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Willy Wonka and The Chocolate Factory (1971)


Willy Wonka and The Chocolate Factory is a 1971 musical fantasy film that was directed by Mel Stuart and starred Gene Wilder, Jack Albertson, and Peter Ostrum. The story was worked around and adapted from Roald Dahl’s book, Charlie, and the Chocolate Factory, however David Seltzer disrespected Dahl by doing an uncredited rewrite of the screenplay. It was against Dahl’s wishes that changes were made to the story by the director which led Dahl to disown the film. Despite the controversies, Stuart and his production team used their creativity and imagination with the locations and which actors and actresses were hired. In fact, this film was shot in Germany, which was unusual for an American film during this era. They chose to do it in Germany because it was cheaper and to show the world what Germany looks like. In addition, the book was written during the civil rights movement and the film was shot two years after the movement ended, in 1970. As a result of that, Stuart decided to alter the physical appearances of the Oompa Loompas.


The characters that had the most controversy behind the making were the Oompa Loompas, which was described in the book as pygmies from Africa working under a white man. However, the production team thought it would create distasteful assumptions relating to slavery because the Oompa Loompas may be viewed as slaves to the factory, so it was decided to make them orange rather than their natural brownish skin tone. Additionally, the Oompa Loompas came from different European countries, which made it difficult for them to communicate and understand direction. Because of this, you can see there were moments where the Oompa Loompas lip syncing was off, and the dance movements were not always in sync as well. Although there were flaws and issues with the Oompa Loompas, viewers were still able to receive a pleasurable experience of them playing their role.


Gene Wilder, who played Willy Wonka had his own ideas for the movie. In the opening scene of him coming out of the factory, he wanted to make his entrance with a limp and a somersault. Wilder told the director he would not take the role if they did not let him do this. When the director asked him why, he responded “Because from that time on, no one will know if I am lying or telling the truth”. This is interesting because there were parts of the movie where Wilder comes off very suspicious which seems like this is the tone he was going for. For example, whenever one of the child actors were about to do something wrong, he would quietly and nonchalantly tell them to stop or not to do something, saying it as if he really wanted them to do it.


Director Stuart had some innovative ideas for the movie like not allowing the actors to see the chocolate room before it was shot because he wanted the actors to have genuine reactions. He also did this with the boat scene which visibly made the characters uncomfortable. Actor Mike Teevee feared Wilder in that scene because Wilder was screaming which was unexpected. There were also disturbing flashes of pictures that made the boat ride so uncomfortable and frightening to most. Willy Wonka had another yelling scene at the end of the film where he yelled at Grandpa Joe (Jack Albertson) and Charlie (Peter Ostrum) about his disappointment of them not following the rules because they drank the fizzy soda. When the scene was rehearsed, Wilder did it in a much calmer tone, so that it would be a surprise to them when he yelled. It has been reported that Wilder felt very badly about not warning Ostrum about him yelling. This goes to show that Wilder and Ostrum had a good working relationship.

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