British actor Lionel Jeffries dies at 83

Played Grandpa Potts in 'Chitty Chitty Bang Bang'

Lionel Jeffries, whose numerous film roles included Grandpa Potts in “Chitty Chitty Bang Bang,” died Feb. 19 following a long illness in Poole, southern England. He was 83.

Jeffries also wrote and directed the 1971 film “The Railway Children.” Jeffries made his stage debut in “Carrington V.C.” at the Westminster Theatre in London in 1949, and his film debut five years later in “The Black Rider.”

Later film roles include Inspector Parker opposite Peter Sellers in “The Wrong Arm of the Law” (1963), King Pellinore in “Camelot” in 1967 and Gen. Sapt in “The Prisoner of Zenda” in 1979. He also played Horace Vandergelder in the 1984 London production of “Hello, Dolly!” starring female impersonator Danny La Rue.

Prematurely bald, Jeffries played Dick Van Dyke’s father in “Chitty Chitty Bang Bang” although, Jeffries recalled, he was six months younger than Van Dyke.

Jenny Agutter, one of the stars of “The Railway Children,” has said that Jeffries gave each of his child actors a half crown coin if they produced a usable scene on the first take.

Despite the success of “The Railway Children,” voted one of Britain’s 100 best films by the British Film Institute in 1999, Jeffries directed only four other films including two that he also wrote.

More Film

  • Redbox Begins Renting 4K Ultra HD

    Redbox Begins Renting 4K Ultra HD Movies for $2.50 per Day in Six Test Markets

    Lionel Jeffries, whose numerous film roles included Grandpa Potts in “Chitty Chitty Bang Bang,” died Feb. 19 following a long illness in Poole, southern England. He was 83. Jeffries also wrote and directed the 1971 film “The Railway Children.” Jeffries made his stage debut in “Carrington V.C.” at the Westminster Theatre in London in 1949, […]

  • Molly's Game

    TV and 'Peppa Pig' Boost eOne's Results, but Film Revenue Slumps

    Lionel Jeffries, whose numerous film roles included Grandpa Potts in “Chitty Chitty Bang Bang,” died Feb. 19 following a long illness in Poole, southern England. He was 83. Jeffries also wrote and directed the 1971 film “The Railway Children.” Jeffries made his stage debut in “Carrington V.C.” at the Westminster Theatre in London in 1949, […]

  • Netflix Signs Deal with Producer Kim

    Netflix Signs First-Look Deal With Producer Kim Magnusson for Nordic Movies (EXCLUSIVE)

    Lionel Jeffries, whose numerous film roles included Grandpa Potts in “Chitty Chitty Bang Bang,” died Feb. 19 following a long illness in Poole, southern England. He was 83. Jeffries also wrote and directed the 1971 film “The Railway Children.” Jeffries made his stage debut in “Carrington V.C.” at the Westminster Theatre in London in 1949, […]

  • 'Chris The Swiss' Review: Inventive, Dramatic

    Cannes Film Review: 'Chris The Swiss'

    Lionel Jeffries, whose numerous film roles included Grandpa Potts in “Chitty Chitty Bang Bang,” died Feb. 19 following a long illness in Poole, southern England. He was 83. Jeffries also wrote and directed the 1971 film “The Railway Children.” Jeffries made his stage debut in “Carrington V.C.” at the Westminster Theatre in London in 1949, […]

  • 'The State Against Mandela and the

    Cannes Film Review: 'The State Against Mandela and the Others'

    Lionel Jeffries, whose numerous film roles included Grandpa Potts in “Chitty Chitty Bang Bang,” died Feb. 19 following a long illness in Poole, southern England. He was 83. Jeffries also wrote and directed the 1971 film “The Railway Children.” Jeffries made his stage debut in “Carrington V.C.” at the Westminster Theatre in London in 1949, […]

  • tom cavanagh the flash

    Film News Roundup: 'The Flash' Star Tom Cavanagh Joins Family Drama 'Be the Light'

    Lionel Jeffries, whose numerous film roles included Grandpa Potts in “Chitty Chitty Bang Bang,” died Feb. 19 following a long illness in Poole, southern England. He was 83. Jeffries also wrote and directed the 1971 film “The Railway Children.” Jeffries made his stage debut in “Carrington V.C.” at the Westminster Theatre in London in 1949, […]

  • 'Dear Son' Review: Powerful, Affecting Portrait

    Cannes Film Review: 'Dear Son'

    Lionel Jeffries, whose numerous film roles included Grandpa Potts in “Chitty Chitty Bang Bang,” died Feb. 19 following a long illness in Poole, southern England. He was 83. Jeffries also wrote and directed the 1971 film “The Railway Children.” Jeffries made his stage debut in “Carrington V.C.” at the Westminster Theatre in London in 1949, […]

More From Our Brands

Access exclusive content