Belfast Telegraph

Film star Lionel Jeffries (83) dies after a long illness

Veteran actor and director Lionel Jeffries, whose credits include well-loved films such as The Railway Children and Chitty Chitty Bang Bang, has died.

The Rada-trained star, who was associated with a number of children's classics, was 83.

Jeffries was an instantly recognisable figure and became a familiar face in film and TV for decades.

A spokeswoman for his agent, the Liz Hobbs Group, said: “We can confirm he did pass away this morning. It was following a long illness.” No further details were released.

Among his many achievements, Jeffries not only directed but scripted The Railway Children.

His four other directing credits included The Amazing Mr Blunden, a version of The Water Babies and the Womble movie Wombling Free.

However his on-screen appearances were much more plentiful than his career behind the camera.

Jeffries clocked up roles in dozens of films when the British film industry was flourishing with movies such as First Men In The Moon, Camelot and perhaps his most remembered performance, as Grandpa Potts in enduring children's film Chitty Chitty Bang Bang.

When he played Dick Van Dyke's father in Chitty Chitty Bang Bang he was actually the American actor's junior by six months.

During the 1980s and 1990s he made many TV appearances with guest appearances in shows such as Minder, Inspector Morse, Boon and Lovejoy.

One of his longer fixtures was portraying Grandad in the popular children's TV series Woof! in 1993.

He featured in an episode of This Is Your Life in 1971 when Eamonn Andrews surprised him with the red book.

Actress Sally Thomsett recalled what it was like to work with Jeffries on The Railway Children.

“Lionel was delightful to work with, a wonderful man,” she said.

“We were just kids and he was so patient with us.”

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