James H. Nicholson
BiographySeattle, Washington, USA
One of the two founders of AIP (American International Pictures), James H. Nicholson was born in the Midwest in 1916. He was working as a promo man for Realart Pictures when, in 1955, he struck up a partnership with fellow Midwesterner (from Iowa) Samuel Z. Arkoff. They founded American Releasing Corp. (ARC), soon to become AIP, which would turn out 500 movies, over 60 of them produced by Nicholson. AIP discovered a niche that was being completely ignored by mainstream Hollywood--teenagers. It turned out movies about hot rods and rock 'n' roll, and the drive-ins filled with kids. Read more... ton of horror movies, of course, such as The Amazing Colossal Man (1957), among others. When Columbia's The Werewolf (1956) became a hit, AIP came out with not only I Was a Teenage Werewolf (1957) but, for good measure, I Was a Teenage Frankenstein (1957). To make sure all its bases were covered, AIP came out the next year with How to Make a Monster (1958), teaming these two teen monsters in a story about a makeup artist who plans revenge against the studio that dumped him after 25 years--a part allegedly written originally by Edward D. Wood Jr. for his friend Bela Lugosi before Lugosi died. In the 1960s, AIP turned out a string of zany, inexpensive but highly profitable "Beach Party" movies full of sand, songs, surf and (albeit tame) sex. Actress Susan Hart had been cast in about a half-dozen films that Nicholson produced; in 1965, the 49-year-old Nicholson divorced his wife Sylvia and married 24-year-old Hart, who had appeared in The Ghost in the Invisible Bikini (1966). AIP hit upon the surefire moneymaking formula of coming up with movies that teenagers loved. In addition to grinding out hot-rod, rock-and-roll and horror pictures, in the 1960s it began to buy inexpensive, Italian-produced "sword and sandal" movies for $20,000 or so, dub them into English, and release them to American audiences, to the sound of ringing cash registers. When the biker craze hit, AIP was there with The Wild Angels (1966). Nicholson continued to make movies until he died in 1972. His wife remarried, and is now Susan Nicholson-Hofheinz. Around 1978, Arkoff, no longer interested the film business, sold AIP for approximately $4 million. With that, an era came to an end, but millions of fans are grateful that AIP's films are still available for late-night viewing.