||This article needs attention from an expert on the subject. The specific problem is: unsupported statements may contain original research; the article subject may not meet Wikipedia criteria for notability; the article consists predominantly of trivia and does not adequately describe the importance of the subject. (January 2011)|
|Chitty Chitty Bang Bang character|
|First appearance||Chitty Chitty Bang Bang|
|Portrayed by||Robert Helpmann|
The Child Catcher is the supporting antagonist of the film Chitty Chitty Bang Bang and in the later stage musical adaptation. The character did not appear in the original Ian Fleming book. The Child Catcher is employed by Baron Bomburst and Baroness Bomburst to snatch and imprison children on the streets of Vulgaria.
In the 1968 film, he was played by ballet dancer Robert Helpmann. Whilst filming one of the scenes where the Child Catcher rides his horse and carriage out of the village, the Cage/Carriage uptilted with Helpmann on board. Dick Van Dyke recalls Helpmann being able to swing out of the carriage and literally skip across the crashing vehicle. According to Van Dyke, Helpmann did this with incredible grace and much like a dancer - which was Helpmann's original claim to fame.
In the theatrical version in London's West End, he was played by Richard O'Brien and Wayne Sleep (another ballet dancer), 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).
The Child Catcher on stage
On stage the Child Catcher has been played by:
- Richard O'Brien
- Ashley Elkin
- Paul O'Grady
- Peter Polycarpou
- Derek Griffiths
- Wayne Sleep
- Peter Bristow
- Lionel Blair
- Stephen Gately
- Alvin Stardust
- Kevin Kennedy
- Ian "H" Watkins
- Christopher Timothy
- Tyler Coppin
- Nigel Garton
- Dean Maynard
- Kevin Cahoon
- Oliver Wadsworth
- Charles Abbott*
- Russ Spencer*
In the latest UK tour, the character features in fewer scenes than in the original UK tour and London Palladium production. The actor playing the Child Catcher in the show now also plays the minor role of the Junkman at the start of the show.
The Child Catcher also appeared in the 2012 Summer Olympics opening ceremony in London during a segment dedicated to classic villains of children's literature. He appeared alongside inflatable representations of Cruella de Vil, Lord Voldemort, The Queen of Hearts and Captain Hook. He is noticeably the only villain not to be an inflatable replica.
- The Child Catcher was the inspiration for Marilyn Manson's Smells Like Children EP. The title and cover art, as well as Manson's outfit and appearance during the album, reference the Robert Helpmann character.
- In 2005, the Child Catcher was voted "the scariest villain in children's books", despite not actually featuring in the original book.
- In 2009, the Child Catcher, character originally created by Roald Dahl, was voted the seventh scariest character, in an adult poll carried out by Penguin Books.
- Despite his character opposing children in the film, his actor, Robert Helpmann loved kids. Adrian Hall and Heather Ripley, who played Jeremy and Jemimah, said that in contrast to the Child Catcher, Helpmann was really a very generous and kind man. Both attended Helpmann's funeral in Australia in the 1980s.
- In 2008, Entertainment Weekly called Helpmann's depiction of the Child Catcher one of the "50 Most Vile Movie Villains."