Child Catcher

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Child Catcher
Chitty Chitty Bang Bang character
The Child Catcher.jpg
First appearanceChitty Chitty Bang Bang
Portrayed bySir Robert Helpmann
In-universe information

The Child Catcher is a fictional character in the 1968 film Chitty Chitty Bang Bang and in the later stage musical adaptation. The Child Catcher is employed by Baron Bomburst and Baroness Bomburst to snatch and imprison children on the streets of Vulgaria.


In the film, the Child Catcher was played by ballet dancer Sir Robert Helpmann. Whilst filming one of the scenes where the Child Catcher drives his horse and carriage out of the village, the carriage tipped over as it turned a corner with Helpmann on board. Dick Van Dyke recalls Helpmann, with great presence of mind, swinging out of the carriage and skipping across the crashing vehicle to safety. Van Dyke later commented that he had never seen anything as graceful in his life. Helpmann was 60 years old at the time.[1] Helpmann's child co-stars recalled that behind the scenes, the actor was incredibly warm and caring, and would make them laugh between takes to ease the tension, often resulting in them finding difficulty in keeping a straight face.

The Child Catcher does not appear in Fleming's original book. Reputedly, Roald Dahl (co-author of the film's screenplay) created the character.[2] Dahl's screenplay was heavily rewritten by Ken Hughes, the director, who said he had created the character.[3] However, the character's black hat, long black coat, pointed nose and rôle as, effectively, a Nazi substitute have been seen as antisemitic.[2]

In the theatrical version in London's West End, he has been played by Richard O'Brien, Wayne Sleep (another ballet dancer), and Stephen Gately amongst others and on Broadway, he was played by Kevin Cahoon. In the Australian theatrical version, he was played by Tyler Coppin who wrote and performs a solo show about Robert Helpmann called LyreBird (Tales of Helpmann).[citation needed]

In 2005, the Child Catcher was voted "the scariest villain in children's books".[4]

In 2008, Entertainment Weekly called Helpmann's depiction of the Child Catcher one of the "50 Most Vile Movie Villains."[5]


  1. ^ "The Child Catcher - near death experience on set". YouTube. 19 March 2017. Retrieved 2 September 2020.
  2. ^ a b Kerridge, Jake (7 December 2020). "Roald Dahl's life was tainted by anti-Semitism – but his work isn't". The Daily Telegraph. Retrieved 8 December 2020.
  3. ^ Chilton, Martin (20 December 2018). "10 things you didn't know about Chitty Chitty Bang Bang". The Independent. Retrieved 17 February 2020.
  4. ^ "Childcatcher is scariest villain". BBC News. 9 May 2005.
  5. ^ "50 Most Vile Movie Villains". Entertainment Weekly. 2008. Retrieved 31 December 2013.