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Denise Nickerson…More Than Just a Character in the Groovy Film, “Willy Wonka"

Entertainment | October 21, 2018

Denise Nickerson as Violet Beauregarde in Willy Wonka & the Chocolate Factory.

Like so many other child actors, Denise Nickerson was initially on the fast track to stardom at the beginning of her acting career. Nickerson appeared on shows in the late 60’s including The Doctors, opposite actor, Bill Bixby. She also appeared on a television pilot called Rome Sweet Rome, which never went anywhere. Although that particular pilot show didn’t make a big hit, other works Nickerson was involved with certainly did.

DENISE NICKERSON DARK SHADOWS - November 27, 1968. (Photo by ABC Photo Archives/ABC via Getty Images)

Nickerson was first noticed, seriously, for her talent after joining the cast of the epic television soap opera, Dark Shadows. In Dark Shadows, Nickerson appeared in recurring character roles as Amy Jennings and Nora Collins. After appearing in this hit, daytime soap opera, she was recognized for her acting talent.

Portraying Violet Beauregarde, in Willy Wonka & the Chocolate Factory, was one of Denise Nickerson’s most notable roles as a child actor.

Denise Nickerson portrayed Violet Beauregarde in the classic and iconic film, Willy Wonka & the Chocolate Factory, in 1971. I’m sure you remember Violet as the obnoxious and precocious, little gum chewing girl. Violet, like the other children in the epic film, had landed an invitation to tour Willy Wonka’s mysterious chocolate factory.

In the historic film, the character of Willy Wonka was a well-known chocolatier in a small town who was socially awkward and had become somewhat of a recluse.

As the story goes, Willy Wonka was a lucrative chocolate manufacturer whose trade secrets had once been infiltrated by a major competitor. As a result, Willy Wonka went into seclusion to avoid any further breaches that might potentially harm his business. In the process, Willy Wonka became a social recluse. The factory continued to manufacture and sell the chocolate confectionery. The curious part of that fact, however, was that there were no “known” employees that worked at the factory. In such a small town, it was thought odd to never see anyone enter or leave the chocolate factory; yet production continued.

Violet Beauregarde, portrayed by Denise Nickerson, was one of the lucky children to tour Willy Wonka’s Chocolate Factory.

In an effort to provide for the future of his factory, Willy Wonka had hidden 5 golden tickets in random wrappers of his candy bars that were distributed around the world. The lucky golden ticket finders would “win” the opportunity to tour the secretive chocolate factory. And so they thought... they would each receive a lifetime supply of chocolate. Little did anyone know that Willy Wonka had another outcome in mind… The chosen child would inherit the factory!

Although Charlie Bucket, portrayed by Peter Ostrum, was the eventual winner of the chocolate loot, the other characters were not without their charm, including Violet Beauregarde.

Although Denise Nickerson’s character in this classic film was not the starring role, she definitely left an impression with audiences as the self-centered Violet Beauregarde. After the success of this film, Nickerson went on to other projects. She may not have set the world on fire, so to speak, but nevertheless forged on.

In addition to appearing on, Willy Wonka & the Chocolate Factory and Dark Shadows, Denise Nickerson appeared on other notable productions including The Brady Bunch and the children’s show, The Electric Company.

Nickerson continued to appear on television after Willy Wonka & the Chocolate Factory. She wasn’t a starlet, so to speak, but was recognized for her acting talent just the same. The Neon Ceiling was a movie, made for television, that she appeared in. She also had the ability to perform as a vocalist, which also played into her career.

Search for Tomorrow was another daytime soap opera that Denise Nickerson appeared in. She also appeared in the epic movie, The Exorcist.

Nickerson didn’t really vehemently pursue an acting career after her childhood years, but certainly fared so much better than many other child actors.  Denise Nickerson enjoyed a somewhat modest acting career over the years. More recently, she has experienced some major heath hurdles. She suffered a major stroke which left its mark on her life but didn't get her down. 

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Rebeka Knott

Writer

Rebeka grew up in the 1960’s & 1970’s and has always subscribed to the theory that a positive attitude will take you far! She is a wife and mother of 3 with a fun-loving spirit, believing that family and relationships are invaluable.