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Cis Corman, a casting director on films including Death Wish, Raging Bull and The Deer Hunter who later served as Barbra Streisand’s “surrogate mother” and president of her production company, has died. She was 93.
Corman died Monday at her home in New York City, her son, photographer Richard Corman, told The Hollywood Reporter.
Corman collaborated with Martin Scorsese on Raging Bull (1980), The King of Comedy (1982) — she hired stand-up comedian Sandra Bernhard for that — and The Last Temptation of Christ (1988); with Michael Cimino on the best picture Oscar winner The Deer Hunter (1978) and Heaven’s Gate (1980); and with Michael Winner on Death Wish (1974), The Sentinel (1977) and Firepower (1979).
She also cast two films for Irvin Kershner — 1972’s Streisand-starring Up the Sandbox and 1978’s Eyes of Laura Mars — and one for Karel Reisz (1974’s The Gambler), Michael Wadleigh (1981’s Wolfen), Arthur Hiller (1982’s Author! Author!) and Sergio Leone (1984’s Once Upon a Time in America).
A native of Brookline, Massachusetts, Corman served as president of Streisand’s Barwood Films (and Barwood Television) for about two decades since its inception in 1984.
She and Streisand first met when both were in an acting class at the Curt Conway Studio in New York.
Streisand, then 15 and a student at Erasmus Hall High School in Brooklyn, “had come to the house and my husband and I were sitting around eating in the kitchen,” Corman recalled in a 1991 profile for Vanity Fair. “She said, ‘Ya know, I’m going to enter a contest for singing.’ I said, ‘Why would you do that? You don’t know how to sing.’ She said, ‘Yeah, I do.’ ‘Well, sing for us,’ I said. It was rather a silly thing to say.
“She said, ‘I’m too embarrassed. Well, all right, I’ll sit on the table and look toward the wall.’ So she sat down and faced the wall and sang Harold Arlen’s ‘A Sleepin’ Bee.’ She turned around when she got through and we were drenched in tears. It was something I’ll never forget.”
Alongside Streisand, Corman appeared as a Ziegfield Girl in Funny Girl (1968), served as her casting director on Yentl (1983), Streisand’s directing debut, and earned her first producing credits on a 1987 installment of CBS Summer Playhouse and the Streisand-starring Nuts, both from Barwood.
Corman also produced Streisand’s The Prince of Tides (1991) and The Mirror Has Two Faces (1996), as well as the 1995 NBC telefilm Serving in Silence: The Margarethe Cammermeyer Story (she and Streisand shared an Emmy nomination) and 2001’s Streisand-hosted Reel Models: The First Women of Film (Corman won a Daytime Emmy).
In a statement released Wednesday, Streisand noted that Corman was “32 and had four children” when they first met.
“She remained my best friend and surrogate mother since then,” she continued. “I treasured our lifelong friendship, her intelligence, her taste and her integrity. I loved Cis dearly and will miss her forever. She was also Auntie Cis to my son, Jason.
“We shared the conviction that a film has to serve some key social purpose, and the issues addressed in our television projects included the significant and disregarded history of women in film, the importance of gun control legislation [1998’s The Long Island Incident], gay adoption and one about non-Jewish rescuers who saved Jews during the Holocaust.”
Richard Corman is a portrait photographer known for his work with Madonna in the early 1980s. His mom insisted that he photograph the singer after she had auditioned for the role of Mary Magdalene in The Last Temptation of Christ.
Survivors also include son Jeffrey and grandchildren William, Kimberly, Lily and Olivia.
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