Roger Corman Dead at 98 Years Old

( – Roger Corman, who produced hundreds of mainly low-budget movies in a career that spanned over half a century, has died at the age of 98. He discovered some major stars and helped them launch their careers.

Roger William Corman was born in Detroit, Michigan, on April 5, 1926. His father was an engineer, and Corman himself seemed set to follow in his footsteps, going on to study engineering at Stanford University. However, he realized this wasn’t what he wanted to do and joined a US Navy program that recruited college students as officers. Corman spent two years in the Navy, from 1944 to 1946, before finishing his degree in 1948 and finding a job at an electrical engineering company in Los Angeles.

Four days after starting work he quit, telling his boss he’d made “a terrible mistake,” and went to work for 20th Century Fox as a mailroom messenger.

By 1950, Corman had moved up to be a story reader, and helped with the plot for “The Gunfighter” starring Gregory Peck. He then used his GI Bill benefits to study English literature at Oxford University in England, before returning to Hollywood and looking for jobs in the movie industry. In 1953 he managed to sell a script he’d written in his spare time; it was filmed as “Highway Dragnet.” That gave him the income and status to start producing, and in 1954 he made his first movie, “Monster From the Ocean Floor.”

Corman went on to produce at least 385 movies and direct 55 more. Many of them were B movies, and a significant number — including “Rock ‘n’ Roll High School,” “Death Race 2000” and “Piranha,” became cult classics.

Corman also mentored many industry greats in their early careers. Director Francis Ford Coppola’s first movie was “Battle Beyond the Sun,” produced by Corman in 1962. James Cameron, a model maker at Corman’s studio, was appointed art director on “Battle Beyond the Stars” (1980).

Award-winning director Ron Howard got his first break in “Grand Theft Auto” (1977) — and claimed Corman told him, “If you do a good job on this film, you’ll never have to work for me again.” Jack Nicholson’s first movie was “The Cry Baby Killer” (1958). Charles Bronson, Sandra Bullock, Robert De Niro, and Tommy Lee Jones, among others, all had their first opportunities through Corman movies.

Roger Corman died at his home in Santa Monica, California, on May 9.      

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