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Courtney Brown

Courtney Brown

Courtney Brown, known to the diving community as a first rate stunt man and underwater photographer, was born on June 22, 1931 in Buffalo, New York and grew up in the Brentwood area of California. His introduction to diving came early through an older brother, as well as a very good friend named Parry Bivens.  Courtney borrowed Parry’s dive gear and eventually was certified as a diver in the LA area. Parry and Courtney became close friends and would remain so throughout their lives. One summer night Parry met the girl of his dreams on a blind date with two other couples from Santa Monica. This girl would later be known to the world as Zale Parry, star of Sea Hunt.  This meeting would prove fateful for not only Parry, but Courtney, as well.  Parry and Zale eventually married and Courtney remained very close to the couple.  Courtney had lost both his parents and his brother at a young age and the Bivens became family to him.

One day Zale received a call from Ivan Tors to interview her for a role on Sea Hunt.  During this conversation Tors asked Parry if she knew of a diver who could work as a stand-in for Lloyd Bridges. Zale immediately recommended her good friend for the job. Courtney was invited to Producer Ivan Tors' office, was hired on the spot, and told to bleach his hair the color of Bridges’.  Brown worked as stunt double for Lloyd the first four years of filming, starting in 1957, earning $500/week plus expenses. A friendship was quickly formed between the two men and Courtney invited Lloyd and his family to his pool to teach them how to handle the diving gear.  Courtney and Zale taught dozens of guests on Sea Hunt to dive, as well.

When the series moved to Silver Springs, Florida Courtney left California for good and made his home in Florida. He bought a house in Ft. Lauderdale, but eventually moved to Pompano Beach.  Courtney’s stunt work then took him
Big John McLaughlin,
Lloyd Bridges,
Courtney Brown on the
Sea Hunt set.
to Caribbean. He was working with Ivan Tors, Ricou Browning, and Big John Mclaughlin on the final years of Sea Hunt which was being filmed in Nassau. When the series ended he continued work there on the James Bond movies. He travelled back and forth from Nassau to Florida in a 45 foot ketch motor sailer to get supplies.  Courtney married fellow stunt diver Wende Wagner and the couple made a home for themselves on the boat.  They had both worked as stunt divers for the Sea Hunt series.  Wende was very well accepted in movie circles and probably known best for the Green Hornet series (1966-1967). The couple had a daughter named Tiffany while still filming Sea Hunt, but as series was winding down, so was their marriage and the two soon divorced.

One of the memorable things about Courtney was his kick in the water. Lloyd Bridges admired the way his stunt double handled himself and copied Courtney's kick and diving style to the best of his ability. “Courtney was my mentor,” Bridges would later say. Brown was impeccable when it came to dive gear. His dive bag was neat and clean, with everything in its proper place. Courtney was a natural in the water.   He followed orders and could do anything on land or in the water that the job required of him. Bridges and Brown wanted to look good in the water, as well as set a good example for the growing number of divers who were watching their every move on the series. To this day, Courtney’s style of diving is still copied by divers around the world.

After the Sea Hunt series ended, Courtney remained working in Nassau as a stunt double on the James Bond movies for a couple of years.  Courtney experienced a very close call during the filming of Thunderball in 1965.  Court (which is what his close friends called him) was the stunt double for the character of Major Francois Derval, a pilot who crashed his jet into the ocean. In this particular scene, Brown was in the pilot’s seat as it sunk to the sea floor.  He recalls that during the filming of the scene there was a huge amount of debris, as well as a camouflage net over the jet, making visibility extremely poor for the stunt men.  Entrapped in the cockpit and unable to reach his air supply (which consisted of a small tank between his legs), Courtney realized he was in grave danger.  He felt himself blacking out when all he could see before him were red and green dots.  Just before losing consciousness, he realized that someone was cutting him out of the net surrounding
Courtney Brown,
Big John McLaughlin,
Ricou Browning,
Commander Doug Fane
the plane.  That someone was his fellow stunt double and good friend, Big John McLaughlin.  The two remained fast friends throughout their lives.

Courtney continued his stunt work in many films and TV shows over the years such as Flipper, Gentle Ben, Hurricane, and the Six Million Dollar Man, to name just a few.  Later in his career, while doing motorcycle stunts for Miami Vice, Brown injured both of his knees.  This was a continual source of pain for him, which prompted his retirement to his home in Pompano Beach.

Courtney passed away in Pompano Beach, Florida on March 23, 2007. He was 75 years old.

A true perfectionist, Courtney was the man behind the scenes that made the most dangerous moves look so easy.  His stunt work and diving style still inspires an interest in scuba diving the world over.  He truly belongs among the Legends of Diving.

Some of Courtney Brown’s Work:
Sea HuntHow Do I Love Thee
Gentle BenLive or Let Die
FlipperHunters of the Reef
ThunderballThe Star of India
PrimusStunt Seven
CaribeThe Bionic Woman
Darker Than AmberThe Six Million Dollar Man
The Birds Do ItHot Stuff
The HappeningCaddy Shack

(ILD would like to thank Ricou Browning, Big John McLaughlin, Zale Parry, and Rocky Rockwell for their contributions to this biography.)

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