Roger Corman, the legendary filmmaker dubbed the “King of the B’s” for his prolific output of low-budget genre films, has died at the age of 98. Known for launching the careers of Hollywood luminaries such as Jack Nicholson, Ron Howard, Martin Scorsese, and many others, Corman passed away at his home in Santa Monica, California.

Throughout his extensive career, Corman carved out a niche for himself by producing and directing a vast array of films that were made quickly and on a tight budget, often with little or no regard for the quality of the films he produced. Still, despite this, he managed to leave a significant mark on the industry. He received an honorary Oscar in 2009, a testament to his impact on cinema.

Corman’s filmography includes notable horror titles like The Little Shop of Horrors (1960) and a popular series of Edgar Allan Poe adaptations featuring Vincent Price. He was also known for his exploration of the counterculture in films like The Wild Angels (1966) and The Trip (1967), the latter starring Peter Fonda in a tale of an LSD trip, showcasing Corman’s knack for turning controversial topics into box office gold. His ability to capitalize on negative publicity and his fearless approach to social themes garnered him a retrospective at the Cinematheque Francaise in 1964, recognizing his unique contributions to film.

Corman’s approach to filmmaking was characterized by his ability to make the most of limited resources, teaching a generation of filmmakers to do more with less. He famously helped launch the careers of numerous future stars by giving them their first significant roles in his films. For instance, Jack Nicholson appeared in The Cry Baby Killer (1958) at age 21, Ron Howard directed Grand Theft Auto (1977) as his first feature, and James Cameron started as a truck driver for Corman, moving up to prop designer on Battle Beyond the Stars (1980), and then art director for Galaxy of Terror (1981), replacing the previous art director who had allegedly gone AWOL from the job while on a several day long drunken bender .

Corman’s independent spirit led him to form New World Pictures in 1970, converting an old lumber yard in Santa Monica into a film studio. He focused on films that catered to younger audiences and often mixed campy humor with social commentary. Corman’s influence extended beyond the director’s chair as he became a significant distributor of foreign films in the 1970s and 1980s, introducing American audiences to the works of filmmakers like Ingmar Bergman, Federico Fellini, and François Truffaut.

In his later years, Corman continued to produce and mentor new talent, ensuring that his legacy would endure through films that both entertained and challenged their audiences. His work has been recognized not just for its entertainment value but for its seminal role in shaping modern independent film production.

Despite all these achievements, Corman is also reputedly responsible for Hollywood’s cash-up-front business model. He would start lines of credit with various studio services providers in Hollywood in the name of production companies created for making the one film. Once the film was in the can, he would dissolve the production company, leaving his creditors with nowhere to turn to recover their now unbillable invoices. This was Corman’s business model, and it’s how he was able to produce so many films on such low budgets and still make money at it. He was, in essence, picking the pockets of Hollywood to do it. Other production companies eventually noticed what Corman was doing and did the same. It did not take many years of this sort of thing going on for most of Hollywood to stop issuing credit to production companies at all.

Survived by his wife, Julie, and their children, Corman’s death marks the end of an era but his influence on the film industry will undoubtedly continue to be felt. In his own words, he wanted to be remembered simply as “a filmmaker,” a modest request from a figure whose work helped redefine the boundaries of Hollywood cinema.


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