George A. Romero was known for more than being the Czar of zombie movies in Hollywood. He was recognized as the patriarch of the zombie movie crusade in cinema. He was also the originator of the revolutionary “Night of the Living Dead” franchise.
The legendary filmmaker passed away Sunday, July 17, 2017, in his sleep. After a “short-lived but aggressive fight with lung cancer,” as stated by Los Angeles Times, he died at 77, listening to the music of one his favorite motion pictures, “The Quiet Man,” 1952. At his side, was his wife Suzanne Desrocher, and daughter Tina Romero.
The Making of a Legend
Born to a Cuban father and a Lithuanian-American mother on Feb. 4, 1940, he grew up in the Bronx. His father was of Castilian descent and was a commercial painter. In Romero’s younger years, he often rode the underpass into Manhattan to rent film rolls. Years later, he would attend Carnegie Mellon College in Pittsburgh.
He graduated in 1960, and immediately started a film career making short movies and TV commercials. A small part of “Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood” was an early commercial film he produced wherein Rogers underwent a tonsillectomy. In 1968, he produced his first zombie movie called “Night of the Living Dead.” In 1978, he came back to the zombie genre with “Dawn of the Dead.”
The film was inexpensive and made on a financial plan of less than $500,000. At the box office, it grossed over $55 million global and became an immediate success. In 2003, “Dawn of the Dead” was honored as one of the top cult movies, by Entertainment Weekly. The hit movie was followed by the film, “Day of the Dead” in 1985.
Not a Fan
Romero stated on many occasions that he was not always a fan of the zombie franchise. In 2013, during an interview with a British newspaper, he mentioned that he had been requested to do some episodes of “The Walking Dead,” but Romero declined. He claimed that he had no interest. He referred to the successful series as a soap opera with a zombie being shown here and there. “I always used the zombie as a character for mockery or a political disapproval, and I find that absent in ‘The Walking Dead.’”
The filmmaker took an original opinion to his portrayal of zombies, a tactic he discovered missing in some of the zombie series and films that came after him. However, he was a fan of video games. In fact, Romero, in 2012, revisited video games and recorded his voice for “Zombie Squash.” He was invited to play the lead anti-hero Dr. B. E. Vil. He also made an appearance in the additionally downloadable map pack entitled “Escalation” for “Call of Duty: Black Ops,” another video game.
Many filmmakers do not mind dubbing this artist as the Czar of Zombie movies. It is a fact that his impact, and that of “Night of the Living Dead,” is extensively admired among many filmmakers and entertainers involved with the zombie sub-genre. Romero was given his last reward, the Mastermind Prize at Spike TV’s Scream, in 2009.
The honor was handed over by longtime Romero admirer Quentin Tarantino. However, Romero knew that he was no longer the pioneer in the zombie craze. “At one time, I was the only guy in this playing field, but now there’s way too many,” Romero said.
By Jomo Merritt
Edited by Jeanette Smith
Los Angeles: George A. Romero, ‘Night of the Living Dead’ creator, dies at 77
Variety: George A. Romero, ‘Night of the Living Dead’ Director, Dies at 77
The Rolling Stone: George A. Romero, Pioneering Horror Director, Dead at 77
Featured and Top Image by Nicolas Genin of Wikimedia – Creative Commons License
First Insert Image by George A. Romero of Wikimedia – Public Domain License
Second Insert Image Courtesy of Gage Skidmore’s Flickr Page – Public Domain License