Anne Arundel

Wonka's Mrs. Bucket to appear at Annapolis chocolate festival

It's been 44 years since Charlie Bucket found a golden ticket in a Wonka bar and invited his grandfather to tour a magical chocolate factory owned by an eccentric inventor.

Today, Charlie's mother has a bone to pick with him.


"Charlie should've taken his mom," said Diana Sowle, the actress who played Mrs. Bucket in the 1971 film "Willy Wonka & the Chocolate Factory." When Wonka willed his money and his factory to the boy, "He should've said 'Oh, that's wonderful. Now I can buy my mother a beautiful dress!' Never happened."

Sowle, 85, will make an appearance at the Chocolate Binge Festival in Annapolis on Sunday to meet fans and watch a screening of the original film based on the book by Roald Dahl. The event will be on the first block of West Street from noon to 5 p.m. Sowle said she was invited to be a guest once organizers learned that a cast member from the Wonka classic lives nearby.


Sowle, who lives in Laurel, has traveled the world throughout her acting and singing career, including to Germany, where the Wonka movie was made. In fact, she lived in Germany during the casting of the film and said that may have helped her get the part.

"Sometimes in the theater, there's a bit of luck," she said. "I was cheaper than if they brought someone from Los Angeles."

Sowle has fond memories of filming, including interacting with Wonka actor Gene Wilder to translating jokes into German for co-star Jack Albertson (i.e. Grandpa Joe) to amuse the German crew members. She still keeps in touch with "the kids," as she calls them, who are in their 50s now.

Sowle said her maternal performance, as in her solo "Cheer Up Charlie," resonated with viewers.

A fan once asked, "Could you give me a hug like Mrs. Bucket?" she said with a smile. "She's the all-time mother."

Last year, the film was selected for the National Film Registry of the Library of Congress, adding to group of works that are "cultural, historical or aesthetic cinematic treasures."

Sawle watched the 2005 Tim Burton remake, "Charlie and the Chocolate Factory," starring Johnny Depp, but said it wasn't quite right.

"It didn't have the charm 'Willy Wonka' had," she said.


A mother of two and grandmother of four, Sowle performed in humble productions long before she was cast as Mrs. Bucket. For one of her earlier gigs, her name was listed on a sign outside a venue — underneath the meal special.

"I was below the sizzling steaks," she said with a laugh.

Since then, the California native has worked in theater, television and radio commercials, and even in voiceover work for the post-apocalyptic video game Fallout 3 (which she said she has never played). She said she still auditions for projects, but is selective now and spends spare time tutoring at a local church.

"They don't want someone who will drop dead on stage," she joked.

Sowle and her late husband, who worked in government intelligence, traveled for years before settling in Maryland. She has considered moving closer to one of her daughters but is overwhelmed by the thought of moving. On almost every surface in Sawle's home are mementos and photos, including a small display case with a golden ticket, a Wonka bar and an everlasting gobstopper on her sitting room wall.

Sowle said the film has withstood the test of time because of its values: kindness, honesty, and sincerity triumph over greed and selfishness.


"It was a movie I could be proud of," she said.

The Chocolate Binge Festival

The first Chocolate Binge Festival will be in Annapolis on Sunday Dec. 6. on the first block of West Street from noon to 5 p.m. Actvities include family entertainment, chocolate snacks, holiday shopping, and the lighting of the West Street canopy. Admision is a suggest $5 donation that will support the Annapolis Arts District. Parking is available at the Whitmore, Gott's Court, and State garages.