Mel Stuart - R.i.p Mel Stuart: Beyond Willy Wonka
Following the sad news that American director Mel Stuart has passed away aged 83, following a battle with cancer, we here at Contactmusic.com thought it only right to doff our caps to the man responsible for one of the finest children's films of the 20th century, 'Willy Wonka's Chocolate Factory'. Cementing the stardom of actor Gene Wilder, it was undoubtedly Stuart's best known film; his second of the 70s, it made sure his would be a name remembered in American cinema forever. But let's forget that for a moment, because we know all about it. Here are five more films directed by Stuart that we feel are worth your time.
'Four Days In November' (1964). The first film to put Stuart on the map was a documentary released little over a decade following the assassination of President John F. Kennedy. Released on a year after the incident, at a time when the subject was obviously incredibly raw for the entire world, never mind the Usa. Yet Stuart's documentary managed to strike a chord with many watching, and saw him nominated for an Academy award for Best Documentary Feature.
'If It's Tuesday, This Must Be Belgium' (1969), Away from the gritty nature of that documentary, 'If It's Tuesday.' was filmed out in Europe and focused on an English tour guide who took a group of students on a whirlwind tour of the continent. The romantic comedy sees him have an affair with one of the students, whilst other quirky characters ensure that this is an enjoyable romp.
I Love My Wife' (1970) 'I Love My Wife' was another step on Stuart's delving into the comedy genre. Low key, it nevertheless had its charms as the main character struggles with his wife's post-pregnancy fat after giving birth, indulging in a series of flings and affairs, with inevitably rocky results.
One Is A Lonely Number' (1972). Stuart rarely worked with real acting heavyweights, his films instead attempting to push people further into the limelight. He succeeded with Wilder in 'Willy Wonka' but unfortunately had few others of that magnitude; in Trish Van Devere though he surely brought out one of her best performances yet, giving her all the tools to push on - something she sadly never did. Her performance as a wife who finds her husband has left her, saw her nominated for a Golden Globe Award.
Wattstax (1973). Returning to his documentary roots brought further success for Stuart. This was nominated for a Golden Globe award and saw the director focus on the Wattstax music festival and the African American community of Watts, Los Angeles. The concert was a momentous one to document, seen as the black answer to Woodstock, and shed light on the increasing confidence of the African American community in a country that had just come out of its most intense battles over racial equality the previous decade.