RIP David Saxon – ‘Willy Wonka’ editor (1927-2016)

David Saxon, a WWII army photographer whose journey led him to edit the 1971 classic film Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory, has died aged 89.
Mr Saxon passed away on July 5 2016. His death was announced by the Editors Guild in December.

Born insaxon_moviola-1 Brooklyn, Mr Saxon’s army posting in 1944 took him to Belgium and Germany, where his passion for photography convinced the Army newspaper office to employee him.   With his Speed Graphic camera,  he became the Ninth Division News photographer.

By 1955, Saxon had acquired a bachelor in Mathematics,  enrolled in a Theatre Arts Department at UCLA , and shot 16mm Chamber of Commerce films.
It was whilst editing TV commercials that he received a call from a colleague at David Wolper Productions.
“It was a very creative time and place, I remember the long hours but nobody minded them. There was always something different going on.” he told the Editors Guild in 2000.

For twelve years, Mr Saxon edited National Geographic documentaries, including ‘Monkeys, Apes and Man‘ (for which he received an Emmy nomination), and ‘Search For The Great Apes‘ (for which he won an American Cinema Editors award).

He then branched out into his first feature film,  a romantic comedy filmed throughout Europe, called  If It’s Tuesday, This Must Be Belgium in 1969.   It was directed by Mel Stuart.

Saxon, Stuart, Wolper along with producer Stan Margulies, began work on their next film, an adaptation of Roald Dahl’s 1964 novel Charlie and Chocolate Factory.

“Stan Margulies was the producer, and he said, ‘we’re going to go on location and take the department heads with us, but we’re going on a wonderful location. And we’re not going to work six days, we’re going to work five.”
The primary shooting location was in Germany, where Saxon had served in war 26 years earlier.  Despite being on location, Saxon was able to begin the first cut of the film.
The film became a classic, loved by children and adults. In 2014 the Library of Congress added it to their National Film Registry.

Saxon also edited Victory at Entebbe (1976), the  tv movie of an Air France plane hijacking, that starred a who’s who of film; episode 6 of David Wolper’s landmark miniseries Roots (1977),  twelve episodes of Hill Street Blues (1983-1985), and six episodes of North and South , Book II (1986).

He was coaxed out of retirement in early 1990 to assemble footage shot by Jacques Cousteau about Great White Sharks.  “I walked into a room full of film – five hundred boxes!” he recalled.

– by Rhett Bartlett.  (@dialmformovies)

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