|Gene Wilder as Willy Wonka|
|Peter Ostrum as Charlie Bucket|
|Jack Albertson as Grandpa Joe|
The gluttonous Augustus Gloop (Michael Bollner) and his mother (Ursula Reit, who always reminds me of an off-diet Elke Sommer)
Spoiled Veruca Salt (Julie Dawn Cole) and her salted peanut magnate father, Henry (the wonderful Roy Kinnear)
Ill-mannered Violet Beauregarde (Denise Nickerson) and her pushy, used-car salesman dad, Sam (Leonard Stone)
Rambunctious TV-addict, Mike Teevee (Paris Themmen) and his schoolteacher mom (Nora Denney)
|...and most deserving, poor-as-a-church-mouse Charlie Bucket, who takes his beloved Grandpa Joe with him (and not his hardworking mom, but more about that later)|
WHAT I LOVE ABOUT THIS FILM
From the start, the film does a great job of piquing interest in Wonka by having him discussed, Citizen Kane fashion, at length before he even makes an appearance. It also gives us a likeable and sympathetic hero to root for in Charlie, who’s saved from being a totally pathetic character by being blessed with a loving, if oddball, family. Conflict rears its head in the form of the other four Golden Ticket winners, who may be amplified versions of archetypal bratty kids, but, with the possible exception of Veruca, are not malicious or mean-spirited, just self-centered. (Even the awful Mike Teevee precurses questions to his host with a polite, “Mr. Wonka….” )
|Touring the candy factory in the S.S. Wonkatania|
|While panic reigns, Wonka watches Augustus Gloop's probable drowning in the chocolate river with detached, intellectual curiosity. Mrs. Gloop's outburst ("You terrible man!") never fails to crack me up.|
Blazing Saddles and Young Frankenstein (both 1974) would expose Wilder's comic genius to a broader audience, but even at this relatively early juncture in his career, his performance is nothing short of Oscar-worthy. Creating an unforgettable, one-of-a-kind character (his Wonka is loveable and scary, frequently simultaneously) Wilder is the main reason the film works at all, and the primary factor in why the film has endured for so long after its initial flop release. Thanks to Gene Wilder's ingenious brand of insanity, Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory has become a genuine children's classic. (Although Wilder was nominated for a Golden Globe, the film received but one Oscar nomination: for Best Original Score.)
|Any fan of The Bad Seed should find Julie Dawn Cole's vitriolic Veruca Salt a sheer delight|
The songwriting team of Anthony Newly and Leslie Bricusse (Goodbye Mr. Chips, Scrooge!) reined in their usual tendency toward over-sophisticated melodies (although Cheer Up, Charlie, a real snoozer and always my cue to visit the snack bar, somehow made the cut) and came up with a score of tuneful, engaging songs possessing the simple, sing-song lilt of nursery rhymes and grade school. Best of all, each is staged in a clever, intimate scale that avoids bringing the proceedings to a halt and instead draws you deeper into the characters and storyline.
|Director Mel Stuart wisely rejected the suggestion to expand the rousing "I've Got a Golden Ticket" into a large-scale production number that spilled out into the streets, a la 1968s Oliver!|
|Those catchy Oompa-Loompa songs are near impossible to dislodge from one's memory|
Fans of Joan Crawford's 1967 circus epic, Berserk will recognize Bruno the clown (George Claydon) as one of Wonka's Oompa Loompas.
Fans of Lost Horizon (1973) will recognize the dubbed singing of voice of Liv Ullman in that film (Diana Lee) to belong to Charlie's mother (Diana Sowle) as well.
In 2013 Charlie and the Chocolate Factory was turned into a West End musical. (Although the title suggests little or no connection with the film, the show's score of all original music does include the Newley/Bricusse composition. "Pure Imagination.") Available on iTunes.
There are tons of sites devoted to trivia, production info, and hidden-joke theories surrounding Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory. My favorite is the groundswell movement devoted to proving that Charlie's beloved Grandpa Joe is basically a selfish, lazy slob without a conscience. Precipitated by his first character-revealing response when Charlie is asked by his mother where he got the loaf of bread for dinner (suitable for a banquet, I'm sad to say): "What difference does it make where he got it? The point is, he got it!" and further exacerbated by his "magical" ability to get out of bed when there's something fun to do (aka, not work), a persuasive case is made against lovable Grandpa Joe throughout the web. Check out this link: Why Grandpa Joe is a Jerk , then, if convinced; join the "I Hate Grandpa Joe" Facebook page.
Copyright © Ken Anderson