Thursday, December 20, 2012

W is for Willy Wonka


Hello, and a fine evening to you all.  It’s time once again to join up with ABC Wednesday and see what the alphabet has in store for us.  I bet you might have expected a brief history of wrapping paper or something, given my recent postings about my wrapping dislike and procrastination.  Or maybe something about the original Trek captain, William Shatner.  Or even my own William.  But, no, tonight it’s another William, sort of.

Earlier this summer, in a Q&A type post, I mentioned a favorite film—Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory—and I thought it might be fun to talk a little bit more about that.



  The 1971 film was based on a book by Roald Dahl, Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, and I’m sort of embarrassed to say that I’ve never read it.  But, my understanding is Mr. Dahl was not pleased with the adaptation of his story, which implies it’s not really like the movie at all.  Of course, that doesn’t mean I wouldn’t like it, but it does make it likely that I might be disappointed. 

  The movie, though, never disappoints me, even though I’ve lost track of the number of times I’ve seen it.  It’s got good acting, fun music, quirky characters, and some nice lessons to teach; how could that possibly disappoint?

  Starring Gene Wilder as Wonka, the film tells the story of a reclusive chocolate maker who has decided to re-open his long- closed-to-the-public factory by way of a contest (marketing scheme).  He’s hidden five golden tickets inside his candy bars and the finders will get a tour of the chocolate factory, and the grand prize winner will also receive a lifetime supply of chocolate.

Four of the ticket holders turn out to be incredibly bratty children.  So bratty that you don’t really worry about them at all when they begin to fall victim to their bratty ways while on the tour, even though those fates include being sucked out of a chocolate river into a series of pipes that lead ultimately to the “fudge room”, and turned into a giant human blueberry, among other things.  Really, those kids needed to be taught a lesson, though my guess is they didn’t learn much.

But the fifth child is different.  Charlie Bucket is a sweet, mild-mannered little boy who had the moment of a lifetime when he found his golden ticket.  He lives with his mom and two sets of grandparents in a tiny little house, with barely enough money to keep the family fed, and doesn’t have any of the worldly possessions of the other kids.  But he doesn’t care; he and his Grandpa Joe are going to enjoy the tour as much as any of them. 

Grandpa Joe was brought to life by Jack Albertson, who was still a few years away from becoming knows as half of Chico and the Man, but he’d been acting for decades and had won an Oscar a few years earlier, making him the seasoned veteran of the cast.  Really, except for him and Wilder, it was pretty much a group of unknowns, but they still came together very nicely.

Good boy Charlie was played by Peter Ostrum, who was not only unknown, but—if you can trust the listing on IMDB (and you usually can)—this was just about his only acting gig ever.  But my thinking is, if you’re going to be a one hit wonder, make the hit a great one.  I think he succeeded in that. 

Back in my earlier post, I brought up the movie by answering the following question:

What childhood fable, fairytale, or movie stretched your imagination and sticks with you today?

Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory.  Be nice, do the right thing, take responsibility for your actions, and let good deeds be their own reward.  And always be grateful when even greater rewards come your way.  It’s a wonderful way to live.

I stand by that answer, though I should’ve included the fact that Oompa-Loompas are also pretty cool.  Seriously, though, Charlie is a wonderful movie “hero”, and is thusly rewarded.  Life should have such fantastically happy endings.

I’ll leave you with my favorite song from the movie, though there are several I could choose.




Don’t wait, and do wander on over and wallow in the wealth of postings at ABC Wednesday.  You will certainly be welcomed there, and, much like the Wonka factory, there is wisdom to be gained, and wonder to behold.