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Gene Corman, the overshadowed movie producer who preceded his older brother, legendary “King of the B’s” filmmaker Roger Corman, in the business and frequently collaborated with him, has died. He was 93.
Gene Corman, who received an Emmy Award for producing the 1982 telefilm A Woman Called Golda, starring Ingrid Bergman — in her final performance — as Israeli prime minister Golda Meir, died peacefully at his Beverly Hills home of natural causes on Sept. 28, four days after his birthday, his family announced.
The Cormans launched FilmGroup in 1959 to produce and distribute their films, and among the first flicks to come out of their company was The Wasp Woman (1959) and Ski Troop Attack (1960). In 1970, they co-founded the hugely successful independent company New World Pictures.
Corman also produced more expensive studio fare like Arthur Hiller’s Tobruk (1967), starring Rock Hudson; F.I.S.T. (1978), directed by Norman Jewison and starring Sylvester Stallone; and The Big Red One (1980), written and directed by Sam Fuller.
When the Cormans were teenagers (Eugene Harold Corman was 17 months younger than his brother), the family moved from Detroit to Beverly Hills in 1940. Both attended Beverly Hills High School and Stanford University (Gene played on the tennis team and graduated from college in 1948).
Gene began his career as an agent at MCA, where he went on to represent the likes of Joan Crawford, Fred MacMurray, Ray Milland (future star of Roger’s X: The Man With the X-Ray Eyes), Harry Belafonte, Richard Conte and, during the time he was directing Rebel Without a Cause, Nicholas Ray.
He arranged the distribution deal for Roger’s first film, Monster From the Ocean Floor (1954), and the first movie they produced together was Hot Car Girl (1958), directed by Cormans regular Bernard L. Kowalski.
The Cormans always turned a profit as they churned out science fiction/horror fare like Night of the Blood Beast (1958), Beast From Haunted Cave (1959), Premature Burial (1962) and Tower of London (1962), the latter two directed by Roger. They made their movies for as little as $65,000.
“We found them easy — fun — to make and more readily marketing than most other types of films,” Gene said in Tom Weaver’s book, Interviews With B Science Fiction and Horror Movie Makers.
“If you got away from that kind of horror or science fiction, you found yourself truly competing with the major studios, and in that arena it was impossible. One, you didn’t have the production values, and two, you could not afford the stories or the actors, For some reason, the other studios had laid back and let science fiction alone for a great deal of time.”
A hands-on producer, Gene also could be spotted in several of his films, including Machine-Gun Kelly (1958), The Wasp Woman and Secret Invasion (1964). “Generally it would happen when an actor didn’t show up, but also it did save a few dollars,” he said in the Weaver book. “I mean, we were there all the time on these films, so why not?”
The Cormans’ first bottom-line stumble came with The Intruder (1962), a drama about racial integration in the South that was directed by Roger and starred William Shatner. The socially conscious effort was a money loser (until its eventual DVD release many years later).
Gene’s producing resume also included the jazz-infused The Cat Burglar (1961); Cool Breeze (1972), a blaxploitation remake of The Asphalt Jungle; Vigilante Force (1976) with Kris Kristofferson; If You Could See What I Hear (1982); A Man Called Sarge (1990); and Harold Robbins’ Body Parts (2001), written and directed by his son, Craig Corman.
A Woman Called Golda, from Paramount Television, earned Bergman a posthumous Emmy for outstanding lead actress in a limited series or special. She died four months after its release.
Gene’s career also included a stint as vp television at 20th Century Fox starting in the early 1980s.
An avid art collector, he served as chair of the Beverly Hills Fine Arts Commission. He also was a member of the Beverly Hills Tennis Club for many years.
In addition to his brother and Roger’s wife, Julie, survivors include his wife of 65 years, Nan (they met when she was a legal secretary for MCA’s general counsel); sons Todd (and his wife, Jennifer) and Craig (and his wife, Karen); and grandchildren Wyatt, Bayley, Kyle and Paige.
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