Director Mel Stuart's Death Brings on Memories of 'Willy Wonka' and Pure Imagination


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The death of producer/director Mel Stuart has spurred on memories of his movie, Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory. Stuart, who over the decades directed episodes of The Chisholms, Welcome Back Kotter, and Emmy award winning The Making of the President 1960, died Thursday of cancer. He was 83.

View attachment 1891 Willy Wonka is a standard for young and old alike. I remember seeing the 1971 film many times back then. It was one of the first VHS tapes I purchased. Years later, I devoured the anniversary DVD that included commentary by the Wonka kids, including Peter Ostrum, Paris Themmen, Julie Dawn Cole, and Denise Nickerson. Their memories were terrific to listen to. I have always had an interest in seeing Nickerson because I knew her first from the gothic soap opera, Dark Shadows.

As I read of Stuart's death in Los Angeles, my mind jumped to the great Sammy Davis Jr. who had a big hit with the song, Candy Man. I remember how Davis really wanted to play the role of the candy man in the movie. He lobbied hard for it, but came up short. Still, he sang that song for the rest of his career.

The most visual image I have whenever I hear the name of the movie is the chocolate room. That's a child's wonderland, and the song Gene Wilder sings, Pure Imagination, sets the mood perfectly. Every move, aptly directed by Stuart, works. Though the song has not been recorded all that often, in 2010 it was the #2 track on singer's Alfie Boe's Bring Him Home CD. In an interview with Andrew Harrison, the singer stated, "It is a beautiful, beautiful song. I really don't know why it's not done more because it's such a great little lullaby."

Mostly what comes to mind when I think of Willy Wonka is just that dreams can come true, and the world needs a lot of dreams.

Mel Stuart leaves behind three children and a world full of thankful Wonka fans.

Here a fan of Dancing with the Stars combines some of the beauty from the season 12 casts with the tender vocals of Alfie Boe on Pure Imagination.



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