NEW YORK – Mel Stuart, an award-winning documentarian who also directed Willy Wonka & the Chocolate Factory, has died. He was 83.
His daughter, Madeline Stuart, said he died Thursday night of cancer at his home in Los Angeles.
Stuart’s documentaries include The Making of the President 1960, for which he won an Emmy, as well as subsequent explorations of the 1964 and ’68 campaigns. Other programs were The Rise and Fall of the Third Reich and the Oscar-nominated Four Days in November.
His groundbreaking 1973 film Wattstax focused on the Wattstax music festival of the previous year and L.A.’s Watts community in the aftermath of the 1965 riots.
But while Stuart’s documentaries won acclaim, he won a special sort of following with the 1971 musical fantasy Willy Wonka.
That film was his response to a young reader of the Roald Dahl children’s classic Charlie and the Chocolate Factory: Stuart’s daughter Madeline asked her dad to make a movie of the book she loved. Starring Gene Wilder as Willy Wonka, it became an enduring family favorite.
Besides Willy Wonka, Stuart’s theatrical features include the 1969 comedy If It’s Tuesday, This Must Be Belgium, starring Suzanne Pleshette and Ian McShane, and, a year later, I Love My Wife, with Elliott Gould.