David Klein was on his way to a comfy career in law. Having attended UCLA's law school, Klein was getting ready to sit for the bar exam when suddenly it hit him and he said "No, I'm not going to do this."
So, he didn't.
Instead, Klein became a candy inventor and in 1976 became the largely unknown creator of Jelly Bellies, the gourmet jelly beans that it seems like virtually everyone in the whole wide world loves.
Winner of the Director's Choice Award at the 2010 Rincon International Film Festival and an official selection at SlamDance and HotDocs, Candyman: The David Klein Story
follows Klein's rise and fall for the candy that became owned by the Herman Goelitz Candy Company after a questionable deal Klein made with the company that is now known simply as the Jelly Belly Company.
Directed by Costa Botes, Candyman
is a delightful and quirky indie doc that ran on the Documentary Channel in November 2010 and is now available on DVD with distrib Indiepix. Calling Candyman
delightful and quirky feels, on a certain level, a bit unusual and even inappropriate. The story of Klein's decline from extraordinary showman and jellybean inventor to being fully excluded from the life of the Jelly Belly Company (Klein is not even acknowledged in the candy's documented history) is a sad, disheartening story that somehow never weighs down the film.
Botes beautifully captures the fullness of David Klein, both the personality flaws that allowed for him to be taken advantage of and to lose his piece of the Jelly Belly empire and the goodness and heart that has endeared him to candymakers across the country as a man who guides, nurtures, advises and gives until it hurts. Really hurts. Yet, he frames it all inside a film that is beautifully photographed with original music by Tom McLeod that is energetic, spirited and perfectly complements the film's highs and lows. The film even features a visit to Ronald Reagan library, honoring the fact that Reagan's love of Jelly Bellies helped boost the company in its early days, and has multiple appearances from Weird Al Yankovic that should seem out of place but instead fit perfectly.
While watching Candyman
made this writer want to toss aside any notion of ever eating another Jelly Belly until the company at least acknowledges Klein's role in their history, Klein's presence on screen is so full of life and heart and lack of self pity that any notion of sadness over Klein's loss gets swept up in the story underneath it all of a man who has spent his entire life as the literal "Candy Man" that Sammy Davis Jr., sang about - a man who can "take a rainbow, wrap it in a sigh...'cause he mixes it with love and makes the world taste good." For every seemingly downturn that has occurred in Klein's life, he has somehow rebounded with an almost relentless faith in the goodness of humanity and a determination to continuing giving to others even through at least one bout of serious depression.
also has as one of its producers Klein's son Bert, an animator who has worked on such projects as The Simpsons, The Princess and the Frog
and the upcoming Winnie the Pooh
The interactions between David and his son are occasionally touched by hints of a strained relationship, yet the admiration and respect between father and son is obvious and Botes again balances nicely allowing the impact of the loss of Jelly Belly on the family to be shown without ever being played for excessive drama.
Easily one of the most entertaining and enlightening indie docs of the past year, Candyman
is available for purchase on DVD at Indiepix. For more information or to get your copy, visit the Indiepix website for Candyman.
© Written by Richard Propes
The Independent Critic