Roughly four decades ago, a man sitting in a director’s chair decided to take a famous children’s classic and bring it to the big screen. It became extremely successful and the movie became one of more than 180 producing or helming efforts in a career that spanned more than five decades.
The director, Mel Stuart, died Thursday on August 9th of cancer in Los Angeles; he was 83.
Stuart was born September 2nd, 1928 and was an American film director and producer. Besides directing the fantasy-musical “Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory (1971),” he also directed features such as “If It’s Tuesday, This Must Be Belgium (1969),” “Two is a Happy Number (1972)” and “Running on the Sun: The Badwater 135(2000).” He also was known for directing feature documentaries including “Four Days in November” and “Wattstax.”
Stuart’s talents enabled him to cover different genres as well as not being confined to the big screen. His creations also appeared on movies of the week that include “The Triangle Factory Fire,” “Bill,” “The Chisholms” and “Ruby and Oswald.” At one point, he directed episodes of the famous television series “Ripley’s Believe it or Not.” He also focused on making documentaries that included “The Making of the President 1960, 1964, and 1968,” “The Hobart Shakespeareans,” “Rise and Fall of the Third Reich,” George Pimpton and the Philharmonic” and “The Poet’s View.” It is also important to remember how he tackled serious subjects such as John F. Kennedy’s assassination and mental illness.
For his efforts over the years, he has been awarded four Emmy awards, a nomination for an Academy Award, a Peabody and a large number of other awards. Stuart also had the honor of serving as the president of the International Documentary Association for two years.
It was during an interview with documentary.org in 2004 that Stuart talked about different styles of documentary filmmaking that emerged in the 1960s. According to Stuart, there seemed to have been a split between the West Coast and the East Coast, though it wasn’t necessarily a conscious split.
What seemed to happen was the major documentary makers in the East – D.A. Pennebaker, Bob Drew, Al Maysles – were more interested in cinema verite. Their focus was to be as accurate to the given situation as possible, which meant to capture the scene just the way it appeared to be. Being in Hollywood, more of a focus was involved with retrospective as well as live shooting shows, we felt that if we could do music, which we believed in, as well as inner monologue, a narrative track and sound effects, we would do it.
Stuart is survived by his daughter, Madeline, his sons Peter, who also was in Wily Wonka, and Andrew, a literary agent.
Willy Wonka Director Mel Stuart Dies
The Director of the original Willy Wonka (starring Gene Wilder) passed away today. He was 83. This video is a tribute to him and features some pics I took of the Wonka Factory in 2008 during a trip to Munich, Germany, where the film was made.
Mel Stuart Director of Willy Wonka Dead
Juan haves a brief discussion of the original version of Willy Wonka and The Chocolate Factory.