Roger Corman was born on April 5, 1926 in Detroit, Michigan. Beginning his film career as a messenger at 20th Century Fox, Corman became a prolific director and was responsible for creating drive-in classics including: The Little Shop of Horrors and The Pit and the Pendulum. As a producer and mentor Corman helped launch the careers of Martin Scorsese, Francis Ford Coppola, Jonathan Demme and numerous others. Corman was awarded an honorary Academy Award in 2009.
The talents of Roger William Corman as a film producer, director and actor may have been lost on the world had he pursued his initial career choice of industrial engineering.
Corman was born on April 5, 1926, in Detroit, Michigan. His family, including his brother, Eugene, relocated to Los Angeles, California, where Corman attended Beverly Hills High School and then Stanford University. While at Stanford, where he eventually earned a degree in industrial engineering, Corman enlisted in the V-12 Navy College Training Program and served for two years.
Upon his graduation, Corman worked for four days as an engineer at U.S. Electrical Motors in Los Angeles, then realized he wanted to pursue a career in film instead. He landed a job as a messenger at 20th Century Fox and contributed ideas to the film The Gunfighter, for which he received no credit. He left Fox, when to study English literature at Oxford University, and returned to Los Angeles in 1953 to begin his career as a producer, screenwriter and director.
In the mid-1950s, Corman was producing films regularly, sometimes up to eight movies a year, among them The Little Shop of Horrors, Swamp Women and The Raven.
Soon Corman became known as the "B-movie king" for his output of low-budget films — about 350 in total — that grossed many times their production price. He earned his greatest acclaim as a director after producing a series of eight films based on the works of Edgar Allan Poe in the 1960s. Seven of the eight starred Vincent Price.
There were several actors whose careers Corman launched: They include Robert De Niro, Peter Fonda, Dennis Hopper, Jack Nicholson and William Shatner. In fact, Corman directed the acclaimed 1962 drama The Intruder, which starred Shatner in one of his earliest appearances in a lead role: It was the first film to tell the story of school integration in the south.
Corman also served as a mentor to then-relatively unknown film directors who would later become famous and successful, including Martin Scorsese, Ron Howard, James Cameron and Francis Ford Coppola.
Throughout the 1960s, Corman was known for making films that gave voice to the counter-culture of the time. In 1967, Corman produced and directed The Trip, which was written by Jack Nicholson and starred Peter Fonda: The film began the psychedelic film craze of the last 1960s.
The following decade, Corman made many cult films and distributed them through New World Pictures, an independently owned production and distribution studio he and his brother founded in 1970. Corman sold the company to an investment group in 1983 and later formed two other production companies, Concorde Pictures and New Horizons.
Although he retired from directing in 1971, Corman worked on several other projects throughout the 1990s and 2000s. In 1990, he directed his last film, Frankenstein Unbound. In 2009 he produced a web series for Netflix and the following year, he produced two films for the Syfy cable television channel.
Awards and Recognition
As a result of his success and fame, in 2009 Corman was awarded an Honorary Academy Award for his body of work. Several of his protégés offered him cameos in their films, including The Silence of the Lambs and The Godfather Part II. A documentary about Corman's life and career, titled Corman's World: Exploits of a Hollywood Rebel, premiered at the Sundance and Cannes film festivals in 2011 and A&E IndieFilms picked up the film's television rights after a well-received screening at Sundance.
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