Friday, August 10, 2012

Mel Stuart, Director of Willy Wonka, Is Dead

Thank you, Mr. Stuart
Friends, acquaintances, random-ass people who don't care about me at all: I promised myself I wouldn't post more than 4 times a week unless something big happened or the site was suddenly getting bigtime attention. Unfortunately, it's the first, and in the worst way.

I can't imagine why anyone would not love 1971's Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory. If you know someone who's a real-life Ebeneezer Scrooge (so, if you're related to Joan Rivers, Donald Trump, maybe Richie Chaney), then perhaps you've come across someone who can resist its spell; I hope they're not closely-related to ya, buddy...

Everyone falls in love with the movie, for many reasons. And it's impossible to find much fault in a perfectly-funny, perfectly-charming movie that's safe for kids and never boring for adults; very few pictures that can even compete with it, by that measure. WWatCF is an inventive ride, a great adaptation of Roald Dahl's original story, with excellent songs to boot...

And yesterday, the director of WonkaMel Stuart, died in his California home. He was 83 years old, with his 84th birthday just a few weeks away, but that shitty, shitty thing called cancer took him. But let's look at his life for a sec: In his life, Stuart was also known for the movies If It's Tuesday, This Must Be Belgium and Four Days in November - a documentary about JFK's death that came out the year after his assassination.

Mel Stuart was, first and foremost, a documentary filmmaker. He directed dozens of videos, films, and tv movies in that genre - hell, his last big picture was 2000's Running on the Sun: The Badwater 135, a doc about a scorching-hot 135-mile race from Death Valley to the start of Mt. Whitney. This guy - a fellow New Yorker - did what he loved for a very long time - he directed films until 2005, and produced movies up to 2009.

Since Mel gave something so important to myself and other people, I really should take at least take a moment to mark this man's life, and to put him in your thoughts. Join me in thanking Mel, please; he gave us all something quite lovely, a happy and engaging and gentle distraction.

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