Roger Corman, King of B Movies, Dead at 98

The prolific filmmaker died at his home in Santa Monica on Thursday

Photo: Angela George

BY Megan LaPierrePublished May 13, 2024

Roger Corman — the prolific, cult-beloved "King of B movies" who has produced and directed hundreds of low-budget gems, including Little Shop of Horrors (1960), over his six-decade career and influenced innumerable Hollywood heavyweights — has died. He was 98.

The filmmaker passed away at his home in Santa Monica, CA, on Thursday (May 9), his family confirmed to The Hollywood Reporter. No cause of death was reported. "He was generous, open-hearted and kind to all those who knew him," they said in a statement. "When asked how he would like to be remembered, he said, 'I was a filmmaker, just that.'"

Born Roger William Corman in Detroit, MI, Corman and his family (including late brother Gene, with whom he would go on to produce several movies) moved to Beverly Hills when he was 14. After working as a literary agent, he decided to try his hand at writing, first successfully selling a script called Highway Dragent.

Working with Samuel P. Arkoff's American International Pictures early on, Corman is credited with producing over 30 films from 1955 to 1960. In total, he produced about 300 movies and directed 50 over six decades, in genres ranging from Western, sci-fi, horror, biker movies, teen rebellion, and even a cycle of Edgar Allen Poe adaptations.

In 2009, Corman was awarded an honourary lifetime Academy Award for his "rich engendering of films and filmmakers," having boosted the careers of young unknowns like Martin Scorsese, James Cameron, Francis Ford Coppola, Jack Nicholson, Ron Howard, Peter Bogdanovich, Jonathan Demme and Gale Anne Hurd.

"Roger Corman gave me my start in movies," Scorsese said in a statement [via IndieWire]. "He set the guidelines, and then he gave me tremendous freedom within those guidelines. In essence, he taught me how to actually make movies. If I hadn't worked with Roger, I wouldn't have known how to make Mean Streets or, when it comes right down to it, any of the pictures that followed. It was the same for many, many other filmmakers of my generation."

He continued, "I admired Roger, I loved him, I loved the pictures he directed (especially the Poe adaptations) and the spirit of his filmmaking. And I will always be grateful for the opportunity he gave me, and the education. I will always be proud to say that I graduated from the school of Roger Corman."

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