Candyman on the Documentary Channel
The Documentary Channel will air Candyman: The David Klein Story on Saturday, November 27 at 8 p.m. ET/PT.
I got a chance to preview the film. David Klein is the inventor who came up with the idea of intensely flavored, gourmet jelly beans: the Jelly Belly. The Jelly Belly craze of the 1970s was a huge candy phenomenon. One of the things I love about the film is the inside look at the workings of the candy business and the impact of Jelly Belly as a new candy idea.
It’s a great documentary: moving, suspenseful, sad. But the David Klein story actually doesn’t have so much to do with candy. It’s really a story about business: the little guy vs. the big rapacious company, the nice guy vs. the sharks. The candy business, it turns out, is just like every other business.
The set up is a little ironic, since the company that is now Jelly Belly is, in relation to Hershey and Mars and the like, the little fish swimming with the barracudas. But in David Klein’s story, Goelitz/Jelly Belly is the corporate face of greed. In fact, in David Klein’s world, every other business or business partner is sneaky and devious and out to steal. In contrast, Klein just gives stuff away. Sure, he’s a nice guy, but it’s not a very successful business model.
Klein was a small candy and nut distributor. When he came up with the Jelly Belly concept, he contracted with Goelitz to formulate and manufacture the product. As Jelly Bean exploded, Klein gradually lost control, first by taking on partners, then by selling the trademark to Goelitz. Today, Klein has no stake in Jelly Belly. He continues to invent candy novelties but it is unlikely that “Alien Urine” or “Chocolate Turd” will bring him back to the top of the candy heap.
The film tries very hard to depict Klein as a sort of Candy Lear, blinded by his faith in the good will of others and brought down by his childlike generosity. But the story also is a bit of 3 Stooges do David and Goliath: David shows up, but he forgets his slingshot and bends down to tie his shoes.
Weird Al Yankovic also makes an appearance as a candy commentator. Between Weird Al and oddball Dave the film brings a spirit of goofy fun to the story. But in the end, it is a sad tale of one man brought low by either the badness of the world or by his own inability to understand and control his interests.
Tragic hero or comic bumbler? Lear or Falstaff? Come back and let me know what you think.
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