Everyone has a favorite Roald Dahl book, or perhaps a favorite movie. He’s had so many fantastic works to choose from, from Matilda to James and the Giant Peach to The Fantastic Mr. Fox. He even wrote the screenplay to Chitty Chitty Bang Bang. But my favorite has always been Charlie and the Chocolate Factory. I’m sure I’m not alone in this. I mean, who can resist being inside not only a chocolate factory, but one filled with such wonder and room for exploration and experimentation?
The movie version of Charlie and the Chocolate Factory (named as such to help with merchandising), Willy Wonka & the Chocolate Factory, came out only a couple of years before I was born, and starred the wonderful but recently departed Gene Wilder. I remember seeing it as a kid, perhaps on cable, over and over again. When my kids were born, I made sure we owned it on DVD, and thus “the chocolate movie” was watched by them, over and over again. It looked a bit dated to me, but they were engrossed.
Dahl’s wondrous imagination continues to appeal to the young and young-at-heart still to this day, which would have been his 100th birthday. He focused on humor, but many of his stories also contain a dark side or some dark moments. Fortunately, many of these go over our heads as children, and only as we grow up do we notice the rich complexities and multiple facets to the tales. Much of this “focus on the positive” can also be seen in his letters sent to his mother while he was in boarding school, in the book Love From Boy, which is described in a recent article in The Wall Street Journal. He minimized any rough treatment he got, probably trying to reassure his mother that he was fine. He later practiced that kind of deflection in the letters he wrote while in the military during World War II, including after a plane crash where he fractured his skull and was temporarily blinded. He got better.
He then went on to write all of the novels and short stories, as well as screenplays and other works, that we know and love.
If you’re lucky enough to live in England, you can visit The Roald Dahl Museum and Story Centre, and there are plenty of events to celebrate his birthday. But the United States also has some events planned. Check out the official Roald Dahl website for information, and plenty of fun activities.
What are your favorite Roald Dahl books or movies?