There is particularly sad news to report tonight as RICOU BROWNING has passed away. Browning portrayed the underwater Gill-Man in all three of The Creature From The Black Lagoon films. He had the distinction of being the last surviving actor to have portrayed a Universal Monster.
Browning died Monday of natural causes at his home in Southwest Ranches, Florida. He was 93.
The underwater technician and stuntman had a very prosperous career in his home state of Florida. Not only did he play the underwater Gill-Man in The Creature From The Black Lagoon (1954), Revenge Of The Creature (1955), and The Creature Walks Among US (1956), he was a co-creator, writer, director, and in charge of all the underwater scenes for Flipper.
He directed the underwater action sequences in Thunderball (1965). He served as the underwater photography supervisor for television series Sea Hunt (1961).
On The Creature From The Black Lagoon, Browning noted that his costume “was cumbersome at first. When I first put it on, it seemed awkward and clumsy,” he said. “But once I got into the movie, I forgot I had it on. I became the creature.” Browning was charged with showing the area of Wakulla Springs, Florida, to location scouts from Universal who were seeking filming locations for Creature From the Black Lagoon. He also did some swim movies for them, and that led to his Gill-Man gig.
“The lips of the suit sat about a half-inch from my lips, and I put the air hose in my mouth to breathe,” he said in a 2019 interview. “I would hold my breath and go do the scene, and I’d have other safety people with other air hoses to give me air if I needed it. We had a signal. If I went totally limp, it meant I needed it. It worked out well, and we didn’t have any problems.”
Browning said he filmed his scenes in wintertime, and it was pretty cold. “The crew felt sorry for me, so somebody said, ‘How would you like a shot of brandy?’ I said, ‘Sure,’” he recalled. “Another part of the crew [also] gave me a shot of brandy. Pretty soon they were dealing with a drunk creature.”
While filming Revenge of the Creature in St. Augustine, Florida, he said a turtle bit off one foot of his costume and swam away with it. “It was the last pair of feet that I had on the shoot, so the prop men and the other stunt divers had to chase that turtle down and get the thing out of his mouth,” he said.
Browning was born on Feb. 16, 1930, in Fort Pierce, Florida. He attended Florida State University and worked for Perry as a performer in water shows at Weeki Wachee Springs, a Florida tourist attraction, and in underwater newsreels. He also was on the U.S. Air Force swim team.
Survivors include his four children, Ricou Browning Jr. (a marine coordinator, actor and stuntman like his dad), Renee, Kelly and Kim; 10 grandchildren; and 11 great-grandchildren. His wife, Fran, died in March 2020.
It’s a sad day when there are no more monsters left alive from Hollywood’s Golden age. Ricou Browning left an indelible mark on the world of cinema and television and he will be sorely missed.
R.I.P. Ricou Browning Born February 16, 1930 – Died February 27, 2023
source: The Hollywood Reporter