Many of us are a bit stunned and saddened these last few weeks, but I have always found this film to be a sure cure for the blues. Made by a team that realized that children’s entertainment is the highest calling, not just a fallback when mainstream success proves elusive, Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory is one of the best “kiddie pictures” ever made.
Five children wind up with the shimmering chits: Augustus Gloop (Michael Bollner), Veruca Salt (Julie Dawn Cole), Violet Beauregarde (Denise Nickerson), Mike Teevee (Paris Thieman), and Charlie Bucket (Peter Ostrum). What candy wonders will the children see inside the factory? What kind of man is the mysterious Mr. Wonka?
Both Roald Dahl, the author of the beloved source material, and the filmmakers realized that for the happy ending to ring true, the scary stuff had to be honestly scary. “The Rowing Song,” which Wilder recites like a man possessed as he and his charges embark on an eventful boat ride, has to rank as one of the “Top Five Scariest Scenes” in the history of children’s films. Another reason to recommend this film is that the funny stuff is honestly funny-- especially Wonka’s many asides.
“The Rowing Song”
Round the world and home again,
That’s the sailor’s way
Faster faster, faster, faster!
There’s no earthly way of knowing
Which direction we are going.
There’s no knowing where we’re rowing
Or which way the river’s flowing.
Is it raining, is it snowing?
Is a hurricane a–blowing?
Not a speck of light is showing,
So the danger must be growing.
Are the fires of Hell a–glowing?
Is the grisly reaper mowing?
Yes, the danger must be growing
For the rowers keep on rowing,
And they’re certainly not showing
Any signs that they are slowing…
“There’s no earthly way of knowing… which direction we are going…
There’s no knowing where we’re rowing, or which way the river’s flowing...
I pray nightly that at the end of the next four years, I get my chocolate.