Ricou Browning, Gill-Man of ‘Creature From the Black Lagoon’ and Expert Underwater Filmmaker, Dies at 93

Browning also co-created the family-friendly “Flipper” franchise

Ricou Browning
Ricou Browning (Getty Images/YouTube)

Ricou Browning, the actor, stuntman and diver whose work in the 1954 sci-fi classic “Creature From the Black Lagoon” launched his career as an expert water-based filmmaker, died less than two weeks after his 93rd birthday, his son Ricou Browning Jr. confirmed to TheWrap on Tuesday.

The diver, who legend has it could hold his breath for up to four minutes at a time, landed the iconic role in 1953 after being asked by a film crew to help scout locations at Wakulla Springs Florida for the Universal monster film. He was already performing underwater newsreels shot at the tourist spot.

“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,” he told the Hartford Courant in 2016. Ben Chapman portrayed the Creature – also known as Gill Man – on land, while Browning wore the suit in the underwater scenes, reprising his role in sequels “Revenge of the Creature” and “The Creature Walks Among Us.”

He went on to direct the underwater scenes in the 1965 James Bond film “Thunderball” and in 1983’s “Never Say Never Again.”

Browning made made his feature film directorial debut with the 1973 family film Salty,” about a boy who befriends a sea lion. He also co-created the “Flipper” franchise, which began with the 1963 MGM film and became a beloved TV series, which ran from 1964 to 1967 on NBC.

He was the last surviving actor to play one of Universal’s classic movie monsters.

The news was first reported on the Spooky Empire convention’s Facebook page: “Our good friend, and very important part of our Spooky Empire Family, Ricou Browning, has passed away. Ricou probably attended Spooky Empire more times than any other guest. He was a favorite regular at our events, appearing since 2004, and he will be greatly missed at Spooky Empire and in the horror community.”

Browning was born in Fort Pierce, Florida on Feb. 16, 1930. He majored in physical education at Florida State University.

He is survived by his children Ricou, Renee, Kelly and Kim.