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.
Mr. 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 Los Angeles' Watts community in the aftermath of the 1965 riots.
But while Mr. Stuart's documentaries won acclaim and cemented his reputation, 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: Mr. Stuart's daughter, Madeline, asked her dad to make a movie of the book she loved. Starring Wilder as Willy Wonka (and with 11-year-old Madeline in a cameo role as a student in a classroom scene), it became an enduring family favorite.
A collaborator on Willy Wonka was screenwriter David Seltzer, who at 26 had gotten his first job in the film business -- making documentaries -- from Mr. Stuart and calls him "a mentor by way of drill sergeant, much-feared boss and much-loved friend."
Seltzer, who also wrote The Omen and last year's HBO film Cinema Verite, said Friday that Mr. Stuart dismissed his first effort at a screenplay "with the scolding that if I didn't 'have a drawerful of magic,' I had no business even thinking I was a screenwriter. He taught me that good enough wasn't good enough."
By 1980, Mr. Stuart was an independent producer and director whose credits include portraits for PBS' "American Masters" on artist Man Ray and director Billy Wilder. He was executive producer of the 1980s ABC series Ripley's Believe It or Not.
Besides his daughter, an interior designer, Mr. Stuart is survived by sons Andrew, a literary agent, and Peter, a filmmaker.