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,
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
Big John McLaughlin,
Commander Doug Fane
the plane. That someone was his fellow stunt double and good friend,
Big John McLaughlin. The two remained fast friends throughout
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
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 Hunt||How Do I Love Thee|
|Gentle Ben||Live or Let Die|
|Flipper||Hunters of the Reef|
|Thunderball||The Star of India|
|Caribe||The Bionic Woman|
|Darker Than Amber||The Six Million Dollar Man|
|The Birds Do It||Hot Stuff|
|The Happening||Caddy Shack|
(ILD would like to thank
Ricou Browning, Big John McLaughlin, Zale Parry, and Rocky Rockwell for their contributions
to this biography.)