Ricou Ren Browning (February 16, 1930 – February 27, 2023) was an American stunt performer, filmmaker and actor. A skilled swimmer, he was known for his innovative underwater stunt work, notably in the 1954 film Creature from the Black Lagoon, in which he portrayed the titular Gill-man during the film's underwater scenes, and in the 1965 James Bond film Thunderball, where he was the underwater sequences director. He was also the co-creator of the Flipper media franchise.

Ricou Browning
Browning in the Gill-man costume, c. 1953
Ricou Ren Browning

(1930-02-16)February 16, 1930
DiedFebruary 27, 2023(2023-02-27) (aged 93)
Years active1945–1986

Early life edit

Ricou Ren Browning was born in Fort Pierce, Florida, on February 16, 1930.[1][2][3] He majored in physical education at Florida State University.[4]

Career edit

Browning in March 2019

Browning started a career in water shows, moving on to produce shows. Browning worked at Wakulla Springs in the 1940s and learned to perform in underwater newsreels conceived by Newt Perry, who later took Browning along when he opened Weeki Wachee Springs.[5]

While working at Wakulla Springs in 1953, Browning was asked to show around a film crew scouting for shooting locations.[6] According to Browning, "Their cameraman asked if I could swim in front of the cameras so they could get the perspective of the size of a human being against the fish and the grass. So I did."[6] Days later, the crew offered Browning the role of the titular Gill-man in the film Creature from the Black Lagoon (1954).[6] Browning accepted, and played the Gill-man in the film's underwater scenes, while actor Ben Chapman played the monster on land.[7][8] During filming, Browning reportedly held his breath underwater for up to four minutes at a time.[3][9] Browning reprised his role as the underwater Gill-man in two sequels, Revenge of the Creature (1955) and The Creature Walks Among Us (1956).

Browning continued in movie production and joined Ivan Tors' studios in Florida, where with Jack Cowden he co-wrote and co-produced the 1963 film Flipper (about an intelligent bottlenose dolphin); Browning also directed the second unit underwater scenes for the film.[10] Browning continued writing and directing for the subsequent Flipper television series that debuted in 1964.[11]

He made his feature film directorial debut with Salty (1973), which he also co-wrote with Cowden,[6] and directed the cult film Mr. No Legs (1978).

He worked as second unit director, stunt coordinator and underwater sequence director on a number of features, including the James Bond films Thunderball (1965) and Never Say Never Again (1983), Around the World Under the Sea (1966), Island of the Lost (1967), Hello Down There (1969), and Caddyshack (1980).[5]

A Florida native,[12] Browning was inducted into the Florida Artists Hall of Fame in 2012.[5] In 2019, he was inducted into the Rondo Hatton Classic Horror Awards' Monster Kid Hall of Fame.[13]

Prior to his death, Browning was considered the last surviving original actor to portray any of the Universal Classic Monsters.[14][15][16]

Personal life and death edit

Browning had two sons, Kelly Browning, Ricou Browning, Jr., who is also a marine coordinator, actor, and stuntman.[6][17][18] He also had two daughters—Renee, and Kim—along with 10 grandchildren and 11 great-grandchildren.[19] His wife, Fran, died in March 2020.[19]

Browning died at home in Southwest Ranches, Florida, on February 27, 2023, at age 93.[14][19]

Selected filmography edit

Film edit

As actor/stuntman edit

Year Title Role Notes Ref(s)
1954 Creature from the Black Lagoon Gill-man Underwater scenes [7]
1954 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea Stunt diver [2][20]
1955 Revenge of the Creature Gill-man Underwater scenes [2]
1956 The Creature Walks Among Us Gill-man Underwater scenes [2]
1964 Flipper's New Adventure Dr. Burton [21]

As director/writer/stunt coordinator edit

Year Title Director Writer Stunt coordinator Notes Ref(s)
1963 Flipper Second unit Co-writer Yes Underwater scenes; co-wrote story with Jack Cowden; also associate producer [10]
1965 Thunderball Second unit Yes Underwater scenes [2]
1966 Around the World Under the Sea Second unit Diving sequences [22]
1967 Island of the Lost Second unit Underwater scenes [23]
1969 Hello Down There Second unit Underwater scenes [24][25]
1973 Salty Yes Co-writer Co-wrote with Jack Cowden [26]
1978 Mr. No Legs Yes [27]
1979 Hot Stuff Second unit [28]
1980 Caddyshack Second unit [26][29]
1980 Raise the Titanic Second unit [26][28]
1980 Island Claws Co-writer Co-wrote with Jack Cowden [26][30]
1981 Nobody's Perfekt Second unit [26]
1983 Never Say Never Again Second unit Underwater scenes [2]
1985 The Heavenly Kid Yes [28]
1986 Opposing Force Miami unit [26]
1988 Police Academy 5: Assignment Miami Beach Second unit [28]

Television edit

As actor/stuntman edit

Year Title Role Notes Ref(s)
1958–1961 Sea Hunt Second unit stunt double; 30 episodes [3][31]
1960–1961 The Aquanauts[a] Stunt double [28]
1964–1967 Flipper Water Skier/The Monster 2 episodes: "Lifeguard" and "Flipper's Monster" [22]

As director edit

Year Title Notes Ref(s)
1958–1961 Sea Hunt Underwater scenes; multiple episodes [10]
1964–1967 Flipper 37 episodes [22]

Notes edit

  1. ^ Later known as Malibu Run.

References edit

  1. ^ Genzlinger, Neil (March 5, 2023). "Ricou Browning, Who Made the Black Lagoon Scary, Dies at 93". The New York Times. Retrieved March 5, 2023.
  2. ^ a b c d e f Freese 2014, p. 30.
  3. ^ a b c Rizzo, Marian (July 18, 2013). "A Silver Springs story: Ricou Browning was the Creature". Star–Banner. Archived from the original on June 5, 2019. Retrieved July 25, 2019.
  4. ^ "Wet and Wild: Ricou Browning Will Always Be The Creature from the Black Lagoon". People. Vol. 41, no. 12. April 4, 1994. Archived from the original on March 3, 2016. Retrieved August 21, 2011.
  5. ^ a b c "Ricou Browning | Florida Artists Hall of Fame". Florida Department of State. Archived from the original on July 29, 2013. Retrieved April 25, 2013.
  6. ^ a b c d e Dunne, Susan (August 23, 2016). "Creature From Black Lagoon Resurfacing For CT HorrorFest". Hartford Courant. Retrieved September 23, 2021.
  7. ^ a b Kinnard, Roy (1988). Beasts and Behemoths. Scarecrow Press. pp. 68–69. ISBN 978-0810820623.
  8. ^ Luckhardt, Alice L.; Luckhardt, Greg E. (March 15, 2012). "Martin County's Ricou Browning played the 'Creature from the Black Lagoon'". TCPalm/Treasure Coast Newspapers. Retrieved April 9, 2022.
  9. ^ McBrayer, Mary Kay (November 19, 2021). "The Immortal Creature: Ricou Browning". Fangoria. Retrieved April 7, 2022.
  10. ^ a b c O'Barry, Richard; Coulbourn, Keith (2000). Behind the Dolphin Smile: A True Story That Will Touch the Hearts of Animal Lovers Everywhere. St. Martin's Griffin. p. 124. ISBN 978-1580631013.
  11. ^ Paietta, Ann C.; Kauppila, Jean L. (1994). Animals on Screen and Radio. Scarecrow Press. p. 301. ISBN 978-0810829398.
  12. ^ Voger, Mark (April 26, 2013). "Ricou Browning performed swimmingly as movie monster". NJ.com. Retrieved September 23, 2021.
  13. ^ Colton, David (February 19, 2019). "Winners of the (Gasp!) 17th Annual Rondo Hatton Classic Horror Awards". RondoAward.com.
  14. ^ a b Squires, John (February 28, 2023). "Original 'Creature from the Black Lagoon' Performer Ricou Browning Has Passed Away". Bloody Disgusting. Retrieved February 28, 2023.
  15. ^ Squires, John (October 3, 2018). "The Salem Horror Fest Kicks Off Tomorrow, So Be Sure to Get Tickets While You Can!". Bloody Disgusting. Retrieved April 7, 2022.
  16. ^ Hamman, Cody (September 29, 2021). "Creature from the Black Lagoon: Ricou Browning in need of get well cards from fans". JoBlo.com. Retrieved April 7, 2022.
  17. ^ Freese 2014, p. 31.
  18. ^ "Marine Coordinator". Marine Coordinator. Archived from the original on January 26, 2021. Retrieved October 19, 2018.
  19. ^ a b c Barnes, Mike (February 28, 2023). "Ricou Browning, the Gill-Man in 'Creature From the Black Lagoon,' Dies at 93". The Hollywood Reporter. Retrieved February 28, 2023.
  20. ^ Warren, Bill (1997). Keep Watching the Skies! American Science Fiction Movies of the Fifties. McFarland & Company. p. 436. ISBN 9780786404797.
  21. ^ "Flipper's New Adventure (1964) – Credits". TCM.com. Turner Classic Movies. Retrieved September 23, 2021.
  22. ^ a b c Weaver, Tom; Schecter, David; Kronenberg, Steve (2018). The Creature Chronicles: Exploring the Black Lagoon Trilogy. McFarland & Company. ISBN 978-1476673868.
  23. ^ Maltin, Leonard (2012). Leonard Maltin's 2013 Movie Guide: The Modern Era. Plume. ISBN 978-0452298545.
  24. ^ Cocchi, John (1991). Second Feature: The Best of the B's. Citadel Press/Carol Publishing Group. p. 212. ISBN 978-0806511863.
  25. ^ Hollis, Tim (2006). Glass Bottom Boats & Mermaid Tails: Florida's Tourist Springs. Stackpole Books. p. 131. ISBN 978-0811732666.
  26. ^ a b c d e f Weaver, Tom (2003). Double Feature Creature Attack: A Monster Merger of Two More Volumes of Classic Interviews. McFarland & Company. p. 108. ISBN 978-0786413669.
  27. ^ Freese, Gene (2016). Richard Jaeckel, Hollywood's Man of Character. McFarland & Company. p. 134. ISBN 978-1476662107.
  28. ^ a b c d e Freese, Gene Scott (1998). Hollywood Stunt Performers: A Dictionary and Filmography of Over 600 Men and Women, 1922–1996. McFarland & Company. p. 26. ISBN 978-0786405114.
  29. ^ Martin, Scott (2007). The Book of Caddyshack: Everything You Ever Wanted to Know About the Greatest Movie Ever Made. Taylor Trade Publishing. pp. 126, 254. ISBN 978-1589793583.
  30. ^ Albright, Brian (2012). Regional Horror Films, 1958–1990: A State-by-State Guide with Interviews. McFarland & Company. p. 194. ISBN 978-0786472277.
  31. ^ "Thrill of the Hunt". Diver Magazine. October 17, 2019. Archived from the original on October 25, 2022. Retrieved October 25, 2022.

Bibliography edit

External links edit