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Wednesday, 2 May, 2001, 11:16 GMT 12:16 UK
Chitty Chitty Bang Bang director dies
Dick Van Dyke in Chitty Chitty Bang Bang
Hughes' best known film Chitty Chitty Bang Bang
Ken Hughes, the veteran screenwriter and director best-known for the popular children's movie Chitty Chitty Bang Bang has died, aged 79.

Liverpool-born Hughes, who had been ill for some time with Alzheimer's disease, died at a nursing home on Saturday, his wife Charlotte told the Los Angeles Times.

Sir Alec Guinness
Sir Alec Guinness starred as Charles I in Cromwell
Chitty Chitty Bang Bang was loosely based on a novel by James Bond author Ian Fleming and starred Dick Van Dyke as an eccentric inventor Caractacus Potts.

Potts invents a flying car which drives by itself to "Vulgaria" where a sinister despot has made children illegal.

Adventures ensue as Caractacus and his children rescue Vulgaria.

Audiences loved it, but Hughes did not feel the same way.

'Acclaimed'

"I didn't enjoy making it," he once said.

"The film made a lot of money, but that doesn't really make me feel any better about it."

Hughes' personal favourite of the films he made was The Trials of Oscar Wilde, which was released in 1960 and starred Peter Finch.

Hughes also directed Mae West in Sextette - the last film she made - though it was not a success.

Mae West
Hughes directed Mae West's final film
The writer and director won an amateur film contest at the age of 14. Within a few years was making documentaries and short features, including a series of BBC films called AKA Scotland Yard.

Those films led to well-received features like Joe MacBeth, Hughes' gangster variation of the Shakespeare saga starring Paul Douglas and Ruth Roman, and The Small World of Sammy Lee, starring Anthony Newley as a small-time con man and gambler.

Hughes also made a version of Of Human Bondage, with Kim Novak and Laurence Harvey and was one of several directors to work on the James Bond spoof Casino Royale.

His 1980 drama Cromwell, starring Sir Alec Guinness and Richard Harris, was highly acclaimed.

In addition to his wife, Hughes is survived by a daughter, Melinda, an opera singer.

See also:

02 May 01 | Film
The cult of the flying car
19 Nov 99 | Shaken Not Stirred
The James Bond dossier
17 Aug 99 | Scotland
Chitty star in eviction wrangle
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