Actress Who Played Violet in 'Willy Wonka' Hospitalized, in Critical Condition


In my mind, the actors and actresses from the movies I loved as a child have stayed frozen in time, forever preserved in my memory. Surely I can’t be the only one who imagines a young Harrison Ford as Han Solo or Sean Astin as Mikey in “The Goonies.”

I know that performers on the screen and stage must age. I know that the way I think of such performers is nothing more than nostalgia.

But it still surprises me when I see present-day news about them — particularly when it isn’t good. For instance, take the recent reports about actress Denise Nickerson.

Nickerson isn’t exactly a household name today. However, if you were a child in the eighties, you probably recognize her most famous role.

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She was in “Willy Wonka & the Chocolate Factory,” the 1971 film based on Roald Dahl’s famous children’s novel “Charlie and the Chocolate Factory.” She played Violet Beauregarde, the gum-smacking brat who comes to a bad end while chewing on an experimental piece of gum.

The scene features Violet being forbidden to try the snack by the eccentric candy magnate Willy Wonka. When she chomps on it anyway, the blueberry-flavored gum has an unfortunate side effect.

Violet swiftly starts to turn into a human/blueberry hybrid, which leads to one of the film’s most darkly comic lines: “Your face is turning blue! Violet, you’re turning violet, Violet!”

Nickerson hasn’t remained a precocious child actress, though, and news from her family says that the 61-year-old’s health has taken a dramatic dip. In June, she suffered a serious stroke that landed her in the ICU.

Though she survived, it seems unlikely that she will fully recover. Relatives reported that she had to undergo a number of serious procedures.

They stated that Nickerson had a pacemaker installed. She also now needs to be fed through a feeding tube.

As you can imagine, such care doesn’t come cheap. A Facebook fundraiser began offering up autographed memorabilia as part of a fundraising push.

One good piece of news has come out of the entire ordeal: The fundraiser quickly brought in nearly $2,500, a good deal more than the $1,500 originally asked for.

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Our thoughts and prayers are with Nickerson and her loved ones during this difficult time. We can only hope that her health quickly and dramatically improves.

She isn’t the only person from “Willy Wonka & the Chocolate Factory” to have faced serious health issues. Gene Wilder, who starred as the titular Wonka, passed away in 2016.

He had suffered from Alzheimer’s for several years prior. After his death, Nickerson shared her recollections of the famous character actor.

“Gene was a very, very quiet, tender-hearted, calm reflective individual,” she told People magazine. “He was not out on the forefront introducing himself, telling jokes, he kind of stayed to himself.”

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A graduate of Wheaton College with a degree in literature, Loren also adores language. He has served as assistant editor for Plugged In magazine and copy editor for Wildlife Photographic magazine.
A graduate of Wheaton College with a degree in literature, Loren also adores language. He has served as assistant editor for Plugged In magazine and copy editor for Wildlife Photographic magazine. Most days find him crafting copy for corporate and small-business clients, but he also occasionally indulges in creative writing. His short fiction has appeared in a number of anthologies and magazines. Loren currently lives in south Florida with his wife and three children.
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