But there’s a catch: Legendarily frugal, Corman will probably never get this award because he has always worked the cheap, mean streets of indie film. He doesn’t buy ads, throw parties, pick up tabs, lavish gifts. He simply gave opportunities to handfuls of untested filmmakers who became major figures.Beverly Gray’s terrific bio of Corman explains his colorful career both as an amazing business tale and a strange, even mournful, personal journey. A development exec for Corman for many years, Gray knows both the business side of the low-budget mogul and something of Corman’s almost-forgotten high-minded soul. He made an ambitious film on race relations, “The Intruder,” and popularized (some might say pulverized) Poe in the ’60s. Gray gives a penetrating analysis of Corman’s exit from the director’s chair in 1970, the same year he was lauded in Edinburgh with a retrospective of his helming efforts. On “Von Richtofen and Brown,” his last directing effort of that time (he subsequently directed “Frankenstein Unbound” decades later), Gray writes: “… Though he is not naturally prone to self-analysis, he does refer to this work in admitting the contradictory drives within him. … Monte Hellman, for one believes ‘he felt in awe of actors. … He didn’t feel he knew the language.’ Nor was Corman ever comfortable with the degree of emotional investment that the director’s job demands.” While the book is an informed journey through a key section of the history of independent cinema, it isn’t afraid to point out the hilarious paradoxes inherent in devoting one’s life to fare with titles such as “Private Duty Nurses” and “Tigress of Siberia.” And the book is up to the minute in it’s recounting of the Corman saga, which finds him again in the center of controversy with the current lawsuit over the supposed Corman factory expose, “Some Nudity Required.” Would anyone make a docu about Thalberg with that title? Probably not, unless it was Corman himself and he thought it would sell in the Midwest. Of course, such a film might wind up being directed by the next Scorsese. And that’s the paradoxical wonder of the indie world and its reigning King Corman.
BY BEVERLY GRAY (RENAISSANCE BOOKS; 302 PGS.; $ 23.95) There's a growing number of people in Hollywood who feel that the one obvious figure who has been overlooked for the Academy's Thalberg Award is producer-director Roger Corman. Who else helped jumpstart the careers of so many key filmmakers; Martin Scorsese, Francis Coppola, James Cameron, Joe Dante, Monte Hellman, Peter Bogdanovich, Carl Franklin, Janusz Kaminski, Ron Howard, Jonathan Demme, Gale Anne Hurd, John Sayles, et al., all toiled early in their careers for Corman.