Hollywood guru and 'King of the Bee' Roger Corman dies at 98


LOS ANGELES (AP) — Roger Corman, the “King of the BS” who helped create low-budget classics like “Little Shop of Horrors” and “Attack of the Crab Monsters” and produced many of Hollywood's most famous actors and directors Gave. Broke down early, died. He was 98 years old.

Corman died Thursday at his home in Santa Monica, California, according to a statement released Saturday by his wife and daughters.

“He was generous, open-hearted and kind to all who knew him,” the statement said. “When asked how he would like to be remembered, he said, 'I was a filmmaker, that's all.'

Beginning in 1955, Corman helped create hundreds of B-movies as a producer and director, including “Black Scorpion,” “Buckets of Blood” and “Bloody Mama.” A remarkable adjudicator of talent, he hired aspiring filmmakers such as Francis Ford Coppola, Ron Howard, James Cameron, and Martin Scorsese. In 2009, Corman received an Honorary Academy Award.

“There are a lot of constraints associated with working on a low budget, but there are also some opportunities as well,” Corman said in a 2007 documentary about Val Lewton, the 1940s director of “Cat People” and other underground classics.

“You can gamble a little more. You can experiment. You have to find a more creative way to solve a problem or present a concept,” he said.

The roots of Hollywood's Golden Age of the 1970s can be found in Corman's films.

Jack Nicholson made his film debut in 1958 as the title character in the Corman quickie, “The Cry Baby Killer”, and remained with the company for biker, horror and action films, writing and producing some of them. Other actors whose careers began in Corman films include Robert De Niro, Bruce Dern, and Ellen Burstyn.

Peter Fonda's appearance in “The Wild Angels” was a precursor to his own historical biker film “Easy Rider,” starring Nicholson and fellow Corman alumnus Dennis Hopper. “Boxcar Bertha”, starring Barbara Hershey and David Carradine, was Scorsese's early film.

Corman's B-movie directors were given very small budgets and were often told to complete their films in as little as five days. When Howard, who won a best director Oscar for “A Beautiful Mind,” asked for an extra half-day to reshoot a scene from “Grand Theft Auto” in 1977, Corman told him, “Ron , You can come back if you want, but there won't be anyone else there.''

“Roger Corman was my first boss, my lifelong mentor, and my hero. Roger was one of the greatest visionaries in the history of cinema,” Gale Ann Hurd, whose notable producing credits include the “Terminator” film franchise, “The Abyss” and “The Walking Dead” television series, said in a post on I said in the past on Twitter.

Initially only drive-ins and specialty theaters hosted Corman films, but as teenagers began to arrive, national chains stepped in. Corman's pictures were overt for their time about sex and drugs, such as his 1967 release “The Trip”, an explicit story about LSD written by Nicholson and starring Fonda and Hopper.

Meanwhile, he discovered a lucrative sideline releasing prestigious foreign films in the United States, among them Ingmar Bergman's “Cries and Whispers,” Federico Fellini's “Amarkord” and Volker Schlöndorff's “The Tin Drum.” . The latter two films won the Oscar for Best Foreign Language Film.

Corman got his start as a messenger boy for Twentieth Century-Fox, eventually graduating to story analyst. After leaving business to study English literature for a period at Oxford University, he returned to Hollywood and began a career as a film producer and director.

Despite his money-pinching ways, Corman maintained good relations with his directors, and claimed that he never fired anyone because “I don't want to do that disrespect.”

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

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

In 1963, Corman began a series of films based on the works of Edgar Allan Poe. Most notable was “The Raven”, which paired Nicholson with veteran horror stars Boris Karloff, Peter Lorre and Basil Rathbone. Directed by Corman on a rare three-week schedule, the horror spoof received good reviews, which is rare for his films. Another Poe adaptation, “House of Usher”, was deemed worthy of preservation by the Library of Congress.

“It was my privilege to know him. He was a very good friend. John Carpenter, director of “Halloween,” “The Thing” and other classic horror and action films, said on X, “He shaped my childhood with science fiction films and Edgar Allan Poe epics.” I'll miss you, Roger.

Near the end of his life, Karloff starred in another Corman-backed effort, the 1968 thriller “Targets”, which marked the directorial debut of Peter Bogdanovich.

Corman's success garnered offers from major studios, and he directed “The St. Valentine's Day Massacre” and “Von Richthofen and Brown” on modest budgets. However, both were disappointments, and he blamed front-office interference for his failure.

Roger William Corman was born in Detroit and raised in Beverly Hills, but “not in the affluent class,” he once said. He attended Stanford University, earning a degree in engineering, and after three years in the Navy, arrived in Hollywood.

After his stint at Oxford, he worked as a television stagehand and literary agent before finding his life's work.

In 1964 he married Julie Halloran, a UCLA graduate who also became a producer.

He is survived by his wife Julie and children Katherine, Roger, Brian and Mary.

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This obituary was written by the late Associated Press reporter Bob Thomas, who died in 2014,




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