Mel Stuart, the director of the beloved childhood classic Willy Wonka & the Chocolate Factory, died in Los Angeles on Thursday of cancer. He was 83.
The prolific filmmaker got his start in the early 1960s, directing and producing TV documentaries like The Rafer Johnson Story and Sophia: A Self-Portrait, about the Italian actress Sophia Loren. Stuart was nominated for an Oscar in 1965 for his seminal documentary Four Days in November, about the assassination of President John F. Kennedy. Some of his other notable documentaries include three editions of The Making of a President, Rise and Fall of the Third Reich and the groundbreaking Wattsax, about the Los Angeles music festival that commemorated the seventh anniversary of the Watts riots. During this time Stuart directed what was just his second feature film, the 1971 musical fantasy Willy Wonka & the Chocolate Factory starring Gene Wilder.
In a career that spanned over 50 years, in which he directed or produced over 180 films, Stuart was awarded four Emmy awards, a Peabody, and served as president of the International Documentary Association for two years. “[My father's] impact on the film industry extended far beyond the films he made and the teaching he did,” praised his son Andrew. “Many Hollywood notables worked under his tutelage, including eminent directors James Brooks and William Friedken, the reality producer Bert Van Munster, and screenwriter David Seltzer.”