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Denise Nickerson As 'Willy Wonka's Doomed And Bratty Violet Beauregarde

Entertainment | October 21, 2018

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Denise Nickerson, who died in 2019, will always be remembered as Violet Beauregarde in Willy Wonka & the Chocolate Factory (1971), but her performance as the doomed brat wasn't her first nor her last acting gig. Like so many other child actors, Denise Nickerson was initially on the fast track to stardom at the beginning of her acting career. She appeared on TV shows in the late 60’s including the long-running drama The Doctors. She was also cast on a television pilot called Rome Sweet Rome with Bill Bixby that never went anywhere.

Denise Nickerson Was Most Famous For 'Willy Wonka'

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

Nickerson gained greater notice for her talent after joining the cast of the television soap opera Dark Shadows. Nickerson appeared in 71 episodes of Dark Shadows between 1968 and 1970, playing Amy Jennings, Nora Collins and Amy Collins. After appearing in this hit, daytime soap opera, she was recognized for her acting talent.

Denise Nickerson portrayed Violet Beauregarde, the obnoxious and precocious gum-chewing girl in the film Willy Wonka & the Chocolate Factory, in 1971. Violet, like the other children in the epic film, had landed an invitation to tour Willy Wonka’s mysterious chocolate factory.

Violet Beauregard Was One Of The 'Lucky' Winners

In the 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 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.

Denise Nickerson Wasn't The Star Of 'Willy Wonka'

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.

Nickerson Was Also On 'The Electric Company'

In addition to appearing on, Willy Wonka & the Chocolate Factory and Dark Shadows, Denise Nickerson appeared on other notable productions including The Brady Bunch. She also had a long stint on 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. In 1976, Nickerson was hit by a car and spent eight months in a cast. She left acting in 1978, after turning 21. She sought to become a nurse, but ended up working as a doctor's office receptionist. Though she never acted again, she participated in Willy Wonka reunions and made convention appearances.

Nickerson had a major stroke in 2018. In 2019, she developed pneumonia, then slipped into a coma, and was not resuscitated.

Tags: Career-Defining Moments | Denise Nickerson | Movies In The 1970s | The 1970s | Willy Wonka And The Chocolate Factory

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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.