Cultural references in Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory (1971 film)
The screenplay for Mel Stuart's 1971 film, Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory, was written by David Seltzer and Roald Dahl, author of the book Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, on which the film is based. The character of Willy Wonka is portrayed by Gene Wilder. This character's dialogue contains frequent references to popular culture and classic literature.
Regarding this character trait, director Mel Stuart remarked that "because of his offbeat nature, he can have a voice that is far more literate, biting and tongue-in-cheek than that of the other characters...there's a plethora of literary references that are part of the dialogue through the second half of the film"... The sources from which Wonka quotes are generally from the 19th century and earlier, reducing the risk of problems with copyright clearance. The film's producer, Stan Margulies, wrote in a letter to the film's legal advisor: "Mr. Wonka, it turns out, delights in quoting famous pieces of poetry. Happily, most of them are from our good friend, William (public domain) Shakespeare, but his taste is wide ranging".
Allusions to literature and popular culture
The following lines of dialogue are spoken by Willy Wonka in order of appearance. Each line is accompanied by its inspiration drawn from literature or popular culture, illuminating the rich history behind the film's dialogue.
"99, 44, 100 percent pure" - Wonka turns the combination lock after the children sign his contract.
Refers to "99 44/100% Pure", a well-know slogan used by Procter and Gamble to promote Ivory Soap, in use from 1895 through to the 1960s.
"Is it my soul that calls upon my name?" - spoken in the small hall as Wonka tries to find the door.
Refers to dialogue spoken by Romeo in William Shakespeare's Romeo and Juliet - "Is it my soul, that calls upon my name: / How silver-silver lovers' tongues by night, / Like softest music to attending ears!". In some editions of Romeo and Juliet the line is appears as "Is it my love, that calls upon my name".
"Oh you should never, never doubt what nobody is sure about" - spoken in the shrinking hallway.
Refers to the final line in Hilaire Belloc's poem, The Microbe: "Oh! let us never, never doubt / What nobody is sure about". The poem was published in Belloc's More Beasts for Worse Children in 1897.
"The suspense is terrible, I hope it will last" - spoken as Augustus Gloop is stuck in the chocolate river tube.
Refers to the line "This suspense is terrible. I hope it will last" spoken by Gwendolen in Oscar Wilde's The Importance of Being Earnest, 1895.
"Nil desperandum, dear lady, across the desert lies the promised land" - spoken to Mrs. Gloop as an oompa-loompa escorts her away from the chocolate river.
'Nil desperandum' is a latin phrase meaning 'nothing must be despaired at', or 'never despair'. The 'promised land' refers to biblical promise of land to the descendants of Abraham in the Old Testament of the Bible. The phrase 'promised land' does not appear in the Holy Bible, though the phrase is common in many expressions of religious beliefs, notably in the oration of Martin Luther King Jr.
"All I ask is a tall ship, and a star to sail 'er by" - spoken upon the arrival of the Wonkatania boat.
Refers to the line in John Masefield's poem, Sea-Fever: "And all I ask is a tall ship and a star to steer her by". The poem was first published in Masefield's poetry collection, Salt-Water Poems and Ballads in 1902.
"Round the world and home again, that's the sailor's way!" - spoken during the boat ride.
Direct quote from Homeward Bound, a short poem by 19th Century Irish poet, William Allingham.
"A small step for mankind, but a giant step for us" - spoken as the passenger alight from the boat.
Refers to the words spoken by Neil Armstrong during the moon landing: "That's one small step for man, one giant leap for mankind".
"Invention, my dear friends, is ninety-three percent perspiration, six percent electricity, four percent evaporation and two percent butterscotch ripple" - spoken to the parents in the Inventing Room.
Refers to the phrase: "Genius is one percent inspiration and ninety-nine percent perspiration", commonly attributed to inventor Thomas Edison. Early sources contest this exact wording, claiming Edison remarked "Ninety-eight per cent. of genius is hard work" in 1898. Prominent lecturer Kate Sanborn has also been credited with originating the sentiment that "genius is inspiration, talent and perspiration” in 1893.
"In springtime, the only pretty ring time, birds sing hey ding a ding-a-ding, sweet lovers love the spring" - sung while riding a bicycle in the Inventing Room.
The lines "In the spring time, the only pretty ring time, / When birds do sing, hey ding a ding, ding; / Sweet lovers love the spring" appears as part of It was a Lover and his Lass, a prelude to the wedding ceremony in William Shakespeare's As You Like It. Wonka's tune recalls composer Gerald Finzi's Let Us Garlands Bring, five settings of Shakespeare poetry for baritone and piano that premiered in 1942.
"Candy is dandy, but liquor is quicker" - spoken into Mr. Salt's ear in the Inventing Room.
This line is the entirety of a short poem by American poet Ogden Nash titled Reflections On Ice-Breaking.
"Button, button, who's got the button?" - spoken as Wonka attempts to start the gum machine in the Inventing Room.
Refers to a children's game called 'Button, button, who's got the button?', in which one or all of the participants chants this phrase to find out who is hiding a button. One of the earliest references to this game is in Louisa May Alcott's Little Men, first published in 1871.
"Where is fancy bred? In the heart or in the head?" - spoken while Violet Beauregarde is rolled away in blueberry form.
Refers to a line in William Shakespeare's The Merchant of Venice sung as Bassanio views the caskets: "Tell me where is fancy bred, / Or in the heart or in the head? / How begot, how nourished?".
"We are the music makers, and we are the dreamers of dreams" - spoken to Veruca Salt in the lick-able wallpaper hallway.
Direct quote of the first two lines of English poet Arthur O'Shaughnessy's Ode, first published in 1873.
"Bubbles, bubbles everywhere, but not a drop to drink...yet" - spoken as Wonka introduces the fizzy lifting drinks.
Refers to the verse in The Rime of the Ancient Mariner by Samuel Taylor Coleridge: "Water, water, everywhere, / And all the boards did shrink, / Water, water, everywhere, / Nor any drop to drink". The poem was published in 1798 in the first edition of Lyrical Ballads, a collection of poetry by Coleridge and William Wordsworth.
"A little nonsense now and then, is relished by the wisest men" - sung to Mr. Salt in the golden goose room.
This phrase has a long history, though its exact origin is unknown. In 11BC, the Roman lyric poet Horace included in his fourth book Odes a phrase which translates to "Mingle a little folly with your wisdom; / A little nonsense now and then is pleasant". In 1744, English writer Horace Walpole wrote a letter containing the phrase: "A careless song, with a little nonsense in it now and then, does not misbecome a monarch". In 1804 The European Magazine and London Review printed the phrase: "...formed as we are, a little folly, now and then, is indispensably necessary". The earliest known instance of the exact phrase was printed the New-York Mirror in 1823 with no attribution. It appeared again in the same periodical with no attribution in 1832. The phrase appeared anonymously in various print journals, with the word 'folly' often replacing nonsense. In a collection of poetry published in 1853, Lord Byron was listed as the author of the phrase: "A little nonsense now and then / Is relished by the best of men". However, this attribution appears to be unsupported. Samuel Butler's mock heroic poem Hudibras, written in 1684, has also been credited as the origin of the phrase by several sources. The earliest recorded instance is the transcript of a speech delivered at a meeting of the New Jersey State Board of Agriculture in 1883. However, the phrase does not appear in Hudibras, and its true author remains a mystery. This phrase was also spoken by Wonka in Roald Dahl's Charlie and the Great Glass Elevator, the sequel book to Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, the book on which this film was based.
"A thing of beauty is a joy forever" - spoken as Wonka introduces the Wonka-mobile.
Direct quote of the first line of English Romantic poet John Keats' Endymion: A Poetic Romance, first published in 1818.
"Swifter than eagles, stronger than lions!" - cried out as Wonka operates the bubbling Wonka-mobile.
Refers to the Bible verse, 2 Samuel 1:23: "...they were swifter than eagles, they were stronger than lions".
"Adieu, adieu, parting is such sweet sorrow" - spoken as Mrs. Teavee is escorted away.
Refers to the line spoken by Juliet in William Shakespeare's Romeo and Juliet: "Good night, good night. Parting is such sweet sorrow". Wonka replaces 'good night' with 'adieu', meaning goodbye or farewell in Old French.
"So shines a good deed, in a weary world" - spoken after Charlie Bucket returns the Everlasting Gobstopper to Wonka.
Refers to the line spoken by Portia in William Shakespeare's The Merchant of Venice: "How far that little candle throws its beams! / So shines a good deed in a naughty world"
Additional literary reference
The following line is spoken by a tinker who confronts Charlie at the gates of the Wonka Factory:
"Up the airy mountain, down the rushing glen, we dare not go a hunting, for fear of little men".
Refers to the poem The Fairies first published in 1883 by Irish poet William Allingham, which includes the lines: "Up the airy mountain / Down the rushing glen, / We dare n't go a-hunting, / For fear of little men;"
Foreign language dialogue
In the film, Willy Wonka also speaks several lines of dialogue in languages other than English. Dialogue and translations are as follows, in order of appearance:
"Mesdames et messieurs, maintenant nous allons faire grand petit voyage par bateau. Voulez-vous entrer le Wonkatania?" - spoken as the Wonkatania boat approaches.
Translates from French to "Ladies and gentlemen, we will now take a great little trip by boat. Would you like to come aboard the Wonkatania?"
"Meine Herrschaften, schenken Sie mir Ihre Aufmerksamkeit. Sie kommen jetzt in den interessantesten und gleichzeitig geheimsten Raum meiner Fabrik. Meine Damen und Herren: der 'Inventing Room'". - spoken before opening the door to the Inventing Room.
Translates from German to "Ladies and gentlemen, please give me your attention. You now come into the most interesting room of my factory, the most secret room at the same time. Ladies and gentlemen: the 'Inventing Room'."
"Martha! Martha! Du entschwandest, und mein Glück. Nahmst Du mit Dir; Gib mir wieder, was Du fandest, Oder theile es mit mir." - sung as Wonka operates the bubbling Wonka-mobile.
Translates from German to "Martha! Martha! You have vanished, my happiness you take with you. Return to me what you have found, or share it with me". This song is part of Ach, so fromm, from Act III of Martha, oder Der Markt zu Richmond (Martha, or The Market at Richmond), a romantic comic opera by Friedrich von Flotow set to a German libretto by Friedrich Wilhelm Riese.
"Fax mentis incendium gloriae cultum, et cetera et cetera. Memo bis punitor delicatum" - read angrily from a copy of the contract signed by Charlie Bucket.
The first sentence of this phrase translates from latin to "The torch of the mind lights the path to glory, and so on and so on". The second sentence - "memo bis punitor delicatum" is nonsensical, however it has been speculated that the line is a misreading of the phrase "memo(r) bis punitor delictum", which translates to "I am mindful that the crime is punished in two ways".
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