Review: I Want it Now! A Memoir of Life on the Set of Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory, by Julie Dawn Cole

I Want it Now

I Want it Now! A Memoir of Life on the Set of Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory
Julie Dawn Cole, with Michael Essinger

Description (from In 1970, Julie Dawn Cole was cast as the unforgettable Veruca Salt in the classic motion picture Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory with Gene Wilder. Since its release in 1971, this epic musical has endured as a favorite of children from around the world with a fan base that encompasses generations of movie goers. With its unforgettable characters, chocolaty landscapes and everlasting music, this charming fairy-tale mixes these ingredients into what has been become a cinematic classic from literary legend Roald Dahl. Praised by critics worldwide and often featured in broadcasts with other masterpiece musicals, it remains a timeless treasure. Acclaimed film critic Robert Ebert wrote: “Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory is probably the best film of its sort since The Wizard of Oz. It is everything that family movies usually claim to be, but aren’t: Delightful, funny, scary, exciting, and, most of all, a genuine work of imagination.” Julie Dawn Cole has written an enchanting and richly illustrated memoir that offers a rare look behind the stage curtain to this ageless film. Splendidly illustrated with personal letters, never-seen-before photographs and documents; her mesmerizing story chronicles the entire production experience and tells of the remarkable journey of how she became known worldwide as a really bad egg. Filled with countless funny and touching memories, her story takes readers behind-the-scenes of Willy Wonka and the resulting coming of age journey that brought the cast together again after nearly a quarter century. I Want it Now takes readers beyond the world of pure imagination and behind the scenes to this universally cherished motion picture. A true-to-life Charlie Bucket tale, Julie’s story is unforgettable…

Review: I was born in the same year that Willy Wonky and the Chocolate Factory was being filmed, so I’ve never known life without Gene Wilder and the cast of kids singing and dancing their way through the chocolate factory. Like many little girls, demanding, impetuous Veruca Salt was my favorite character. She may have wanted it now, but I wanted to be her.

When Julie Dawn Cole’s memoir of life on the set showed up as a Kindle book for under $3, I had to have it. I mean, I enjoy memoirs in general, but this book spoke to the child in me as well as the adult. I enjoyed her memories of the set, the filming, the other kids. Her real life wasn’t so great when she was young, and while none of the kids made a fortune on the film, her income helped keep her mother and sister safe and healthy.

This memoir isn’t terribly profound, or incredibly important (except, maybe, to Ms. Cole herself), but it’s an interesting, candid account of a marvelous adventure with enough of “what happened after” to make it feel complete. Ms. Cole is still a working actor, while the other kids who were part of the film left the business (the boy who played Charlie grew up to become a veterinarian – how cool is that?), so technically, I guess that’s a happy ending.

Great read, especially if you’re a fan of the film.

I Want it Now! A Memoir of Life on the Set of Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory
Julie Dawn Cole, with Michael Essinger
BearManor Media, February 2011
252 pages
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Review: We Bought a Zoo: The Amazing True Story of a Young Family, A Broken-Down Zoo, and the 200 Wild Animals that Changed their Lives Forever, by Benjamin Mee

We Bought a Zoo

We Bought a Zoo: The Amazing True Story of a Young Family, a Broken Down Zoo, and the 200 Wild Animals that Changed Their Lives Forever
Benjamin Mee

Description (from Publishers Weekly):
Between his wife Katherine’s diagnosis of glioblastoma and her quiet death less than three years later, Mee (The Call of DIY), his siblings and his mother bought a bedraggled zoo, complete with decaying buildings, a ragtag group of animals, an eclectic staff and a reputation that had been quickly going to the wolves. In this occasionally charming (to his children: Quiet. Daddy’s trying to buy a zoo) but overly wordy book, Mee writes about caring for his dying wife and their two young children, dealing with Code Red emergencies (when a dangerous animal escapes its confines), hiring staff, learning about his new two- and four-footed charges and setting his sights on refurbishing his zoo into a sanctuary for breeding and raising endangered animals. Mee tends to meander with too-long explanations for one-sentence points, and the awe he feels about each individual animal is repetitive. Coupled with Britishisms that are never explained and a curious lack of varied wild animal stories, this book that was obviously meant to make animal lovers roar with pleasure will only make them whine with frustration.

I have to confess that this isn’t a book that ever would have crossed my path if I hadn’t seen the movie with my husband and parents over the December holidays. We chose this film because I wanted something that was non-violent and uplifting, and while the movie re-set the events in America, and sanitized the more brutal aspects of Benjamin Mee’s memoir, it was true to the source material in spirit, and quite enjoyable, overall.

The book, on the other hand, was naked, honest, sad (at times), happy (at other times) and ultimately left me with a better understanding of what it takes to commit to something to life-changing as to buy and renovate a wild animal park. I mean, I’m involved with dog rescue, and this makes my efforts seem so puny by comparison.

Still, it was a satisfying read. I wish Mee’s wife had lived, at least long enough to see the zoo turn a profit. I wish some of it had been easier for him and his family.

Memoirs are tough to read, because you sometimes find that you dislike the author. Mee’s memoir left nothing to dislike, and made me long to fly to England and visit his zoo.

We Bought a Zoo: The Amazing True Story of a Young Family, a Broken Down Zoo, and the 200 Wild Animals that Changed Their Lives Forever
Benjamin Mee
Weinstein Books, September 2008
272 Pages
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The Sunday Salon: Catching Up

Reading in the Bath

I spent much of December not blogging because I was wrapped up in an intense work project that had me wanting to avoid the keyboard when I wasn’t working, so instead of writing for myself when I was done writing for other people, I did what I’ve always done: escape into books.

In December my escape books were fluffier than usual.

I began with Judi Fennel’s delightful romp I Dream of Genies, which includes an homage to Barbara Eden, and a re-imagining of every classic djinni trope out there. Romance, yes, but with a goodly amount of humor.

Then I re-read the first eight novels in Diane Duane’s “Young Wizards” series. Okay, technically it was the first seven and a not-quite prequel, but still. Books eight and nine will be in my hands on Wednesday, but I’m saving them for when Fuzzy is in Boca again.

I succumbed to the lure of free and inexpensive Kindle material with Joseph Bottom’s collection of Dakota Christmas vignettes, which was a lovely read, even though some of it was pretty dark, and then moved west, and a little south, and read a Harlequin novel (remember, it was FREE) called Colorado Christmas which made me wistful for the Christmases I spent in Georgetown, CO, and for the Georgetown Loop.

Finally, I picked up Julie Andrews’ memoir Home which was really interesting. We know her voice, but in this book, we get to see different sides of her.

And now, I’m caught up, sort of. I have a dual-stack of books going – those I started last year and didn’t finish (The Paris Wife, anyone?) for whatever reason, and those I haven’t even begun, but are speaking to me. I split them between Kindle and paper – I like paperbacks for reading in the bath – and will be working through them as fast as possible.

Peacocks! (Sink me!)


Peacock | Source: | Click to embiggen

My first book of January is Benjamin Mee’s memoir, We Bought a Zoo, which, admittedly, I was inspired to read because of the movie (which is not an Oscar winner by any means, but was charming nevertheless.)

Last night, I came across Mee’s description of peacocks:

Peacocks seem to have been designed by a flamboyant madman, probably of Indian extraction given the fine detailing, though with more than a nod toward the tastes of Liberace. Even in repose they are stunning, their impossibly blue heads and necks suddenly giving way to equally unlikely green and gold feathers laid like scales from halfway down their backs. These in turn abruptly change into their famous long tail feathers, many of them around a meter, easily three times as long as the males’ bodies. As if this is not enough, as an afterthought their heads are embellished with more blue-tipped feathers on narrow stalks, which blossom out in an animal parody of a Roman centurion’s helmet. And why the hell not? you think. They’ve gone this far. It seems the only limit to their opulence is the almost boundless confines of the imagination of their Indian Liberace designer.

Is it any wonder that the passage above had me humming “The Creation of Man” from the Broadway musical The Scarlet Pimpernel? Witness: