Ricou Browning, ‘Gill-Man’ in ‘Creature from the Black Lagoon,’ Dies @ 93

February 28, 2023

Ricou Browning, the stunt man who donned the iconic fright-wetsuit as the Gill-man in the iconic horror movie Creature from the Black Lagoon (1954), has died.

One of the men behind one of Hollywood's most infamous monsters (Image via Universal)

He was 93.

Browning died less than two weeks after his February 16 birthday, on February 27, but had been in declining health for several years.

Browning — who played the Gill-man in the film's stunning underwater sequences — had been the final surviving actor to have portrayed a classic Universal horror monster, a part he played in the original and in both sequels: Revenge of the Creature (1955) and The Creature Walks Among Us (1956). On land, the Gill-man was played by different actors in the trilogy: Ben Chapman (1928-2008), Tom Hennesy (1923-2011) and Don Megowan (1922-1981).

Born in Fort Pierce, Florida, he majored in phys ed at Florida State, launching his career working in water shows.

His work underwater for special newsreels came in handy when he was asked to show a film crew around Wakulla Springs in Florida, where he worked. Asked if he could swim underwater, he said he could and he was cast as the Gill-man.

As part of his physically demanding performance, Browning held his breath up to four minutes at a time. His work in the film has a spooky balletic, romantic quality.

He also worked as a stunt diver in the sci-fi epic 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea (1954).

Browning kept at it in the realm of TV and movie production, and while working for Ivan Tors (1916-1983) co-created the film Flipper (1963), a massive hit that — you should pardon the expression — spawned a TV spin-off series the following year.

Part of his job included directing underwater sequences for that and other films, including Hello Down There (1969), Thunderball (1965), Around the World Under the Sea (1966), Island of the Lost (1967) and Never Say Never Again (1983).

He also directed the underwater scenes in Caddyshack (1980), swapping out a sea creature for a wayward Baby Ruth candy bar.

Browning's wife Fran preceded him in death in 2020. He is survived by his stuntman son, Ricou Browning Jr., three daughters, 10 grandchildren and 11 great-grandchildren.

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