Friday, November 11, 2011

Corwin, Corman, Korman –- It’s All Good

I owe Norman Corwin an apology. I guess I’m too late to deliver it, since he died October 18 at the age of 101. Still, I feel a bit guilty. Let me explain.

Back when I was Roger Corman’s story editor at Concorde-New Horizons Pictures, it was not uncommon to see fan-mail lying around the office. Generally the letters (often badly spelled and punctuated) that our mailman delivered were from passionate young Corman enthusiasts, overflowing with affection for the King of the Bs. One letter was different, so different that it got scotch-taped to the wall above the copy machine. It was from a fan too, and yet it was addressed not to Roger Corman but to Norman Corwin. It turned out to be a serious note of appreciation thanking Corwin for his long and meaningful career in radio. Clearly, the sender had mailed his heart-felt missive to the wrong address.

The office flunky who posted it for all of us to read had scribbled an off-hand comment poking fun at this geezer who didn’t know the difference between Corman and Corwin (whoever the hell HE was). Personally, I knew who Corwin was, though his great days were well before my time, and I felt sorry for the fan whose letter had gone so far astray. Still, I made no effort to send his letter on to the right destination. (Hey, I was busy making 170 movies!) Now that Norman Corwin has left the building, the newspapers are filled with obits detailing how much he once meant to earlier generations of Americans. For capturing in his voice-plays the epic moments of the World War II era, he was called “the poet of the airwaves” and “the poet laureate of radio.” And he was obviously a great guy, to boot. One twenty-year colleague told NPR how Corwin finally came up with an answer for journalists who pestered him with questions about the wording of his epitaph. He said he’d like his head-stone to proclaim that he was shot in a duel (at age 126) by a jealous lover. Too bad he went 25 years early, felled by natural causes.

Meanwhile, Roger Corman lives and thrives. (At 85, he’s a mere youngster). But even he is not immune to name confusions. When I used to tell people I worked for Roger Corman, acquaintances would occasionally mention how hilarious he was. Yes, Roger made some dark-comedy classics, like Little Shop of Horrors and Bucket of Blood, and in conversation he could show a certain dry wit, but I had a strong hunch we were talking about two different people. Sure enough, they meant Harvey Korman, the clown-prince of the Carol Burnett Show. In 1987, by the way, Harvey Korman was cast as a space archaeologist (and his evil twin) in a Gremlins-type Concorde monster comedy called Munchies. He did his usual sterling job, but the casting also had a whiff of inevitability: a film combining the talents of Corman and Korman was one of those ideas whose time had finally come.

I had little to do with Munchies. But somebody at Concorde obviously liked the title. A few years later I worked on (and, along with the rest of my family, briefly appeared in) a good-natured family film called Munchie, about a less-scary supernatural critter who comes to live with a lonely young boy. But that, of course, is another story.


  1. Oh my god, I had totally forgotten about this awful movie! It has its fans, though. I do remember Korman being in it and that's about it aside from the puppet Gremlin thing. I was just thinking about GREMLINS yesterday, too. Loved Korman on BLAZING SADDLES and Carol Burnett Show. I wish you could buy those DVDs as part of a box set as opposed to the separate volumes you see late at night on TV!

    Please to tell the story alluded, teased and hinted at in your last sentence!

    Quite a personal post as always, and your typical high standards, Beverly.

  2. That's hilarious! Who wouldn't pay real money to see Roger Corman as straight man to Tim Conway just one time...or for that matter, Harvey Korman's The Masque of the Red Death?