Julie Dawn Cole, best known for her remarkable portrayal of Veruca Salt in the 1971 film adaptation of “Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory” opens up her scrapbook of mementos and memories on this enchanting time of her life.
Although not a commercial success, the original adaptation of Roald Dahl’s book has gone on to be a cult hit and fondly remembered. Certainly one of my favourite films of all time, it delights, scares and entertains in equal measure. Crucial to the movie are the five child winners of Wonka’s ‘Golden Tickets’. Ranging from obnoxious (in real life in one case) to spoilt to the story’s hero, Charlie Bucket, the casting of these five children was key.
Detailing her early life, Julie Dawn Cole, paints an uncomfortable picture. Her father disappeared from the family home one day leaving her mother to bring her and her sisters up. Acting and singing represents a freedom – and a income for the family. Echoing Charlie Bucket’s story – Cole had no idea of the adventure awaiting her.
The book is filled with vivid descriptions of what was clearly a fun, professional and impressionable production for all involved. Filmed in Munich, the cast act as a second family. Roy Kinnear (Cole’s on screen father) acts as an off-screen father to her and when the two meet up again as evidenced by photographs later on in the book, the affection between them is evident. Yet, the strain of being away from her mother and sister shows. Emotional letters home, and a 13th birthday surprise visit all take it’s toll on the young Cole – an experience that still haunts her to this day. Director Mel Stuart’s striving for perfection driving the cast and crew to work harder and harder – and to the point of breakdown sometimes – also a lasting memory for Cole.
The candid nature of some of the mementos and anecdotes in the book may shock some fans of the movie. Knowing for example that Cole and Denise Nickerson (Violet Beauregarde) were vying for Peter Ostrum’s (Charlie Bucket) attention may surprise some. The wealth of behind the scenes photos taken by her offer up a unique insight into the making of this cult movie in the days before electronic press kits or behind the scenes programmes.
Post-Wonka, Cole has had a varied career, an actress in the first series of Angels, the 80’s nursing drama through to a health advisor on ITV’s This Morning to a psychotherapist nowadays. Family comes first for Cole, an attribute instilled into her by her mother. Wonka has never quite left her though, starring in fringe shows about her character or attending conventions or reunions with her fellow castmates.
It you don’t like the movie, you’re not going to like this. However, for those that do, it is a treasure trove of artifacts and memories that can almost place you in a world of pure imagination. I was very disappointed upon finishing it that there wasn’t more. Highly recommended – though I’d get the print copy for ease of reading some of the pictures of the letters and mementos.
The Fiction Stroker gives this five strokes out of five: