Autographs Wanted for Consignment to MEARS Auctions
To celebrate the 60th Anniversary of the monster movie, “Creature from the Black Lagoon”, MEARS president Troy R. Kinunen conducted a very special private signing with the last living Universal Monster Legend, Ricou Browning.
The classic Universal Studio movie,” Creature from the Black Lagoon”, is a 1954 monster horror movie filmed in B&W 3-D. Directed by Jack Arnold, the movie also starred Richard Carlson, Richard Denning, Antonio Moreno and Whit Bissell. The sexy bathing beauty and love interest of the Creature, Julie Adams, will be featured in an upcoming article regarding our signing with her.
Universal Studios was the creator of cinema’s most famous monsters. Lugosi starred as “Dracula”, Chaney starred as “Mummy”, and Karloff played “Frankenstein”. Although both Ben Chapman (land) and Ricou Browning (underwater scenes) played the “Creature”, Browning is the lone survivor of the Golden Age of Monsters genre.
The movie immediately became interwoven with the fabric of cinema pop culture. In the 1955 comedy The Seven Year Itch, Marilyn Monroe and Tom Ewell come out of a theater showing “Creature from the Black Lagoon”. Monroe expresses some sympathy for the Creature, saying that it was not really bad and “just wanted to be loved”.
The storyline begins when Dr. Carl Maia finds unique skeletal remains. Curious, a group of scientists led by David Reed head down the Amazon to see if other fossils can be found. The exploration team has little luck at first until they are told that further down river is the Black Lagoon where other fossils might be found. They get more than they bargained for however when they discover a living prehistoric creature – a half-man, half amphibious reptile that doesn’t take kindly to their attempts to capture him. The creature does take a liking to Kay Lawrence and kidnaps her but the scientists are soon at war with the creature when it won’t let them leave the lagoon.
The story line of the movie was inspired by a Mexican folktale. According to local legend, a creature lives up in the Amazon jungle. Once a year he comes out and claims a maiden, and after that he leaves, and the village is safe for another year.
When asked about his role as the Creature, Browning exclaimed, “As far as I see it “Creature from the Black Lagoon” was just another movie and it was just another job. I’ve done many things since then that I am much more proud of. But I’ve gotten more reaction out of the Creature thing than anything else. Well, I guess that’s life!”
One day while in his Miami office, Cubby Broccoli, producer of the 1960s James Bond movies, called and wanted to know if Ricou was interested in shooting some underwater shots for some James Bond movies. On the set of Flipper, Ricou went to London and had a meeting with him. Cubby told him they were also looking at Cousteau to shoot the underwater sequences. He asked Ricou why they should choose him instead. Ricou replied that ‘Cousteau shoots the real thing better and we shoot phony better.’ It must have worked because Ricou spent several months editing the scripts and making them more realistic for underwater shooting.
Ricou said Thunderball was one of the best movies he ever shot because he was allowed to take his time and had an unlimited budget. He said all eight of the Bond movies were fun to work on. His unusual abilities in directing the underwater sequences helped win the Academy Award for special visual effects on Thunderball.
During this time he formed underwater stuntman friendships that would last a lifetime with Courtney Brown, Big John McLaughlin, Gavin Mckenney and Willie Meyers, as well as camera men Lamar Borin and Jordan Kline.
He said Courtney was “a natural” and was the easiest double to work with in the beginning. Later they all developed their own underwater hand signals and it was very easy to tell the guys what you needed to get the job done right.
The pride and joy of Ricou’s career was Flipper. He created the idea and co- wrote the scripts with Jack Cowden. He got the idea from his children watching Lassie on TV. He wrote a book about Flipper, as well. He received two Patsy Awards for 120 episodes. He worked with dolphins in the movie and later was an expert in the treatment of dolphins.
Ricou is still very active in the movie business and his son Ricou Browning Jr. is following successfully in his father’s footsteps. He and his wife currently live in Florida. His daughter is now chronicling his life’s accomplishments as she works on his biography. He developed a technique to breath underwater before Scuba, which amazed the public and then went on to do some of the most amazing stunt work in movies. Truly, a living legend of diving.
Still residing in Florida, on February 17th, 2014, the now 84 year old Ricou Browning agreed to a private signing with MEARS. To commemorate the event, custom 16×20 photos were designed which prominently featured Browning as the Creature. Three of the poses depicted Browning in his full Creature costume, the fourth was a famous shot of Browning with the head piece of his suit removed which revealed his true identify. All of the photos were produced exclusively in 16×20 format only. Ricou carefully signed each photo in near mint blue sharpie marker. The accompanying photographs to this article documented the signing at his Fort Lauderdale residence.
It was a real honor to interact with the last living Universal Monster. Thanks Creature, it was a pleasure.
Troy R. Kinunen