Willy Wonka’s fairytale: He lived happily ever after (1971)
By Susan Beach Vaughn – The Pensacola News (Pensacola, Florida) July 14, 1971
“Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory” is a real surprise: It’s enjoyable. On one level, the film tells about a good little boy of meager means who wins a trip through a candy factory and a lifetime supply of chocolate.
On another plateau, it’s a colorful musical with intricate sets and wild visual effects. And, thirdly, “Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory” has some significant things to say to people of all ages.
Charlie, the good little boy, in the Paramount production currently showing through Thursday at the Plaza is played with natural grace by Peter Ostrum. Charlie likes chocolate, and wants to win one of the five gold seals hidden by Willy Wonka (Gene Wilder) inside the millions of Wonka candy bars. The seals entitle the holders to all the chocolate they want for the rest of their lives.
Eventually and inevitably Charlie does find one, and he and his grandfather (Jack Albertson) — after a catch song-and-dance routine — are guided into the Wonka chocolate factory along with the four other winners. There they witness a world of wonders such as a chocolate waterfall — where one of the gold seal holders nears a gluttonous demise by falling into a chocolate lake at the foot of the falls.
During the Wonka-Wilder led tour of the factory, a second prize winner bites into some untested chewing gum and swells up like a big blueberry. She is also carted away.
The pattern is set as, one by one, the children through selfish actions disqualify themselves from the grand prize — the life-time supply.
Visually, the film is innovative — not just the lightshow and the gadgets, but scenes like the white-on-white ‘inventing room’ by cinematographer Arthur Ibbetson are outstanding.
Speaking of words, the dialog is full of punning and loaded phrases. An “everlasting gobstopper” is a Wonka-invented piece of candy threatening to destroy the industry: It never gets smaller.
One of the child-winners is Mike TV. Mike, a pint-sized cowboy whose passion is the little screen, says, when asked if he likes killing, ‘That’s what life’s all about, isn’t it?” Mike TV is superbly distasteful and is played by Paris Themmen. He ends up shrunken to three inches — a TV-size character.
Willy Wonka himself (played by Wilder) comes through with more direct sermonizing, but the Roald Dahl screenplay breaks up any heaviness that might develop with a “99 and 44-100 percent” safe combination, a quip about a “small step for mankind” and a few classic literary quotes.
The movie ends with Wonka-Wilder, Charlie-Ostrum and Grampa-Albertson negotiating pleasantly about the factory rights which the candy man is turning over to the young winner. Wonka warns Charlie, “Don’t forget what happened to the man who got everything he wanted. He lived happily ever after.”
It is a nice way to end “Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory” — like a fairy tale.
Earlier Wonka had sung, “A little nonsense now and then, Is relished by the wisest men.” And true, the film is full of nonsense but — like all classic fairy tales — “Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory” is.
“Pure Imagination” (Willy Wonka & the Chocolate Factory movie clip)
WONKAMANIA is sweeping the country!
“Willy Wonka” has a lot going for it (1971)
Alice had her Wonderland. Dorothy found her Oz. And Charlie — in 1971 — has his chocolate factory.
Though “Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory” will not reach the proportions of “The Wizard of Oz” as a cinematic classic, it strikes me that word-of-mouth discussions of this, well-produced half-satire, half-fantasy could make it a periodic revival staple.
The new film at the Palms has much going for it. A tender performance by young Peter Ostrum as Charlie. A magnetic, sly and curious portrayal by Gene Wilder as Willy Wonka. Arresting sets and effects. A not-always-sugary, sometimes bitter script, but in keeping with the more candid, honest approach to children today.
Scripter Roald Dahl, who wrote the book under the title of “Charlie and the Chocolate Factory” (Willy Wonka honks better box office, apparently), has authored some pretty macabre fiction in the past.
But this children’s story — which some adults should see, perhaps to gain some insight into negative character areas they failed to shed in the tender years — barely touches the macabre. Yet undertones are there.
Not that the punished kids don’t deserve it. It is weird and intriguing, yet, I must admit, it will confuse some youngsters.
The smart ones, of course, will ride with the puzzle of kindly Wonka’s semi-sadism and dig the nitty-gritty. Sincerity, honor and honesty may not win you the chocolate factory of your dreams, as in Charlie’s case, but it’ll enable you to stay well ahead in the game of life.
There are five golden tickets in a worldwide search of Willy Wonka candy bars. Finders get to tour his fabled factory. Charlie lucks out to find one, then lucks out to inherit it when each of the other four kids proves to be gluttonous, disobedient and selfish.
Wilder, who first reached filmgoers via his screamingly funny scene as a kidnapped yokel in “Bonnie and Clyde” and followed with a sharp comedy etching in “The Producers,” is nigh flawless in the strange Wonka characterization.
The Anthony Newley-Leslie Bricusse songs have thin lyrics, and do little to enhance the production, but the brightly-colored candy coated sets and the dazzling special effects might rate attention when nomination time comes around for those two categories.
Willy Wonka’s Chocolate Factory is for everyone (1971)
“With his wavy orange mane and glazed fish-green eyes, Gene Wilder conveys a beguiling look of incipient madness. In his films to date, he has seemed always on the verge of lurching into some marvelously insane enterprise.”
The Time magazine writer who commenced his recent article with these words was unusually prescient. Gene Wilder has lurched into a marvelously insane enterprise. He has become the proprietor of a candy factory so incredible that it could only be fictitious — and, of course, it is.
Wilder plays the title role in Paramount Pictures’ David L Wolper Production of “Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory,” which is the screen version of Roald Dahl’s classic children’s book, “Charlie and The Chocolate Factory.”
Having had a meteoric rise to film stardom in “Bonnie and Clyde,” “The Producers,” “Quackser Fortune Has a Cousin in the Bronx” and “Start the Revolution Without Me,” and receiving critical acclaim for his work (he was nominated for an Academy Award for “The Producers” and was hailed by Time Magazine as “a young Chaplin” for “Quackser Fortune.”) Wilder admittedly has become very selective about scripts.
When his agent called to arrange a meeting with the producers, Wilder was highly skeptical. “I didn’t see myself doing a children’s story,” he admits.
However, at the meeting, he was immediately impressed with the enthusiasm of co-producers Wolper and Stan Margulies and director Mel Stuart. “I could see that the film was going to be made on the highest satirical level for children and adults.” Wilder recalls, “I would have to have imaginative and physical ideas for every scene.”
For the film fantasy, Wilder is also called upon to dance and sing. Leslie Bricusse and Anthony Newley wrote six songs for the film and Wilder is called upon to sing “Pure Imagination” — a title, Wilder asserts, which perfectly describes every facet of “Willy Wonka and The Chocolate Factory.”
Wilder attended Washington High School in Milwaukee and earned his B.A. in theatre from the University of Iowa. After graduation in 1955, he joined the Bristol Old Vic in England.
Greatly impressed by the Broadway production of Arthur Miller’s “Death of a Salesman,” starring Lee J Cobb, he returned home to Wisconsin where he organized a three-character adaptation of the drama. Later he played opposite Cobb in the CBS Television presentation of the play.
“Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory,” in Technicolor, opened Wednesday, and stars Wilder, Jack Albertson as Grandpa Joe, and introduces Peter Ostrum, a 13- year-old from Cleveland, Ohio, as Charlie Bucket, the “poor but honest” young hero.
It features sets by Harper Goff and special effects by Logan Frazee. The musical supervisor was Walter Scharf, with choreography by Howard Jeffrey.
See the vintage Willy Wonka & the Chocolate Factory movie trailer (video)