Chitty Chitty Bang Bang star Sally Ann Howes dies aged 91

Image source, Getty ImagesImage caption, The actress also appeared on Broadway in My Fair Lady and won a Tony Award for her part in Brigadoon

Sally Ann Howes, who starred in Chitty Chitty Bang Bang and My Fair Lady, has died aged 91, her family has confirmed.

The Tony Award-winning actress first appeared on screen aged 12, and enjoyed a career that spanned six decades.

She was best known for playing the role of Truly Scrumptious in the 1968 musical film Chitty Chitty Bang Bang, opposite Dick Van Dyke.

Her son, the artist Andrew Hart Adler, confirmed the news to the Press Association news agency on Wednesday.

He shared an old photograph of the two of them together, saying she was now reunited with her husband of 48 years, Douglas Rae, who died earlier this year.

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A post shared by Andrew Hart Adler 🇺🇸🇿🇦🇵🇹🇩🇪 (@andrewhartadler)

The London-born actress and singer "died peacefully in her sleep" her nephew Toby Howes posted on Twitter.

Actress Emma Williams was among those paying tribute, describing Howes as "the original and best Truly Scrumptious".

"She was the epitome of class, a generous and kindly soul who offered the sweetest words of advice and support to me when I met her. I will forever be grateful," Williams said.

Fellow actress Caroline Sheen called her "a glorious inspiration".

Sally Ann Howes. You truly were a glorious inspiration to me. Rest in peace. ❤️💔❤️

— 🎅🏻🎄Carolling Sheen🎄🎅🏻 (@SheenCaroline) December 22, 2021
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Howes was born into showbiz, as the daughter of British performer Bobby Howes and actress/singer Patricia Malone, she became a star of the screen and stage in her own right.

Taking over the role from Julie Andrews, she shone as Eliza Doolittle in My Fair Lady on New York's Broadway in 1958.

And in 1963 she was nominated for a Tony Award for best lead actress in a musical for her work in Brigadoon.

  • How Chitty Chitty Bang Bang took off

Later, in Chitty Chitty Bang Bang she played the daughter of a confectionery magnate, performing classic songs including Toot Sweets and Hushabye Mountain and Doll On A Music Box.

The latter song was memorably performed as she danced on a music box. And Howes told US TV show host and actress Rosie O'Donnell she was proud to have got it down in one take, especially as she had lied about being able to dance in order to get the role.

Image source, Getty ImagesImage caption, Sally Ann Howes and Dick Van Dijk were the stars of Chitty Chitty Bang Bang

Asked if she could describe Chitty Chitty Bang Bang, which was written by 007 author Ian Fleming, Howes replied: 'Well, I suppose if you put Mary Poppins together with James Bond, this would be their child."

She went on to tell O'Donnell that she and Van Dyke had been "just thrown together" out of the blue.

"I just got the role," she explained. "I didn't have to test for it, which was a joy because I never get anything I auditioned for. I'm terrible – I get kind of frozen and I become terribly English. And they think, 'who's this cold woman?' and I'm not a bit like that – I have a good time.

"But I never ever win anything that way. So I was thrilled when they said I didn't have to test, so I got the role. And then I met Dick, literally when we started rehearsing, and we did all these very difficult dances."

Image source, Getty ImagesImage caption, Van Dyke and Howes attended a special screening of Chitty Chitty Bang Bang and Blu-Ray release party in Los Angeles in 2010

Despite her success on-screen in Chitty Chitty Bang Bang, the theatre remained her true love.

"I would have liked a film career, but I didn't pursue it – I just loved connecting with an audience," she once said.

"The theatre is a drug. The problem is that to be remembered, you have to do films."

Image source, Getty ImagesImage caption, Sally Ann Howes was born in London, and held a dual British-American citizenship

In 2007, she returned to My Fair Lady, appearing as Mrs Higgins in a Cameron Mackintosh-produced tour of the US.

Her other notable on-stage performances included Summer Song and A Hatful Of Rain.

Howes was married three times, adopting two sons while married to her second husband, Broadway lyricist Richard Adler.

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