Dahl himself would be exasperated over the 1971 film’s endurance

Friday, July 2nd, 2021

Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory came out 50 years ago:

Dahl himself would be exasperated over the 1971 film’s endurance. Though he was nominally billed as its screenwriter, his original adaptation was scarcely detectable beneath all manner of uncredited rewrites, and he was vocal in his disdain for the result, Wilder and all. His list of grievances was long: Dahl had wanted the arch British peculiarity of Spike Milligan or Peter Sellers for Wonka, he was unhappy with the film’s foregrounding of Wonka over Charlie, he resented plot alterations and additions that muddied the cautionary neatness of his original tale, and he wasn’t a fan of Leslie Bricusse and Anthony Newley’s perky song score.


Stuart, a workmanlike film-maker hitherto best-known for documentaries and sitcom-like farces, directed it with a halting, gear-grinding rhythm and an erratic sense of pace: it’s a stately 45 minutes before Wonka even makes his first appearance, whereupon the film rushes through its fantastical factory setpieces with businesslike indifference.

It does take shockingly long for Wonka and his factory to make their appearance.

I didn’t realize the film introduced “The Candy Man”, which became Sammy Davis Jr.’s hit.

According to Wikipedia, Charlie and the Chocolate Factory was originally going to feature a little black boy, and the Oompa-Loompas were described (and illustrated) as African pygmies, but the film announcement launched a reaction from the NAACP.

Addendum: I also forgot that the film was the source of the oft-quoted, “I said, ‘Good day,’ sir!”



  1. Altitude Zero says:

    IMHO, Wilder saved what would have otherwise been a terrible film. He’s the only reason that anyone watches it today, but he makes it worth it. I shudder to think what Spike Milligan (whom I generally liked) would have done with the role.

  2. Jackie Pratt says:

    And now the film has also entered the meme world. That’s akin to being parodied by Weird Al.

  3. Harper's Notes says:

    When France joined the American Revolution they sent their navy to hurt the British where it really mattered, not in the colonies, though they did sail around there and do some blockading mostly, but to the sugar isles in the West Indies instead. About three times more trade with Britain than all the American colonies put together, if I recall the lecture I heard correctly. Islands where African slaves worked under utterly brutal conditions. Sugar — Chocolate? Black main character? Plantations — Factories of horror? Anyway those are my immediate thoughts upon reading the blog here. Suspect like The Wizard of Oz the original book is basically political satire.

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