EXPIRED: 02/19/10 – Lionel Jeffries, 83, got his start as a film actor in Alfred Hitchcock’s “Stage Fright” in 1949, but Jeffries is better known as Grandpa Potts, the cantankerous father from the film adaptation of Ian Fleming’s “Chitty Chitty Bang Bang.“
Interestingly, as Grandpa Potts he was six months younger than his on-screen son, Dick Van Dyke, who played Caractacus Potts.
Having been had been bald since the age of 19, something he blamed on the humidity he had experienced during his service in Burma (now Myanmar) during World War II, Jeffries was continually cast in roles far older than he was.
His best-known and best-loved film, however, was his first, “The Railway Children,” which he also wrote. An adaptation of the children’s book by E. Nesbit, about a British family living near a railway station in the early 20th century, it was ranked number 66 by the British Film Institute on its list of the best British films of the 20th century.
Jeffries optioned the film rights to the book simply because his young daughter came to him after reading it and said, “this would make a good film.”