Hey guys, Quint here. It has fallen to me to say a few words about the passing of Mel Stuart. While the man was a giant in TV and has an Oscar nomination and Emmy and Peabody wins on the ol’ resume, one particular project of his stands head and shoulders above the rest for me personally.
Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory is a landmark film for me. It’s something that could just be straight up children’s entertainment, but decided to go dark, to go counter-culture… in short, to go a little mad. Gene Wilder is a big piece of that puzzle (God help us whenever Gene leaves. I’ll cry for a week.), as is Roald Dahl, but Mel Stuart was the captain of that ship. He’s well-known as saying he made it for adults, not for children, and that’s probably why it’s still going strong.
I recently posted a picture of Stuart and Wilder on the set (included below) and you can tell that those two were having a blast. If they weren’t they sure hid it well. Stuart always came across like an incredibly likeable guy.
I’m not too familiar with the rest of his filmography save the fantastic funk documentary Wattstax, but there are already a couple on there that I now feel the need to seek out after having looked over his work, namely 1970’s I LOVE MY WIFE, with Elliott Gould starring as a doctor who is bored with his family, and 1978’s MEAN DOG BLUES, a prison farm flick starring Gregg Henry, George Kennedy and Scatman Crothers.
While Wonka will reign supreme as far as how his work has impacted me personally, there’s no denying his documentary work was massive. He was nominated for Four Days In November, the Kennedy assassination documentary that came out less than a year after the shooting. It’s an incredibly in-depth piece of film that is all the more biting for its proximity to the event itself.
There’s also the aforementioned Wattstax, known as the Black Woodstock. I’m a huge fan of the funk and soul music of this era and man is this an amazing doc. Or is it a concert film? It’s a little bit of both, but whatever it is it captures a fascinating moment in time. Check out the trailer:
Stuart led a hugely influential life. Though he lost his battle with cancer, he left a legacy the likes of which any human being would be proud of. Thanks for the childhood memories, Mr. Stuart.