Connect with us


Navy Veteran and ‘King of B-Movies’ Roger Corman Dies at 98



Navy Veteran and ‘King of B-Movies’ Roger Corman Dies at 98

You might have heard the name Roger Corman or you might have a passing familiarity with his films. What you may not know is that, following his service during the end of World War II, he was responsible not just for cult classics such as “Little Shop of Horrors,” “A Bucket of Blood” and “The Wild Angels,” but for bringing some of America’s most beloved movie stars to fame.

The passing of Corman, who died at his Santa Monica, California, home on May 9, 2024, is the passing of a Hollywood legend.

Born April 5, 1926, in Detroit, Corman grew up training to become an engineer. He was 15 years old when the United States entered World War II in 1941 and spent a year at Stanford University before transferring to the University of Colorado to study engineering as a Navy cadet under the V-12 College Training Program, which was designed to train young college students as officers with technical experience for future service. Corman, as an engineering student, was a prime candidate for the program.

World War II would end before Corman would see any action against the Japanese, but he stayed on in the program until 1946, when he returned to Stanford to finish his degree. There was just one problem: He didn’t want to be an engineer. When he graduated in 1947, he worked just four days at Electric Motors before quitting and going to work as a messenger at 20th Century Fox.

It wasn’t his job as a messenger that earned Corman his director’s chair. He took off for Oxford University on the GI Bill, where he studied English literature. After a brief stay in Paris, he became a self-proclaimed “bum,” living off unemployment benefits and odd jobs. It was during a short period reading scripts for studios that he convinced himself he could write better movies, and so he tried his hand, selling the movie “Highway Dragnet” to Allied Artists. It was good money, but he hated the way the movie turned out on screen.

Disappointed with “Highway Dragnet,” Corman would eventually make his own movie from start to finish his way, raising $10,000 and borrowing a one-man submersible to make 1954’s “Monster from the Ocean Floor.” Low on cash, he made director Wyott Ordung pitch in an extra $2,000. Variety called it a “well-made quickie” and it made a decent return at the box office. Most importantly, it was the start of Corman’s hands-on, low-budget filmmaking career. He would produce, direct, create the story and even drive trucks to get a movie made.

“Little Shop of Horrors” was easily one of the cheapest movies ever made, coming at a time when the motion picture industry was in the midst of a revolutionary cultural shift. The old studio system was out and television was on the rise. It was the perfect time for someone like Corman, who could make films cheap and fast while turning a profit. He made “Little Shop of Horrors” for $30,000 (just over $348,000 in today’s dollars), and it has since been remade twice (once as a musical) and spawned a cartoon, card game, stage show and toy line. It was also one in a series of cult classics.

But his filmmaking legacy isn’t limited to finding solutions to problems “creatively.” He also provided the training ground for some of Hollywood’s biggest names, including Jack Nicholson (who appeared in “The Little Shop of Horrors”), Robert De Niro, Ron Howard, Martin Scorsese, Francis Ford Coppola and James Cameron.

“Roger, for everything you have done for cinema, the academy thanks you, Hollywood thanks you, independent filmmaking thanks you,” said Academy Award-winning filmmaker Quentin Tarantino of Corman during the 2009 Oscar ceremony.

While “Von Richthofen and Brown,” “Operation Rogue” or “Battle Beyond the Stars” might not be making anyone’s top war movie lists, they were simple, cheap and made quickly. Corman would make upwards of 400 films during a career that spanned seven decades, earning him an honorary Oscar and the undying fandom of movie buffs, which just goes to prove the old military axiom, “If it’s stupid and it works, it isn’t stupid.”

Keep Up With the Best in Military Entertainment

Whether you’re looking for news and entertainment, thinking of joining the military or keeping up with military life and benefits, has you covered. Subscribe to the newsletter to have military news, updates and resources delivered straight to your inbox.

Story Continues

Continue Reading