R.I.P. Ricou Browning, underwater director and original Gill-man from Creature From The Black Lagoon

Creature From The Black Lagoon
Creature From The Black Lagoon
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Ricou Browning, an actor, director, and cinematographer with a very specific speciality, has died. Browning was best known for doing underwater stunts, most famously in 1954’s Creature From The Black Lagoon and its two sequels, where he played the eponymous monster (or “Gill-man”) during underwater scenes. The Hollywood Reporter says that Browning died at his home in Florida from natural causes, with his family saying in a statement that he “had a fabulous career in the film industry, providing wonderful entertainment for past and future generations.” Browning was 93.

Born in Florida in 1930, Browning studied physical education and worked with professional swimming instructor Newt Perry, who hired Browning at his underwater performance venue Weeki Wachee Springs. In the ‘50s, Browning took a film crew around the nearby Wakulla Springs area and did some on-camera swimming for them so they could visualize what it was like seeing someone underwater. The film they were developing was monster movie Creature From The Black Lagoon, and the crew later offered Browning the job of playing the Gill-man for the movie’s underwater scenes (another actor, Ben Chapman, played the creature on land).

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Creature from the Black Lagoon (4/10) Movie CLIP - Underwater Stalking (1954) HD

The shoot involved Browning being in the costume, underwater, for long periods of time, but his swimming training and experience with underwater performances evidently made it much more manageable than it would’ve been otherwise. He reprised his role as the Gill-man in 1955’s Revenge Of The Creature and 1956’s The Creature Walks Among Us (with different actors replacing Chapman for the on-land version).

Browning then worked on various underwater-themed TV shows as a stunt double, including Sea Hunt and The Aquanauts, and in 1963 he and Jack Cowden co-created the concept for Flipper—the movie about a boy who befriends an injured dolphin, which spawned sequels, a TV adaptation, and various revival attempts in the ‘90s. Browning directed a number of episodes of the ‘60s Flipper show and went on to direct underwater scenes and general second unit footage in a few Hollywood movies—like Thunderball and Caddyshack.

Browning is survived by four children, 10 grandchildren, and 11 great-grandchildren.

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