November 12, 2009
Roger Corman created Hollywood as we know it
Roger Corman, one of the most prolific movie makers ever, got his honorary Oscar yesterday. He's an award winner that seems unconventional for the Academy, but Corman's connections to mainstream Hollywood go deeper than I realized.
You might already know Roger Corman, King of the B's, as the guy who produced or directed hundreds of the finest American movies involving man-eating snake girls (Night of the Cobra Woman), bloodthirsty motel proprietresses (Mountaintop Motel Massacre), Peruvian cave monsters being sold as a snack food (Munchies), brain eaters (The Brain Eaters), and the Ramones (Rock 'n' Roll High School).
But did you know he also helped launch the careers of tons of respected actors and directors? Here are some of the people who owe it all to Roger Corman:
- Francis Ford Coppola, director of Dementia 13
- Ron Howard, director of Grand Theft Auto (really!)
- Martin Scorsese, director of Boxcar Bertha, starring Barbara Hershey
- Jack Nicholson, star of The Cry Baby Killer and Little Shop of Horrors (the 1960 one)
- Robert De Niro, star of Bloody Mama
- Curtis Hanson, director of L.A. Confidential, 8 Mile, and 1973's Sweet Kill
- Jonathan Demme, director of Caged Heat. Tagline: Women's prison U.S.A. Rape Riot and Revenge! White Hot Desires melting cold prison steel!
Actually, Jonathan Demme and Roger Corman have stayed pals since Corman gave him his first writing job in 1971 with Angels Hard as They Come (starring a young Scott Glenn) and his first directing job in 1974 with Caged Heat. Roger Corman appeared in small roles in Demme's Silence of the Lambs, Philadelphia, The Manchurian Candidate, and Rachel Getting Married.
At the Oscars ceremony, Peter Bogdanovich, another Corman protégé, said: "Roger Corman is responsible for the New Hollywood. He has made a tremendous impact as a director himself and made very stylish horror films and made them fast and cheap and made them look good."
Fast and cheap, no joke. Supposedly he shot Little Shop of Horrors in 2 days, and for a while there was putting out 6-7 movies every year. Corman certainly had an eye for real talent in the people he chose for his movies, though I guess when you're churning out that kind of volume, at least a few of your protégés are going to end up being the greatest actors in the world.
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