Let us bring you some warm thoughts of the Black Lagoon during the cold winter months with Ricou Browning and Ben Chapman!
Back in the week of August 23-August 28, 2016 Universal Monsters Universe celebrated “Creature Week,” which was dedicated to all things Creature From The Black Lagoon. It culminated with meeting Ricou Browning at CT HorrorFest! It was one of many great moments in our first year of existence. Browning and his fellow Creature actor Ben Chapman were a dual feature in our “Meet The Monsters” series.
*This article originally appeared on UMU on March 18, 2016*
For those who have been following Universal Monsters Universe, we have an ongoing series of articles called “Meet The Monsters,” where we chronicle an actor and actress who portrayed a Universal Monster. We have featured Bela Lugosi, Lon Chaney, Jr., Boris Karloff, Claude Rains, and Elsa Lanchester.
In this special edition of “Meet the Monsters”, we will be featuring two actors from The Creature From the Black Lagoon, Ben Chapman and Ricou Browning. Chapman played the Creature on land and Browning played the Creature in the water. Universal’s Creature series are known as one of the most iconic of monster films and the last of the classic monsters for the legendary studio that gave us Dracula, Frankenstein, and The Mummy. Universal’s Creature from the Black Lagoon introduced the world to the lovable Gill-Man; a monster yet to properly be remade (not counting The Monster Squad.) He was played by a few different actors, but it was Ricou Browning who portrayed him across the 1954 original, and Revenge of the Creature, along with The Creature Walks.
Benjamin F. Chapman was born on October 29, 1925 in Oakland, California. He would spend his early life in Tahiti before his family moved to San Francisco when he was around 12 or 13 years old. He was a Marine during the Korean War and became a real estate executive before landing the role as the Creature. Chapman stood 6’5′ tall which helped him get the role of the Creature. He stated in a 1993 interview that he was inspired by Chaney, Sr., Lugosi, Karloff and Chaney, Jr. in his role as the Creature. The suit was made of foam-rubber which made it impossible for Chapman to sit and overheated very quickly. Even though he and Browning shared the role, Chapman would portray the Creature in appearances and events. Ben Chapman made brief appearances in TV programs but never built off of his role in The Creature from the Black Lagoon. Chapman died on February 21, 2008 at the age of 82 in Honolulu, Hawaii. He had one wife, Merrilee and two children Ben III and Grant.
Ricou Browning was born November 23, 1930 in Fort Pierce, Florida. He attended Florida State University where he majored in physical education. Browning performed in water shows before landing the underwater role of the Creature. He starred in two sequels, Revenge of the Creature and The Creature Walks Among Us. Browning would later go on to co-write and co-produce the movie, and later classic TV show, Flipper. Ricou Browning is the only surviving Universal Monster actor. He would continue to do underwater stunts and guest spots on various television programs. He has one son, Ricou Browning, Jr. who is an underwater cinematographer and stuntman.
The Creature From the Black Lagoon was one of the later monsters to be introduced to the Universal Monsters line-up yet still has a prominent following. Ben Chapman and Ricou Browning preserved the Creature’s legacy in their own ways. With Scarlett Johansson being considered in a remake, we here at Universal Monsters Universe knew it was only right to pay homage to the men behind the Creature.
(Joe Grodensky – @JoeGrodensky)