Hollywood is mourning the loss of one of the giants of American independent and cult cinema. Roger Corman reigned as the biggest name in little movies for much of the second half of the twentieth century. Through his various production companies, he directed and produced some of the most popular and influential cult, genre, and exploitation movies in history — and he also gave first jobs to some of the most successful filmmakers ever.

Sadly, Corman passed away on May 9th. An post on his official Instagram account said Corman died “surrounded by his family.” He was 98 years old.

“He is survived by his wife Julie and his daughters Catherine and Mary,” the piece added. “He was generous, open-hearted and kind to all those who knew him. A devoted and selfless father, he was deeply loved by his daughters. His films were revolutionary and iconoclastic, and captured the spirit of an age.”

Asked how he would want to be remembered, he replied “I was a filmmaker, just that.”

Born in Detroit in 1926, Corman got his first jobs in Hollywood working various low-level jobs at studios. One of Corman’s first projects as a producer was 1955’s The Fast and the Furious — the very first film with that title. (It is unrelated to the later franchise, but the blockbuster series starring Vin Diesel actually licensed the title from Corman.)

Corman was soon a workhorse known for cranking out all sorts of genre movies. He was famous for working quickly and cheaply; he made the original Little Shop of Horrors (which was later turned into a stage musical and then a hugely popular Hollywood adaptation of that musical) in just two days.

Some of his most famous films as director were a series of Edgar Allan Poe adaptations, most starring Vincent Price. They started with 1960’s House of Usher and continued through 1964’s The Tomb of Ligeia.

Other famous Corman directorial efforts include Machine-Gun KellyTeenage Caveman, The IntruderThe TerrorBloody MamaThe Wild Angelsand The Trip a late 1960s piece of psychedelia written by Jack Nicholson and starring Peter Fonda and Dennis Hopper prior to their work on Easy Rider. Corman supposedly prepared for the film, in which Fonda’s character takes an LSD trip, by taking LSD himself.

But the films Corman himself made is only part of his legacy. At his companies, New World Pictures and New Concorde he was famous for giving opportunities to young and aspiring filmmakers, many of whom then went on to long and successful Hollywood careers.

The directors he gave early support to include Jonathan Demme (who directed Corman’s women-in-prison film Caged Heat), Martin Scorsese (who directed Corman’s Bonnie and Clyde imitator Boxcar Bertha), Peter Bogdanovich (who turned a quickie made to fulfill a contractual obligation with horror star Boris Karloff into Targets, one of the most fascinating horror films of the 1960s), and Francis Ford Coppola, who eulogized Corman on his own Instagram account over the weekend, writing “he was my first boss, task-master, teacher, mentor and role model.”

“There is nothing about the practical matter of making movies I didn’t learn by being his assistant,” Coppola noted.

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Corman’s impact goes well beyond those filmmakers he worked directly with too. Generations of film lovers and artists have been inspired by his work and by the work of all those young directors he helped get started. Ed WoodThe People vs. Larry Flynt, and Dolemite Is My Name co-writer Larry Karaszewski noted on his Instagram page that “Modern American cinema begins with Roger Corman. Without him we would not have Coppola, Scorsese, Bogdanovich, Nicholson, Demme and countless others.”

“My film school was a drive in theater in the 1970s,”Karaszewski said “and Roger Corman was the Dean.”

With a filmography that includes about 50 directorial credits and over 300 producer credits, Corman’s importance to 20th century American cinema cannot be overstated. Casual movie fans who’ve never watched a Roger Corman movie have benefited from his work. Even if they may not know his name, they know the directors he championed, and the films they created.

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