Roger Corman – There Goes A Giant
13 May 2024

Quick! What do Francis Ford Coppola, Martin Scorsese, James Cameron, Jonathan Demme and Ron Howard have in common? Too easy? Okay. They also share something in common with Jack Nicholson, Peter Fonda, Dennis Hopper and William Shatner. Too hard? Well, there’s an easy answer: All these careers can thank Roger Corman for giving them their first break.

Every now and then in the history of the movies, someone comes along that changes the game behind the scenes. They innovate – but not the tech, or the art – but the business itself.

Take the Israeli duo Golan and Globus. Known for their low-budget Cannon movies – they pretty much dominated the eighties. Bloodsport, Death Wish, a lot of other big-name movies – movies that became part of global humanity’s culture – came from those two jews. Now they sometimes made bad flicks, and they rushed many productions. But they cracked something no one else at the time did – they saw a gargantuan gap in the distribution side of the business. They took that gap and dominated a decade. They changed the game.

Harvey Weinstein – who may be discredited but surely made better movies than all the people that replaced him – essentially pulled the same distribution trick but insisted on quality along the way. Hate the sinner and his myriad sins, but yeah, changed the game.

Now for one individual to make his mark in this list of game-changers – it would be enough to launch the careers of the first list of names above, the directors who got their start under him.

Or the actors, the second list of names.

To do both is to cross into legendary terrain.

But hold on to your hats, because Corman’s not done.

Not only did Corman bring American cinema to the world, he brought world cinema to America. He introduced audiences to names like Frederico Fellini, Ingmar Bergman and Akira Kurosawa.

Then there is his own body of work… some of it experiments that didn’t work (but at least, compared to today’s Hollywood, my God he tried NEW things) and some culturally, economically, critically and artistically important works. He directed 55 flicks himself. He produced 385. He has many credits as a writer and as an actor.

As far as Hollywood types go… Corman also had 1 wife that he married in 1970 and stayed married to until his death.

The big thing about Corman was that he knew how to ‘’make do’’. A pragmatist above all else, Corman got stuff done because he would simply do what others contemplated. He would pick up a camera and start shooting, rather than let projects linger in market research groups. He churned out movies like a machine – and he taught many of the best and brightest in the industry what the word ‘work ethic’ meant.

He did for production what Golan and Globus did for distribution – and he was capable of both the commercial and the artsy, sometimes in the same films.

He began his career reading a script and suggesting ideas for the movie The Gunslinger – and when the studio screwed him out of any credit – he left and started his own thing… and there is a lesson in that whole story that still hasn’t been adequately learned. But the world was to benefit because of that stupid, stupid, shortsighted move on the part of those ‘executives’.

In 1990 he wrote his memoirs, and in typical, straightforward Corman style, the title didn’t mess around: “How I Made A Hundred Movies In Hollywood and Never Lost A Dime”.

No matter what movies you like, and if you ever hear his name, given the impact this man had on the entire global film industry… if you ever like another film in future, chances are, Roger Corman had at least a little something to do with it.

And few in the fickle film business will ever be able to say that.

Photo Credit: By Roger_Corman.jpg: JaSunni at PicasaWebderivative work: Entheta (talk) – Roger_Corman.jpg, CC BY-SA 3.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=8034621