Actor and director Lionel Jeffries dies

Best known for 'Chitty Chitty Bang Bang' role

LONDON -- Actor and film director Lionel Jeffries, who wrote the screenplay for and directed "The Railway Children," has died at the age of 83, his agent said on Friday.

The London-born actor, who trained at The Royal Academy of Dramatic Art after serving in Burma during World War Two, had a long career spanning theatre, film and television.

"He passed away this morning, it was following a long illness," said a spokeswoman for his agent.

One of his best known appearances was in the 1968 film "Chitty Chitty Bang Bang," in which he played Dick Van Dyke's father, despite being six months younger than the U.S. actor.

Further back, one of Jeffries' most celebrated roles was the tough warder in the 1960 prison comedy "Two Way Stretch."