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SYFY WIRE obituary

'Creature from the Black Lagoon's Ricou Browning, the last original Universal Monster star, dies at 93

The last of the Universal Monsters has left us.

By Matthew Jackson
Ricou Browning

Ricou Browning, the stunt man who inhabited the "Gill-Man" suit in 1954's The Creature from the Black Lagoon and its sequels, died over the weekend at the age of 93, Deadline reports. His death marks the passing of the last of the original actors to play the Universal Monsters, a group that includes legends like Boris Karloff, Bela Lugosi, and Lon Chaney Jr.

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A native of Florida, Browning's connection to the movie business began when he got a job at Wakulla Springs, a Florida park that also served as the shooting location for Hollywood's Tarzan adventures. A natural swimmer, he started working in shows at the park and even appeared in newsreel, but it was a chance assignment to assist a location scouting crew from Universal Pictures in 1953 that gave him his big break. The Universal crew was drawn to Browning, and he was eventually invited to put on the Gill-Man suit and play the title monster in The Creature from the Black Lagoon, performing the film's famous underwater shots and becoming a horror icon in the process.

The Gill Man from The Creature from the Black Lagoon (1954)

Browning remained a part of the Creature franchise lore for decades, appearing in two sequels over the next few years and remaining a highly visible star on the horror convention circuit, but the horror films weren't his only connection to show business. He took his love of water and marine life to new levels in the 1960s when he co-created the story for Flipper, which became a successful film and then a successful TV series for which Browning also served as a director on several episodes. Around the same time, he served as an underwater sequence director on the James Bond classic Thunderball

Browning continued working in Hollywood in various roles for the next several decades, but he'll always be primarily known for his work as the Creature, particularly in those eerie yet beautiful underwater sequences from the original film. It may have been a case of being in the right place at the right time, but the performance Browning delivered once he got the job made him a legend, and he will be missed.