There are things in this life that bring one a special kind of joy and Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory is one of those things for me. I’ve watched it more times than I could even begin to count and next to Fantasia, it’s the first movie I vividly remember from my childhood. To this day it ranks number one, if I were to put movies into a ranking. I quite literally could watch it every single day if I had to. There is such joy but this darkness to it that speaks to me on so many levels. It really is a lesson in life, people and their personalities.
When I was in the 5th grade and I heard we’d be doing the play, it was the one and only time I ever auditioned for a school play. I ended up with the part of Grandma Joe and one of the candy store kids. Not the roles of a lifetime or anything but getting to help create the magic of my favorite movie, I could’ve been a lollipop and I would’ve been happy! Plus we got to build these amazing sets, including a working chocolate river and a “glass” elevator that actually hoisted Charlie and Wonka over the audience at the end.
People so knew my love of this movie and Gene Wilder that when he happened to be in the retail establishment I was working at in my late teens, I got a call over the intercom system to come down to the floor. As the door swung open, there he was, the candyman! I began to cry, almost uncontrollably. Mr. Wilder reached over, took my hand and asked my name. We spoke for a few moments and then it was over, but looking into those kind, blue eyes is something I will never forget. It was one of those rare moments when you get to meet your heroes that actually was beyond anything you could have hoped for.
Cut to today and finding out Gene Wilder passed, those same uncontrollable tears welled up in my eyes.Then I read the letter written by his nephew and the tears turned into full crying.
There are a handful of celebrities/musicians that touch me and Mr. Wilder was one. He put forth a brilliant body of work, most of which I have seen, but he will forever be Willy Wonka to me. Thank you sir, thank you.