Toymaker go to investigate the security at the castle, leaving Truly and the children behind. As Truly goes to get food for the children, she sees the Child Catcher enter the Toymaker's house, kidnap Jeremy and Jemimah, and take them to the castle. Caractacus and the Toymaker also witnesses this kidnapping and are outraged. Caractacus decides that the kidnapping of his children was the final straw and Caractacus, Truly and the Toymaker meet with the children hidden by the villagers, and plan their attack. Truly and Caractacus disguise themselves as dolls the Toymaker has brought to the castle as gifts for the Baron on his birthday. Truly and Caractacus dance and sing a duet (Doll on a Music Box/Truly Scrumptious) to distract the Baron's staff as children around the castle plant their own booby-traps and free Grandpa and the Potts children to help with the battle against the wicked Baron. Once the Baron is defeated, the family are hailed as heroes by the people of Vulgaria, and return home.
After the unexpected adventure when Lord Scrumptious changes his mind about the sweets and buys the idea from Caractacus, planning to market them as dog treats. At this point it is also discovered that Lord Scrumptious was formerly an officer in the British Army, Grandpa Potts was his batman, and both men are delighted to be reunited. Caractacus, who has realised that he has fallen in love with Truly, agrees to marry her, to the delight of the children.
Truly Scrumptious is an intelligent, educated, opinionated woman, the daughter of a wealthy industrialist. She is pragmatic in her approach to life, and is not afraid to get involved in a situation others might overlook (such as two children playing truant from school). She wears fashionable clothing, appropriate to her status but not necessarily appropriate for practical purposes, such as restarting a car using a starting handle.
Author Ian Fleming was known for using puns in the naming of his female characters. Although the names of the female characters in the James Bond series, by the same author, are usually double entendres, Truly Scrumptious is rather more innocent, and appropriate to a children's book. The pun is also used in the recurring song of the same name "Truly Scrumptious".
A running gag is Truly running her car off the road in the film. The registration plate of Truly's motor car was CUB 1, an homage to Cubby Broccoli.
Behind the scenes
In the film, Truly sings the Sherman Brothers' song "Lovely Lonely Man" about Caractacus Potts. When the songwriters demonstrated the song for producer Cubby Broccoli he reportedly commented that the song was the most beautiful he'd ever heard. Ironically, it was the only song from the original motion picture which wasn't included in the original stage production, although it does feature in the latest British tour.
Due to the length of the film, broadcast versions in the United States often cut either Lovely Lonely Man or Roses of Success, usually on an alternating basis.
Various actresses have now played Truly Scrumptious in stage productions of Chitty Chitty Bang Bang. These include the following in the order they have played the character.
Approximate Dates given where available
- Emma Williams - Originated the role in London (2002-2003)
- Caroline Sheen (2003-2004)
- Scarlett Strallen (2004-2005)
- Jo Gibb - Closed out the London Production (2005)
- Erin Dilly - Originated the role on Broadway and closed out the Production (2005)
- Marissa Dunlop - Originated the role in the National UK Tour (2005-2007)
- Rachel Stanley - Closed out the National UK Tour (2008)
- Kelly McCormick in the US National Tour in 2008-2009.
- Rachael Beck - Australian Tour 2012-2013.