Hollywood mentor and ‘King of the Bs’ Roger Corman has died at 98

(12 May 2024)

ARCHIVE: Los Angeles, 30 September 1996
++4:3 MATERIAL++
2. Push in Roger Corman arrives at premiere of "That Thing You Do."

ARCHIVE: Los Angeles, – 14 November 2009
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4. Close-up Oscar statuette with pull out to reveal 2009 honorees, producer Roger Corman, actor Lauren Bacall and cinematographer Haskell Wexler

ARCHIVE: Los Angeles – 3 October 2012
7. Roger Corman poses with Gale Anne Hurd

ARCHIVE: Los Angeles, 6 December 2011
8. SOUNDBITE (English) Roger Corman, producer
"Well, I was an engineering major but I was writing for The Stanford Daily and I became the film critic of The Daily and then I started to analyze films more deeply and the more I looked at films, the more I thought about them, the more I thought I wanted to make motion pictures."

ARCHIVE: Cannes, France – 27 May 2023
9. Moving STILL of Roger Corman as he addresses the audience during the awards ceremony of the 76th international film festival, Cannes

Roger Corman, the Oscar-winning “King of the Bs” who helped turn out such low-budget classics as “Little Shop of Horrors” and “Attack of the Crab Monsters” and gave many of Hollywood’s most famous actors and directors early breaks, has died. He was 98.

Corman died Thursday at his home in Santa Monica, California, his daughter Catherine Corman said Saturday in a statement.

Starting in 1955, Corman helped create hundreds of films as a producer and director, among them “Black Scorpion,” “Bucket of Blood” and “Bloody Mama.” A remarkable judge of talent, he hired such aspiring filmmakers as Francis Ford Coppola, Ron Howard, James Cameron and Martin Scorsese. In 2009, Corman received an honorary Academy Award.

The roots of Hollywood’s golden age in the 1970s can be found in Corman’s films. Jack Nicholson made his film debut as the title character in a 1958 Corman quickie, “The Cry Baby Killer,” and stayed with the company for biker, horror and action films, writing and producing some of them. Other actors whose careers began in Corman movies included Robert De Niro, Bruce Dern and Ellen Burstyn. Peter Fonda’s appearance in “The Wild Angels” was a precursor to his own landmark biker movie “Easy Rider,” co-starring Nicholson and fellow Corman alumnus Dennis Hopper. “Boxcar Bertha,” starring Barbara Hershey and David Carradine, was an early film by Scorsese.

Corman got his start as a messenger boy for Twentieth Century-Fox, eventually graduating to story analyst. After quitting the business briefly to study English literature for a term at Oxford, he returned to Hollywood and launched his career as a movie producer and director.

Some of his former underlings repaid his kindness years later. Coppola cast him in “The Godfather, Part II,” Jonathan Demme included him in “The Silence of the Lambs” and “Philadelphia” and Howard gave him a part in “Apollo 13.”

Most of Corman’s movies were quickly forgotten by all but die-hard fans. A rare exception was 1960’s “Little Shop of Horrors,” which starred a bloodthirsty plant that feasted on humans and featured Nicholson in a small but memorable role as a pain-loving dental patient. It inspired a long-lasting stage musical and a 1986 musical adaptation starring Steve Martin, Bill Murray and John Candy.

In 1964 he married Julie Halloran, a UCLA graduate who also became a producer. They had three children: Catherine, Roger and Brian.

He is survived by Julie, Catherine and Mary, his daughter said in the statement.

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