Style on Screen

Hedy Lamarr

Hedy Lamarr

“Anyone can look glamorous. You just have to stand still and look stupid.” – Hedy Lamarr

If only it were that easy! But even Hedy Lamarr, who was most certainly not stupid, needed a little extra help. So do most of us. Then again, most of us will never achieve it in our ordinary lives, so we enjoy the next best thing: watching the glamor parade onscreen.

What do we really want when we pursue glamour? The answer, of course, is “a certain lifestyle” – which, if it doesn’t make problems disappear, would at least seem to make them easier to bear.

Or even forget, something Hollywood counted on during the Great Depression. Although conventional wisdom of the time held that film was a luxury in which few could or would indulge, for an average price of 27 cents per ticket, audiences flocked to the celluloid world of vicarious romance, fashion and rags-to-riches drama before returning home with, as writer John Farr put it, “enough renewed hope to get them through one more week of grim reality.”

Here’s a look at some screen icons whose sartorial style has held us spellbound in good times as well as bad.

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Swing Time

Top Hat (1935)

So what if the plot is wildly implausible? Ginger Rogers in ostrich feathers and Fred Astaire in tails; diamonds, furs and endless ballrooms; gondolas and seaplanes and the freedom from seemingly all cares but dancing: Astaire isn’t the only one in heaven for nearly two hours.

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queen bee

Queen Bee (1955)

As in real life, a high-handed manner occasionally accompanies high style. Eva Phillips (Joan Crawford) is, at least outwardly, the epitome of bejeweled, fur-wrapped Southern graciousness on her Georgia plantation, but all her gold can’t gild the bitter pill of a jealously manipulative personality.

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Breakfast at Tiffany’s (1961)

Holly Golightly may be a gold-digger and call girl, but the sordidness normally associated with those occupations is missing in this Blake Edwards production. Still, before the ’60s started swinging, Holly’s tiaras, little black dresses, cab drop-offs at dawn and swanky Manhattan parties represented a sophistication that was just a bit dangerous, as well as enviable, to young women.

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great gatsby

The Great Gatsby (1974)

Not only did “Gatsby” costumes earn their designer an Oscar, they spawned a Brooks Brothers collection. From “chandelier” sheaths adorned with crystals to arresting feather headdresses, waistcoats and straw boater hats to Jay Gatsby’s pale pink suit, the wardrobe projects had as strong a personality as its wearer.

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Dynasty (1981-1989)

Glamour, glitz and greed! Dynasty’s storylines contained no shortage of keep-them-coming-back drama, but let’s face it: What we really remember are the sparkling jewels, power suits, designer gowns … and shoulder pads, which star Joan Collins praised for their way of making waists and hips look slimmer. “We went all out,” she said of the series’ fashion sense, adding, “When I started getting very dressed up for every single scene, even in the boudoir, they loved it so much that every other actress was also dressed up to the nines.”

– Lucie Winborne

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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A Brief History of Prom

Life - 1958 prom

The prom is fondly considered a rite of passage and even has been called a “dress rehearsal for a wedding.” An appropriate enough metaphor, given the common elements of elaborate formalwear, music and refreshments, themes and the ceremonial honoring of a couple. But while it hasn’t been around nearly as long as the formal wedding, what we know today simply as “prom” has, like weddings, done its share of evolving down the years.

Originating most likely in the “promenades” held for upper-class university students, the lavish balls of the early 1800s were a way to celebrate the end of college life before entering society, not to mention a vehicle for identifying an appropriate future spouse.

By the early 20th century, they had trickled down to the high- school level and become much simpler affairs: tea dances for seniors in their Sunday best rather than debutantes in sparkling gowns and well-cut suits. While still a milestone in a young person’s life, the emphasis gradually was shifting from a formal presentation to hoofing for the sheer fun of it, especially at the annual class banquets of the ’30s and ’40s.

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Norman Rockwell, "After the Prom"

Norman Rockwell, “After the Prom”

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The thriving postwar economy of the ’50s brought about a return to the glamor we associate with the prom today. Dances were just as likely to be staged at a country club or hotel as a school gymnasium, although perhaps no one has ever topped the venue chosen by first daughter Susan Ford in 1975 – her prom took place at the White House.

Proms took on an increasingly competitive spirit in the quest for best outfit, best transportation and best-looking date, with the coveted position of queen still representing the pinnacle of popularity.

Early promenaders would no doubt be astounded at some of the controversies later associated with their decorous tradition, from a principal threatening cancellation if interracial couples showed up at his school, to the first same-sex prom couples … or no couples at all. Going stag is no longer a badge of shame, and some teens arrive in groups. A commitment to having a great time is the most important factor for the dateless.

And it doesn’t seem that the institution is in any danger of dying, social and economic changes plus a downsized economy notwithstanding. While some attendees scoffingly view it as a wasted evening, others regret missing out on the experience well into their adulthood, even to the extent of attending an “adult” or “alumni” prom or throwing a “prom party,” as actress Drew Barrymore, who also missed her own, did for a friend’s birthday.

But why do we continue to spend oodles of cash on hair and nails and gowns, pose for cheesy photos and cause ourselves annual angst chasing a single night of perfection?

Perhaps the best answer comes from novelist Adora Svitak: “Prom has all the elements of a popular story,” she writes. “It reeks of all-Americanness, tension, drama. It has romance. Pretty dresses. Dancing. Limos. High school. Coming of age.”

Who isn’t captivated by the tale of a really good time?

– Lucie Winborne

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Prom King and Queen.

Prom King and Queen.

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Dressed the the nines for '60s prom.

Dressed the the nines for ’60s prom.

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Senior Prom

’80s prom.

 

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Puttin’ on the Ritz for Black Tie season

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Back in the early 1900s, the New York social season had winter and summer phases, with the winter season stretching from mid-November to the onset of Lent.

Kicking off with the National Horse Show and the opening of the opera season, the society season included balls, receptions, parties and formal dinners. There were coming-out receptions for debutantes and junior cotillions for the younger set.

It was a time for being seen on the scene, for opulent ball gowns and immaculate tuxedoes. “Black tie” meant dress it and how. (Victorian and Edwardian etiquette manuals devoted entire chapters to the layering of proper attire when attending the opera. ) If you were fabulously rich and never had to work a job, the society season gave a gilded one percenter something to do.

The party largely came to an end with the stock market crash of ’29 and the ensuing Great Depression. After that, mainstream Americans found a way into high society through movies, flocking in droves to watch Fred Astaire in tux and tails twirl a gossamer Ginger Roger across a gleaming dance floor.

Since then, fantasy of high society has persisted mostly in those cultural occasions when tux and gown are required—weddings and high-school proms. Through these very plebian events, the glow of Downton Abbey’s aristocracy still can be seen.

This issue of ReMIND declares Black Tie season for an issue and celebrates the arts and laughs of dressing up.

I doubt I could still fit into the last and only tuxedo I have ever worn—a powder-blue zoot I wore for my sister’s wedding back in ’87—but I’ve always fantastized about wearing one into a casino and strolling up to the baccarat table. Look out, Oh Oh Seven . Ah well, a boy can still dream.

– David Cohea

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Bond

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Style on Screen

hedy-lamarr

“Anyone can look glamorous. You just have to stand still and look stupid.” – Hedy Lamarr

If only it were that easy! But even Hedy Lamarr, who was most certainly not stupid, needed a little extra help. So do most of us. Then again, most of us will never achieve it in our ordinary lives, so we enjoy the next best thing: watching the glamor parade onscreen.

What do we really want when we pursue glamour? The answer, of course, is “a certain lifestyle” – which, if it doesn’t make problems disappear, would at least seem to make them easier to bear.

Or even forget, something Hollywood counted on during the Great Depression. Although conventional wisdom of the time held that film was a luxury in which few could or would indulge, for an average price of 27 cents per ticket, audiences flocked to the celluloid world of vicarious romance, fashion and rags-to-riches drama before returning home with, as writer John Farr put it, “enough renewed hope to get them through one more week of grim reality.”

Here’s a look at some screen icons whose sartorial style has held us spellbound in good times as well as bad.

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Ginger Rogers and Fred Astaire in "Top Hat"

Ginger Rogers and Fred Astaire

Top Hat (1935)

So what if the plot is wildly implausible? Ginger Rogers in ostrich feathers and Fred Astaire in tails; diamonds, furs and endless ballrooms; gondolas and seaplanes and the freedom from seemingly all cares but dancing: Astaire isn’t the only one in heaven for nearly two hours.

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Joan Crawford in "Queen Bee"

Joan Crawford in “Queen Bee”

Queen Bee (1955)

As in real life, a high-handed manner occasionally accompanies high style. Eva Phillips (Joan Crawford) is, at least outwardly, the epitome of bejeweled, fur-wrapped Southern graciousness on her Georgia plantation, but all her gold can’t gild the bitter pill of a jealously manipulative personality.

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Audrey Hepburn in "Breakfast at Tiffany's"

Audrey Hepburn in “Breakfast at Tiffany’s”

Breakfast at Tiffany’s (1961)

Holly Golightly may be a gold-digger and call girl, but the sordidness normally associated with those occupations is missing in this Blake Edwards production. Still, before the ’60s started swinging, Holly’s tiaras, little black dresses, cab drop-offs at dawn and swanky Manhattan parties represented a sophistication that was just a bit dangerous, as well as enviable, to young women.

space

great gatsby

The Great Gatsby (1974)

Not only did “Gatsby” costumes earn their designer an Oscar, they spawned a Brooks Brothers collection. From “chandelier” sheaths adorned with crystals to arresting feather headdresses, waistcoats and straw boater hats to Jay Gatsby’s pale pink suit, the wardrobe projects had as strong a personality as its wearer.

space

Linda Evans, John Forsythe and Joan Collins in "Dynasty."

Linda Evans, John Forsythe and Joan Collins in “Dynasty.”

Dynasty (1981-1989)

Glamour, glitz and greed! Dynasty’s storylines contained no shortage of keep-them-coming-back drama, but let’s face it: What we really remember are the sparkling jewels, power suits, designer gowns … and shoulder pads, which star Joan Collins praised for their way of making waists and hips look slimmer. “We went all out,” she said of the series’ fashion sense, adding, “When I started getting very dressed up for every single scene, even in the boudoir, they loved it so much that every other actress was also dressed up to the nines.”

- Lucie Winborne

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Fear

alfred hitchcoock

Ghosts and goblins may scare children only—but they haunt you all your life

 

By Alfred Hitchcock, as told to Adele Whitely Fletcher

American Weekly magazine, Oct. 30, 1960 

A baby, coming into this world brings with him two fears— the fear of falling, the fear of a loud and sudden noise.

Then what happens?

Then the two who love him most proceed to encourage these fears. His adoring mother bends toward him, suddenly, with a loud “Boo!” If he reacts with laughter, she is enchanted. But sometimes he hiccoughs instead. His exuberant father throws him into the air and catches him in his arms. If he laughs, his father is proud. But sometimes the baby cries, instead.

James Stewart suffers a nightmare of falling in "Vertigo"

James Stewart suffers a nightmare of falling in “Vertigo”

Nor does a child’s education in fear stop there. It continues with a scary curriculum of ghost stories, Halloween capers, neighborhood gossip of haunted houses, amusement-park treats in which skulls with green eyes gleam in the darkness and blood-curdling shrieks rend the air, and stories as terrifying as Little Red Riding Hood. As a postgraduate course in fear for the kindergarten set there are, of course, threats of bogeyman, big dogs and policemen who come after bad children.

Some phases of fear we enjoy. Or I would not be in business.

The next time you pass a school playground, stop for a minute and watch the little girl in the swing. There’s sure to be a little girl in a swing. Whether she propels herself or is pushed by a little boy, she insists upon going higher and higher until the physical excitement of fear overtakes her, Then she is satisfied, eager even, to slow down.

A birthday party goes awry in "The Birds"

A birthday party goes awry in “The Birds”

Later, I’m happy to say, in what appears to be the same quest for spine-tingling, older girls will say to their boyfriends, “Let’s go to the movies; a Hitchcock thriller’s playing.”

Clearly my audiences go to the theater hoping to be scared out of their wits. I try not to disappoint them. And there are certain principles, I have learned, which I can depend on when I want my audiences to shiver.

For one thing, danger must be imminent. When the danger is remote and far away, it does nothing to an audience.

 

Janet Leigh, publicity photo for "Psycho"

Janet Leigh, publicity photo for “Psycho”

For another, imagination is more powerful than reality. How often do we fear something that is about to happen—only to find, when it does, that it isn’t really so bad after all. In my films I usually try not to show violence, rather to let the audience’s imagination supply it.

Again, people are afraid not only for themselves, but for others. Wherever Psycho was shown, audiences cried out warnings to any unsuspecting character who started towards the “house of danger.” And when these characters entered the house and began to climb the stairs. a breathlessness filled the theater. It was delicious.

 

Staircase in "Psycho"

Staircase in “Psycho”

Incidentally, the better known a star, the more acutely an audience will worry about him. When a relatively unknown actor, with whom they have little identification, is in danger, they feel merely concern. The scene in North by Northwest in which Cary Grant was chased by an airplane brought me more letters than any other scene I ever have directed.

Many of the fears we carry with us are products of our civilization. For instance:

The fear of atom and hydrogen bombs; fear we will lose control of ourselves; fears about money; fear of old age and helplessness; fear—when things are going wonderfully—that our good fortune won’t last.

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Cary Grant looks like he's about to become  propeller meat in "North by Northwest"

Cary Grant looks like he’s about to become propeller meat in “North by Northwest”

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Cue the violins!

Cue the violins!

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A ‘Monster Mash’ Love Affair – Fright at First Sight

UniversalMonsters

They’re creepy and ugly and usually have very bad intentions.

But we Americans can’t do without our monsters! That delicious thrill of being frightened from the comfort of our couches … the vicarious excitement of wondering what we would do in the same situations (who hasn’t yelled instructions at a hero or heroine in jeopardy?). Sometimes it’s just plain fun to get the daylights scared out of us. And in the late ’50s and early ’60s, monster mania was in full ghoul swing.

Shock_Theater

The rage was ignited in 1957, when Universal Pictures released its repertoire of classic monster movies for television syndication. Beloved characters such as the Wolfman and the Mummy spooked a new generation tuning in weekly to Shock Theatre. A year later, Famous Monsters of Filmland magazine, which was originally conceived as a single-run publication, sold out its first issue in no time and ended up running for over two decades.

It wasn’t long before ghouls found their way from the small screen to the airwaves. While awaiting his Hollywood discovery, aspiring actor Bobby Pickett sang in clubs with the Cordials, impersonating film actors as part of his act. Pickett’s mimicry of Boris Karloff as Frankenstein’s monster proved so popular with his audience that the singer’s bandmate encouraged him to pen a novelty song. The resulting hit, “Monster Mash,” though originally rejected by major record labels, is still played around the country every Halloween.

Bobby "Monster Mash" Pickett

Bobby “Monster Mash” Pickett

Aurora Plastics Corporation didn’t hesitate to jump on the spook bandwagon. By 1960, its customers were clamoring for monster plastic figure kits, and when Dr. Frankenstein’s hulking green creation made its debut in ’61, retailers could hardly keep it in stock. Dracula, King Kong and their cohorts soon followed. Kids also could put together a jigsaw puzzle of the Creature from the Black Lagoon – which glowed in the dark! – affix creepy rat and coffin stickers to their notebooks, eat their ice cream with monster spoons or race Bride of Frankenstein Hot Wheels cars.

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Of course, sometimes monsters aren’t so scary … just the folks next door. Much of the humor in TV shows like The Addams Family and The Munsters stemmed from the fact that their stars never realized how much they differed from their more conventional neighbors. While both clans had their share of misunderstanding-based adventures, their mixed-generation households still reflected the idealized loving family.

The Addams Family: Just another resident of Everytown, USA. Not.

The Addams Family: Just another resident of Everytown, USA. Not.

Sci-fi fantasy (think Star Wars) and gore (A Nightmare oOn Elm Street, anyone?) eventually helped banish Hollywood’s favorite spooks to late-night-rerun land, but even as zombies are the monster du jour for today’s fans, bets are on as to what form the next creature craze will take. Perhaps we’ll see a return to yesteryear’s favorites, given the recent resurfacing of Godzilla and his undiminished appetite for mayhem. The right combination of what one writer called “the appeal to awe, wonder and the unknown” with human imagination and some special effects should ensure that our love affair with fright never grows old.

- Lucie Winborne

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Monster tradiing cards, 1960s.

Monster tradiing cards, 1960s.

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Mad Magazine, Sept. 64. At the height of the monster craze.

Mad Magazine, Sept. 64. At the height of the monster craze.

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Milton the Monster Game, 1966.

Milton the Monster Game, 1966.

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Famous Monsters of Filmland Magazine, 1958.

Famous Monsters of Filmland Magazine, 1958.

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Colgate Palmolive Monster Soaky Set, 1963.

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Pop Tops Vampire and Skeleton, 1964.

Pop Tops Vampire and Skeleton, 1964.

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Ideal Mini-Monsters, 1965.

Ideal Mini-Monsters, 1965.

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"The Thing" coin bank, 1964.

“The Thing” coin bank, 1964.

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Roger Corman: King of Screams

night of the blood beast

Angela Greene delivers a Roger Cormanesque scream in “Night Of The Blood Beast,” 1958. The boys from from “Mystery Science Theater 3000″ approve, sort of.

Roger Corman has written, directed, produced and acted in some 450 films since 1954. If you were watching a horror movie in the grittiest theater in town, necking at the drive-in, watching “Movie Macabre” with Elvira, or catching the midnight movie at the Octoplex at the mall, or home watching the VCR or late-night naughtiness Showtime, a Roger Corman movie probably was screaming and squealing, crunching and munching on the screen.

Born April 5, 1926, Corman got his start in the 1950s supplying product for distribution by American Releasing Corporation (later American International Pictures). He would be given a sum of money and an advertising campaign (or sometimes just a title), and he would have to come up with the scripts and produce the films. If he had to shoot a film on location, he would always try to shoot a second film at that same location in order to spread out the costs.

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Roger Corman directs.

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In his early days, Corman never bothered with permits, shooting films on location and skedaddling before the cops arrived. He was the first to use union crews on low-budget films, figuring correctly that they would give his films a high polish, even though his budget was devoured so fast using union labor that he could never shoot for longer than a week.

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beverlygarland conquered the world

Beverly Garland and friend–I mean fiend–in “It Conquered The World,” 1956.

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One of his maxims was, “In science-fiction films the monster should always be bigger than the leading lady.” He learned this on such low-budget scream-fests as The Beast With a Million Eyes (1955) and Attack of The Crab Monsters (1957).

One joke about Corman was that he could negotiate the production of a film on a pay phone, shoot the film in the booth and finance it with the money in the change slot.

In the ’60s, Corman was able to move into more mainstream moviemaking. When American International offered him a sum of money to create a low-budget double feature, he countered with an offer to use the same money to shoot a single feature in color and Cinemascope. The result was House of Usher (1960) starring Vincent Price. The movie was a hit and earned unheard-of critical praise for AIP. Corman went on to make seven more in his “Poe Series,” including Pit and the Pendulum (1961) and The Masque of the Red Death (1964).

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Filming “The Pit And The Pendulum,” 1961.

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During the 1970s, Corman began booking his films in theaters but also aggressively in drive-ins that were starting to fade from the scene and thus desperate for product. A whole stream of Corman-produced low-budget exploitation films thrived in that market, ranging from The Student Nurses (1970), Women in Cages (1971), Grand Theft Auto (1977), and Rock n Roll High School (1979).

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the student nurses - lobby card

Lobby card for “The Student Nurses,” 1970.

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As director and producer, Corman launched the careers of many now-famous film directors, such as Francis Ford Coppola, Jonathan Demme, Ron Howard, James Cameron and Martin Scorcese. He also offered roles to then-unknown actors and actresses such as Jack Nicholon, Charles Bronson, Robert De Niro, Sylvester Stallone and Sandra Bullock. Famously, he told them, “If you do a good job on this film, you’ll never have to work for me again.”

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Ron Howard’s first full length directing effort was the Roger Corman-produced “Grand Theft Auto” (1977).

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As the drive-in market collapsed with the advent of cable and videocassettes, Corman sold New World in 1983 and started Concorde-New Horizons, creating product aimed for this new market. Some of the films he produced there include Deathstalker (1983) Big Bad Mama II (1987) and Carnosaur (1993).

With the advent of digital, Corman’s low-budget special effects lost some of their appeal. And as direct-to-video waned to cable product, Corman struck deals to produce direct-to-cable movies with Showtime, the Sci-Fi Network and American Cable Network. Now in his late 70s, Corman hasn’t let up on his production schedule. Some recent TV efforts include Dinoshark (2010) and Attack of the 50-Foot Cheerleader (2012).

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Superjaws in “Dinoshark” (2010)

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With hundreds of movies to his credit, one of Corman’s most amazing achievements is that less than a dozen of these films failed to turn a profit.

In 1999, Corman was honored with an Academy Award for Lifetime Achievement.

Many of Corman’s early movies have been digitized and are available on DVD. It’s true that Corman once said, “I never made the film I wanted to make. No matter what happens it never turns out exactly as I hoped.” Now in his mid-80s, he’s still at it, and what he continues to crank out remains fresh and wild and an utter hoot to watch.

– David Cohea

First posted July 2013

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lori nelson16 day the world ended

Dude just doesn’t understand it when Lori Nelson says “No” in “The Day The World Ended,” 1955.

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traci lords not of this earth

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“Hot Car Girl,” 1958.

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“The Navy vs. The Night Monsters,” 1966.

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hazle court masque of red death

Hazel Court adds a loud coda in “The Masque of Red Death” (1964).

 

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