Tony Nominee Leonard Stone, Character Actor of "Willy Wonka," Dies at 87

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04 Nov 2011

Leonard Stone, a Tony Award nominee for Best Featured Actor in a Musical for his turn as George Poppett in Bob Fosse's Tony-winning Best Musical Redhead in 1959, died Nov. 2 at his home in San Diego after a battle with cancer, his granddaughter Lindsey Fryman-Borchard said.

A memorable character actor with many TV and film credits, Mr. Stone, who would have turned 88 on Nov. 3, might be best remembered for playing Violet Beauregard's father in the 1971 film "Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory," in which he exclaimed about his experiment-friendly daughter, "You're turning violet, Violet!"

Mr. Stone was born in Salem, OR. He left the state to study theatre and acting abroad. Before World War II, he studied in London at the Royal Academy of Dramatic Art. After serving as a captain of a mine-sweeping fleet in the Pacific during the war, he returned to the stage.

In the years following, he performed in the West End of London, and toured Australia, New Zealand and the Pacific region for eight years in the musical South Pacific.

His other major Broadway credit was Look Homeward, Angel in 1957. A busy career in films and playing many guest spots and regular cast roles on TV series — "General Hospital," "L.A. Law," Barney Miller" and more — would follow. He lived in San Diego for the past 28 years, moving there from Los Angeles to be closer to his grandchildren.



In his late career, he continued to work as a theatre and voice actor. Mr. Stone was also a member of the San Diego Repertory Theater. One of his favorite performances with the company was Glengarry Glen Ross in 1988, his granddaughter said.

"Despite his successful career, his family will remember him best for his humor and his stories," Fryman-Borchard said. "Somehow he managed to make each of his children and grandchildren feel that they were secretly his favorite. I think that's his greatest accomplishment. He was loving, caring, and a passionate man and will be missed by all who loved him dearly."

Mr. Stone is survived by his wife, Carole, son Michael and daughters Robin, Jan and Debbie, plus eight grandchildren: Justin, Lindsey, Erin, Frankie, Jourdan, Sarah, Mac and Smokey.