R.I.P. Ricou Browning, the aquatic Gill-man in Creature From the Black Lagoon
The underwater legend came back twice more as the Gill-man before creating the ''Flipper'' franchise. He was 93 years old.
Creature From the Black Lagoon star Ricou Browning passed away on February 27. The actor was the menacing Gill-man in the water scenes in the classic 1954 film and the creative force behind the original Flipper movie and television show.
According to The Hollywood Reporter, Browning died Monday of natural causes at his Southwest Ranches, Florida home. His daughter, Kim Browning, told the publication, "He had a fabulous career in the film industry, providing wonderful entertainment for past and future generations."
Browning was born on February 16, 1930, in Fort Pierce, Florida. He attended Florida State University and worked as a performer in water shows at Weeki Wachee Springs. He also was on the U.S. Air Force swim team.
The actor, along with his brother-in-law, Jack Cowden, wrote the story for MGM's Flipper (1963), starring Chuck Connors and Luke Halpin. He would later step behind the camera to direct 37 episodes of the 1964 show of the same name.
He also served as a stuntman for Richard Fleischer's 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea (1954) and doubled for Jerry Lewis in Don't Give Up the Ship (1959). Browning once said in a 2013 interview that he "played all the bad guy's in [TV's] Sea Hunt."
Browning directed various film scenes, including the harpoon-filled fight in Thunderball (1965), an underwater scene in Never Say Never (1983), and a Jaws-inspired "candy bar-in-the-pool" scene in Caddyshack (1980).
Though he had many impressive acting roles and director credits, playing the underwater Gill-man was his most-known. According to Browning, he routinely held his breath for four minutes at a time while filming the Universal Pictures classic.
His costume was memorable for many reasons, but it was awkward when the actor wore it for the first time. "[It] was cumbersome at first. When I first put it on, it seemed awkward and clumsy," he once said. "But once I got into the movie, I forgot I had it on. I became the creature."
The Gill-man joined the Universal monster Hall of Fame along with other classic monsters like Dracula and the Mummy. Browning would return as the Gill-man in the sequel movies, 1955's Revenge of the Creature and 1956's The Creature Walks Among Us.
In 2018, Browning joined the Rondo Hatton Awards Monster Kid Hall of Fame, which would go on to induct Svengoolie — who has praised Creature as one of his favorite movies, and the Gill-man as one of the best Universal monsters — two years later. Browning was 93 years old.
Trivia: Tommy Norden, who played "Bud" in the TV series lived in Surfside, Florida - just a few dorrs away from a friend whom I used to come over to visit when I was a young teen.
While I was a bit "star struck" as a kid to know that Tommy lived in that neighborhood, I never did get to meet him. I met his sister, I met his mother (who graciously invited me into their house to show me a photo on the wall of Tommy playing the "Winthrop Paroo" part alongside Bert Parks [as Harold Hill] in "The Music Man" on stage)...
The "Winthrop" part was played on screen by Ronnie Howard...
Ithink his work on Flipper and the movies is more memorable. Ivan Tors tendsto get that credit
He is the only actor to play the Gill-man in more than one film. He played him in the underwater scenes of Creature from the Black Lagoon (1954), Revenge of the Creature (1955) and The Creature Walks Among Us (1956). The Creature was played on land by Ben Chapman in the first film, Tom Hennesy in the second and Don Megowan in the third.
With the death of Tom Hennesy on May 23, 2011, he is the last surviving actor to have played a classic Universal Monster. He played the Gill-man in Creature from the Black Lagoon (1954), Revenge of the Creature (1955) and The Creature Walks Among Us (1956). Hennesy played the same character in the second film.
He directed the underwater sequences of both Thunderball (1965) and its remake Never Say Never Again (1983).
In 2020. he is scheduled to appear at the "Monster Bash" convention in Mars, Pennsylvania due to his appearance as the creature in the underwater scenes of the "Creature from the Black Lagoon" trilogy in the early to mid-1950s.
Note of his passing:
Monster Bash Conference
Rest In Peace, Our Beloved Creature...Ricou Browning.
Earlier today (Tuesday), Renee Browning called me. She's Ricou's daughter. She let me know that Ricou had contacted Pneumonia and just couldn't kick it. He passed away yesterday morning (February 27, 2023). Ricou was born February 16, 1930. He was 93.
All fans of classic movies knew that he was the underwater Creature in CREATURE FROM THE BLACK LAGOON, REVENGE OF THE CREATURE and THE CREATURE WALKS AMONG US. He had a long career in film, many times involving underwater photography. He was a writer on the FIPPER TV show (even playing an underwater monster in one show once more for that show). He was a second unit director on the James Bond film THUNDERBALL and for the comedy CADDYSHACK as well. He also was a writer for the science fiction, giant crab movie ISLAND CLAWS and directed episodes of the TV show GENTLE BEN too.
Myself and all the people that help out and attend at MONSTER BASH will never forget his appearances there with his daughter. He sometimes played the grumpy old guy...but, he had a heart of gold. We all loved the guy. He was creative, innovative and was an asset to films throughout his life.
Rest in Peace, Ricou Browning, the last of the people who played a Universal Classic Monster.