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Updated: November 12, 2023

Ricou Browning ( February 16, 1930 to February 27, 2023 ) was an American film director, actor, producer, screenwriter, underwater cinematographer, and stuntman. He is best known for his underwater stunt work, especially in the 1954 film Creature from the Black Lagoon, in which he portrayed the titular Gill-man during the film's underwater scenes ( actor Ben Chapman played the Creature on land ). Browning reprised the role for the underwater scenes in the film's sequels Revenge of the Creature ( 1955 ) and The Creature Walks Among Us ( 1956 ). Browning also co-created Flipper with Jack Cowden, and directed a number of episodes of the 1960s television series.

Browning made his feature film directorial debut with Salty ( 1973 ), which he also co-wrote with Cowden, and went on to direct Mr. No Legs ( 1978 ). Browning directed the underwater sequences in 1965's Thunderball, the fourth James Bond film by Eon Productions, as well as for the Bond film Never Say Never Again ( 1983 ). He also directed the underwater scenes in the comedy films Hello Down There ( 1969 ) and Caddyshack ( 1980 ). A Florida native, Browning was inducted into the Florida Artists Hall of Fame in 2012. In 2019, he was inducted into the Rondo Hatton Classic Horror Awards' Monster Kid Hall of Fame. Prior to his death, Browning was considered the last surviving original actor to portray any of the Universal Classic Monsters.

Early life:

Browning was born in Fort Pierce, Florida, on February 16, 1930. He was a major in physical education at Florida State University.


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. While working at Wakulla Springs in 1953, Browning was asked to show around a film crew scouting for shooting locations. 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." Days later, the crew offered Browning the role of the titular Gill-man in the film Creature from the Black Lagoon ( 1954 ). Browning accepted, and played the Gill-man in the film's underwater scenes, while actor Ben Chapman played the monster on land. During filming, Browning reportedly held his breath underwater for up to four minutes at a time. 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 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. Browning continued writing for the subsequent Flipper television series that debuted in 1964. He directed the underwater sequences in Hello Down There ( 1969 ), and directed the family film Salty ( 1973 ) and the cult film Mr. No Legs ( 1978 ). He also worked as second unit director, stunt coordinator and underwater sequence director on a number of features, including Thunderball ( 1965 ), Around the World Under the Sea ( 1966 ), Island of the Lost ( 1967 ), Caddyshack ( 1980 ), and Never Say Never Again ( 1983 ).

Personal life and death:

Browning had a son, Ricou Browning, Jr., who is also a marine coordinator, actor, and stuntman. He also had three daughters Renee, Kelly, and Kim along with 10 grandchildren and 11 great-grandchildren. His wife, Fran, died in March 2020.

Browning died at his home in Southwest Ranches, Florida, on February 27, 2023, at the age of 93.

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