Roger Corman, A King of B Movies Producer/Director, Dies at 98

Roger Corman, A King of B Movies Producer/Director, Dies at 98

© 1970 American International Pictures

Roger Corman, a pioneer and legendary B-movie king who directed and produced hundreds of low-budget films and helped discover upcoming industry stars like Jack Nicholson, Martin Scorsese, and Robert De Niro, has passed away. Corman’s family confirmed to Variety that he died on May 9 at his home in Santa Monica, California, with his family gathered around him.

A statement by the family, they expressed their gratitude for his revolutionary and iconoclastic films, which captured the spirit of an age, “His films were revolutionary and iconoclastic, and captured the spirit of an age. When asked how he would like to be remembered, he said, ‘I was a filmmaker, just that.”

Corman’s empire, which had multiple forms, including New World Pictures and Concorde/New Horizons, was as lively as any major studio and, he boasted, consistently profitable. His specialty was genre movies that were fast-paced and low-budget, including horror, action, science fiction, and even family-friendly films. His company became a training ground for a diverse range of major talent, including actors like Nicholson (“Little Shop of Horrors“) and De Niro (“Boxcar Bertha“), directors like Francis Ford Coppola (“Dementia 13“) and Scorsese (“Boxcar Bertha“).

Born in Detroit, Corman moved with his family to Los Angeles in 1940.  He graduated from Beverly Hills High School and Stanford University, with a major in engineering. He confessed to being infatuated with movies ever since he came to California. His service in WWII and his education (including a term at Oxford studying English literature) contributed to his slowdown In 2005 Concorde signed a 12-year deal with Buena Vista Home Entertainment giving the latter distribution rights to the more than 400 Corman-produced pics, then in 2010 Corman signed a deal with Shout Factory giving the latter exclusive North American homevid rights to 50 Corman-produced films.

Ron Howard praised Corman for hiring women in key executive and creative roles when he was awarded an Oscar at the AMPAS’ inaugural Governors Awards ceremony in November 2009. Walter Moseley was quoted as saying that Corman offered ‘one of the few open doors’, which looked beyond age, race, and gender, even though they were given significant roles.

Quentin Tarantino praised Corman’s acting and said that he gave ‘tremendous value at a really affordable price’. In several films for Demme, Corman requested the same fee he had given actors in the 50-plus films he directed: a scale plus 10%.

For nearly half a century, he controlled the B-movie market, which had largely vanished due to television, and kept it alive almost exclusively (with Sam Arkoff of American International Pictures, who funded most of Corman’s early directing/producing efforts).

In 2006 Corman received the David O. Selznick Award from the Producers Guild of America. The same year, his film “Fall of the House of Usher” was among the 25 pics selected for the National Film Registry, a compilation of significant films to be preserved by the Library of Congress.

Alex Stapleton’s 2011 feature documentary “Corman’s World: Exploits of a Hollywood Rebel” explored the filmmaker’s activities. Last year, Corman was honored by the Los Angeles Press Club with its Distinguished Storyteller Award recognizing his contributions to the film industry.

Corman is survived by his wife, producer Julie Corman, and daughters, Catherine and Mary.

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