The Last Of Universal’s Original, Iconic Movie Monsters Has Died

Ricou Browning is most famous for playing the Gill-man in Creature from the Black Lagoon and creating Flipper, but he also directed one of the greatest comedy scenes ever.

By Jonathan Klotz | Updated

Ricou Browning passed away peacefully in his Florida home earlier this week at 93. If you don’t know his name, you know his work, which stretched from 1954 into the early aughts. Deadline broke the news, meaning all of the classic Universal monster actors have now passed away, leaving behind a timeless legacy in film and a giant footprint on our culture.

In his early 20s, Browning was working at Wakulla Springs in Florida, when he was hired to portray the Gill-man in Creature from the Black Lagoon. An expert swimmer, every underwater shot of the Gill-man was done with him in the suit while Ben Chapman played the famous monster on land. The film, and the experience making it, was such a success that Browning reprised his role in both of the sequels, Revenge of the Creature and The Creature Walks Among Us.

Drawing on his extensive physical fitness background and his knowledge of working in and around water, Ricou Browning was responsible for some of the most memorable scenes of the horror classic, including the ominous look at the Gill-man lurking just beneath the heroine. The Gill-man was the last of the classic Universal monsters to be made, following Dracula (1931), Frankenstein (1931), The Mummy (1932), The Invisible Man (1933), and The Wolf Man (1941). Browning is in the same pantheon as Bela Lugosi, Boris Karloff, and Lon Chaney Jr., all legendary performers, even if he never intended to become an actor.

Originally he was going to teach physical fitness, but filming marketing materials and coordinating the weekly water shows for Wakulla Springs helped him find his true calling behind the camera. Ricou Browning, in addition to playing one of the most famous horror icons in history, also is co-creator of Flipper, the long-lasting franchise about a dolphin. The 1963 film spun off immediately into a television series, with 30 episodes directed by Browning and a revival series 30 years later from 1995 to 2000.

Ricou Browning as the Gill-man

An expert at filming underwater sequences, Browning would be an acclaimed second-unit director specializing in aquatic sequences. One of his most famous scenes is the iconic pool section of Bill Murray‘s Caddyshack. Doing for chocolate bars what Steven Speilberg’s Jaws did for sharks, the segment is one of the best parts of the classic comedy.

Other famous films that benefited from Ricou Browning’s expertise were the James Bond films Thunderball and Never Say Never Again, with Sean Connery as the secret agent. Being involved in three of the all-time greatest franchises in movie history would be a terrific legacy, but Browning’s impact continues to live on through his son, Ricou Browning Jr. Following in his father’s footsteps, Junior is a marine coordinator that has worked on Bad Boys II, Where the Crawdads Sing, Baywatch, and even Alvin and the Chipmunks: The Road Chip.

We’ll never get a series of monster films that influence culture to the point of the Universal monsters. Now that the final star has passed away, it closes the book on a wildly popular part of movie history. Every attempt to re-launch the franchise has failed horribly, but sometimes there’s just no improving on what was already perfect to begin with.

Ricou Browning, in addition to his son, is survived by two daughters, Kelly and Kim.