Ricou Ren Browning was born on February 16, 1930, in Fort Pierce, Florida. He was 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. Browning said that he could hold his breath for minutes underwater, making him especially adept at the swimming part. Other actors played the Gill Man on land.
He was discovered when the film’s director visited Silver Springs, where Newt Perry, who performed as a stand-in for “Tarzan” actor Johnny Weissmuller, was promoting one of Florida’s first tourist attractions where Browning got a job as a teen swimming in water shows. Perry asked Browning to take the Hollywood visitors to Wakulla Springs, one of the largest and deepest freshwater springs in the world. They later recruited Browning to appear in the movie, which was partly filmed at the springs.
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.Ricou Browning
Browning played the Gill Man in three movies, the original 1954 release “Creature from the Black Lagoon”, “Revenge of the Creature” (1955), and “The Creature Walks Among Us” (1956).
Browning collaborated as a writer on the 1963 movie “Flipper,” and the popular TV series of the same name that followed. He came up with the idea after a trip to South America to capture freshwater dolphins in the Amazon. He worked as the underwater stunt coordinator, the second unit director, and as an actor. He was also in “Flipper’s New Adventure” (1984) and played a waterskier and monster in the “Flipper” TV series, as well as directing 37 episodes (1964-1967).
One day, when I came home, the kids were watching ‘Lassie’ on TV, and it just dawned on me, ‘Why not do a film about a boy and a dolphin?Ricou Browning
He was a stunt diver in the Jules Verne “20,000 Leagues Under the Sea” (1954) made by Walt Disney. Browning was a director and stunt coordinator for the 007 film Thunderball (1965), he was the second unit director in “Around the World Under the Sea” (1966), “Island of the Lost” (1967), and “Hello Down There” (1969). In 1973 he co-wrote and directed “Salty” and then directed “Mr. No Legs” in 1979. Ricou was the second unit director for “Hot Stuff” (1979), “Caddyshack”, and “Raise the Titanic” (both 1980).
Browning was again the second unit director for “Nobody’s Perfekt” (1981) and another Bond film “Never Say Never Again” (1983). In 1985 he was the stunt coordinator for the movie “The Heavenly Kid”. Finally, in his movie career, he was the second unit director for “Police Academy 5: Assignment Miami Beach” (1988).
At the age of 93, Ricou Browing died at his home in Southwest Ranches, Florida on Monday, February 27, 2023. His survivors include his four children, Ricou Browning Jr., Renee, Kelly, and Kim; 10 grandchildren; and 11 great-grandchildren. His wife, Fran, died in March 2020. His son Ricou Jr. is a marine coordinator, actor, and stuntman like his father.
- The second unit is a discrete team of filmmakers tasked with filming shots or sequences of production, separate from the main or “first” unit. The second unit will often shoot simultaneously with the other unit or units, allowing the filming stage of production to be completed faster. The second unit has its own director and cinematographer. A key skill for a second unit director is to be able to follow the style being set by the film’s primary director. [Back]
Elk Valley Times
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