WILLY WONKA & THE CHOCOLATE FACTORY (1971, Stuart)
So glad to finally get Gene Wilder onto the blog. There are so many great quotes from this film, and this clip has one of my favorites, as much for the performance as for the line. And it’s a double treat, as the quote is in one of my favorite shots. I have a pet theory behind this shot, in fact, which is a rare Oner in this film. (At least I think it’s rare, maybe there are more that I just haven’t yet noticed. This movie lulls me into a state of childlike awe that makes me cease my movie analyzing.)
Note when the Wonkatania arrives, that is the boat, and Wonka proclaims “All I need is a tall ship and a star to sail her by.” That’s the start of the unusual oner – it’s really crisp and fun, all the activity happening – actors, camera, and zingy one-liners – as Charlie Bucket and the golden ticket winners board the ship.
Mel Stuart needs to make his day?
My educated guess is that perhaps this oner was born out of sheer scheduling necessity, as this film was on a notoriously tight budget. For proof check out the crappy window dressing at the candy store!
I know I’ve been there (check out the schedule-induced oner from my film Hard Pill), so it got me imagining that perhaps this shot was squeezed in on a very tight morning, eg. Lunch was quickly approaching and Mel Stuart was like, “Crap, I don’t want to figure out all this coverage – let’s just do it as one shot.” I don’t know why else it would be the single such oner in the film. But it works nicely. (Even though it’s obviously ADR’d, that is the dialogue all replaced in post due to the nearby “water” fall.)
As for the quote, I can’t tell you how much I love it when Mrs. Teevee (the great Nora ‘Dodo’ Denney) inquires, “She’s tres jolie, but is she seaworthy?” It so fun to repeat, so hilariously absurd, so musically nifty to say.
Here’s the clip – the shot is at :31. I include the whole boat trip here, because it just didn’t seem right to stop the clip before that. And how amazingly DARK is this sequence? Some of those images are just disturbing (like the chicken). I think allowing true darkness into a film, and especially a kids’ movie, does children a service. I certainly feel it did me one. As kids, we want to know what darkness is, to be allowed to experience and try to understand it, in a safe way, such as a movie. I think it’s that edge that gives this film its weight and makes it absolutely indelible and beloved by those who encountered it at a young age.
In Pure Imagination: The Making Of WWATCF, Wolper confirms that the chocolate room was indeed very hard on their schedule, so much so that Stuart laments to producer David Wolper in an Oct. 17, 1970 letter:
“…The incredible size of the [Chocolate Room] set has made every turnaround, even for a close up, a lighting nightmare. I’m constantly tempted to put the actors up against a wall in order to get a quick lighting job, but I feel the picture would lose a great deal of quality if I do….On top of that, after I finally spent an hour and a half lighting the set for my super master shot, the waterfall conked out for 4 hours on Friday morning.”
So it looks like the inspiration for the boat Oner just might have been a complete lack of time due to the lighting turnarounds that additional angles would have required. Today’s oner faces only one lighting direction, so it’s safe to say that efficiency was the priority that day on set.