Letters Of Note’s Most Fascinating Letters

There was once a time when our most revered cultural and intellectual figures utilized more than 140 characters to express themselves and communicate with others. While those days have largely come to a halt, Letters Of Note grants us the opportunity to reflect on an ostensibly foreign world where people transmitted their thoughts to paper. And so we present the most fascinating letters from Letters of Note:

Gene Wilder On Willy Wonka

Since its cinematic release, “Charlie and the Chocolate Factory” has been a feel-good favorite for generations, not least of all because of Gene Wilder’s performance as the eccentric and creepy Willy Wonka. The role is hailed as one of the actor’s crowning moments, and made Wonka one of Hollywood’s most compelling characters. In this letter to director Mel Start, Wilder ruminates on Wonka’s costume designs, adding touches of style and taste that would become the Wonka that cemented himself in popular culture:

July 23rd

Dear Mel,

I’ve just received the costume sketches. I’ll tell you everything I think, without censoring, and you take from my opinion what you like.

I assume that the designer took his impressions from the book and didn’t know, naturally, who would be playing Willy. And I think, for a character in general, they’re lovely sketches.

I love the main thing — the velvet jacket — and I mean to show by my sketch the exact same color. But I’ve added two large pockets to take away from the svelt, feminine line. (Also in case of a few props.)

I also think the vest is both appropriate and lovely.

And I love the same white, flowing shirt and the white gloves. Also the lighter colored inner silk lining of the jacket.

What I don’t like is the precise pin pointing in place and time as this costume does.

I don’t think of Willy as an eccentric who holds on to his 1912 Dandy’s Sunday suit and wears it in 1970, but rather as just an eccentric — where there’s no telling what he’ll do or where he ever found his get-up — except that it strangely fits him: Part of this world, part of another. A vain man who knows colors that suit him, yet, with all the oddity, has strangely good taste. Something mysterious, yet undefined.

I’m not a ballet master who skips along with little mincy steps. So, as you see, I’ve suggested ditching the Robert Helpmann trousers. Jodhpurs to me belong more to the dancing master. But once elegant now almost baggy trousers — baggy through preoccupation with more important things — is character.

Slime green trousers are icky. But sand colored trousers are just as unobtrusive for your camera, but tasteful.

The hat is terrific, but making it 2 inches shorter would make it more special.

Also a light blue felt hat-band to match with the same light blue fluffy bow tie shows a man who knows how to compliment his blue eyes.

To match the shoes with the jacket is fey. To match the shoes with the hat is taste.

Hope all is well. Talk to you soon.

All my best,

Gene

Savannah Cox
Savannah Cox is the Managing Editor of All That Is Interesting. She holds a Master's Degree in International Relations, and works as a reporter/producer for DNAinfo.
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