Legends of Diving Articles

 

Ricou Browning
Actor, Film Producer, Director, "The Gill Man"

Ricou Browning was born February 16, 1930 in Jensen Beach, Fla. While attending high school he worked for Newton Parry, operator of Wakulla

Springs, as a lifeguard, swimmer and diver in water shows. Newt taught him, his brother, and others how to swim underwater using an air hose. This was before scuba was available. The brothers would go down to the bottom of the spring 80 feet and then would swim up under the glass bottom boats. The captain of the boat would ask for quarters to be thrown on the glass bottom to tip the boys for diving. They would then divide the tips up at the end of the day.

During this time he became involved in the Grant Land Rice films which were sports films shot at the Springs. These were very short subject films shown at the theaters prior to the feature film. Subjects as diverse as alligator

Browning as "The Creature"

wrestling, driving a model T underwater, and catching snakes were just a few of the films shot at the Springs.

One day, while he was a sophomore in high school, Newt told him there was another spring he wanted to show him, as he was going to open it as an underwater attraction. They drove down just north of Tampa, Florida, then down a dirt road and there it was…Weeki Wachee Springs. Ricou used an air compressor from workers to clear out old cars and bath tubs at the bottom of the spring. The spring’s water was beautiful…crystal clear. Newt used girls from Tallahassee Florida State College for women members of The Tarpon Club who performed water ballet. They taught these ladies how to breathe off the air hose and transferred their ballet talents underwater. They became known as the Mermaids of Weeki Wachee. Browning went on as the underwater show producer, as well as a performer, again utilizing his hose breathing techniques.

It was while working at the Springs that Newt told Ricou that a movie company wanted to make a movie there. While visiting the Springs the

Browning in "20,000 Leagues Under the Sea"

production crew asked him to swim in front of the camera. Evidently, they were impressed because he was later called by Jack Arnold, the movie’s director, and invited to be the monster of the movie. He did all the underwater shots for the cult classic "Creature from the Black Lagoon." He was also involved in all three of the sequels.

Upon graduating from high school, he went to Florida State University to study medicine, but ended up in Physical Education. He left college, joined the Air Force and was involved in their swim team and water activities. He returned home

and went to work at Silver Springs as the Asst. Director of Public Relations. It was while here that Bill Owens and Ivan Tors were seeking a new location to film the second season of the TV show Sea Hunt. They chose Silver Springs and asked Ricou if he would do stunt work and double for some of the bad guys in the movies. At this time Courtney Brown did all the doubling for Lloyd Bridges. It was during this time he was also involved in the underwater sequences to be filmed in Nassau for the movie "20,000 Leagues Under the Sea." Ricou worked on all the film’s underwater sequences. Lamar Boren did all the underwater shooting.
 
At the end of the second year of Sea Hunt, Ivan asked Ricou if he knew of a new spot to film. Ricou told him that Nassau was the best because of weather conditions. If one side of the island was bad, you could always move to the other side, where conditions would be more favorable. For

the next three years Ricou lived in the Bahamas filming Sea Hunt and other movie shorts and commercials. He formed a small company called Underwater Studios. It was during this time he held dual citizenship because of his length of stay in the Bahamas. Ricou worked with Ivan Tors on his films as Second Unit Director and President of Underwater Studios in Nassau, Bahamas for Sea Hunt and Aquanauts. At this time Ivan Tors opened a studio in North Miami where Ricou later would become President.

One day while in his Miami office, Chubby Broccoli called and wanted to know if they were interested in shooting some underwater shots for some James Bond movies. Later,

On the set of Flipper

Ricou went to London and had a meeting with him. Chubby told him they were also looking at Cousteau to shoot the underwater sequences. He asked Ricou why they should choose him instead. Ricou replied that ‘Cousteau shoots the real thing better and we shoot phony better.’ It must have worked because Ricou spent several months editing the scripts and making them more realistic for underwater shooting.

Ricou said Thunderball was one of the best movies he ever shot because he was allowed to take his time and had a unlimited budget. He said all

eight of the Bond movies were fun to work on. His unusual abilities in directing the underwater sequences helped win the Academy Award for special visual effects on Thunderball.

During this time he formed underwater stuntman friendships that would last a lifetime with Courtney Brown, Big John McLaughlin, Gavin Mckenney and Willie Meyers, as well as camera menLamar Borin and Jordan Kline.

Lloyd Bridges, Ricou Browning, and Jordan Klein

He said Courtney was "a natural" and was the easiest double to work with in the beginning. Later they all developed their own underwater hand signals and it was very easy to tell the guys what you needed to get the job done right.

The pride and joy of Ricou’s career was Flipper. He created the idea and co- wrote the scripts with Jack Cowden. He got the idea from his children

With Jeff Rice (left) in 2010

watching Lassie on TV. He wrote a book about Flipper, as well. He received two Patsy Awards for 120 episodes. He worked with dolphins in the movie and later was an expert in the treatment of dolphins.

Ricou is still very active in the movie business and his son Ricou Browning Jr. is following successfully in his father’s footsteps. He and his wife currently live in Florida. His daughter is now chronically his life’s

accomplishments as she works on his biography. He developed a technique to breath underwater before Scuba, which amazed the public and then went on to do some of the most amazing stunt work in movies. Truly, a living legend of diving.

CREDITS
Films: 1st Unit
Created FLIPPER: received two PATSY Awards
Created and Directed SALTY, a full-length feature and television series.
Directed MR. NO LEGS for Cinema Artists Production
Co-Produced and Co-Directed ISLAND OF THE LOST, a full-length feature film.
TV: 1st Unit
Associate Producer:
THE WILDS OF 10,000 ISLANDS
Director & Associate Producer:
34 episodes FLIPPER
10 episodes PRIMUS
Director: 12 episodes GENTLE BEN
3 episodes SALTY
6 episodes JAMBO
Director Underwater Sequences:
NEVER SAY NEVER AGAIN
FILMS: 2nd Unit
2nd Unit Director:
NOBODY'S PERFECKT
POLICE ACADEMY 5
RAISE THE TITANIC!
LUCKY LADY
JOE PANTHER
CADDIE SHACK
THUNDERBALL - which involved some of the most daring
underwater work ever filmed. Browning's unusual abilities in
directing the underwater segments helped win for THUNDERBALL the
Academy Award for Special Visual Effects.
HOT STUFF
HAREM
LADY IN CEMENT
AROUND THE WORLD UNDER THE SEA
FLIPPER
FLIPPER'S NEW ADVENTURE
NAMU, THE KILLER WHALE
HELLO DOWN THERE
THE DARING GAME
TV: 2nd Unit
2nd Unit Director:
60 episodes SEA HUNT
30 episodes AQUANAUTS (MALIBU RUN)
1 episode LOCK UP
10 episodes PRIMUS
120 episodes FLIPPER
10 episodes SALTY
1 episode WILDS OF 10,000 ISLANDS
Pilot Film: DANNY AND THE MERMAID
Pilot Film: SPANNER'S KEY

SPECIALS:
Director: MAN AGAINST THE SEA - a Lloyd Bridges underwater
special filmed in the Bahamas
TECHNICAL ADVISOR: DAY OF THE DOLPHIN
COMMERCIALS:
Director: OSCAR MEYER
HARVEY'S BRISTOL DRY
UNITED WAY
FILMHOUSE MUNCHEN - Fa Cosmetics dolphin commercial

DOCUMENTARIES: INDUSTRIAL FILMS:
GOOD YEAR WOMAN'S DAY MAGAZINE
RETURN TO THE WEST SHIP 'N SHORE
GOOD OLD DAYS (TRAVEL LOG)
SKIWAYS TO SAFETY

WRITER:
Original FLIPPER story - MGM
39 FLIPPER TV episodes
SALTY - Theatrical film and MOW
6 SALTY TV episodes - 20th Century Fox
ISLAND CLAWS - Indep. release shown on CBS - MOW
STUNTMAN: CLAY PIDGEON
THE HURRICANE
THUNDERBALL
ISLAND OF THE LOST
LADY IN CEMENT
AROUND THE WORLD UNDER THE SEA
FLIPPER
FLIPPER'S NEW ADVENTURE
THE DARING GAME
HELLO DOWN THERE
BLACK SUNDAY
REVENGE OF THE CREATURE
GIRL IN THE RED BIKINI
BIONIC WOMAN (TV)
6 MILLION DOLLAR MAN (TV)
CREATURE FROM THE BLACK LAGOON
THE CREATURE WALKS AMONG US
SEA HUNT
20,000 LEAGUES UNDER THE SEA
CROSS WINDS
SEPTEMBER STORM
JUPITER'S DARLING
BIRDS DO IT
DON'T GIVE UP THE SHIP
GRANTLIN RICE SPORTS FILMS
LOCK UP (TV)
ARLENE FRANCIS SHOW (TV)
STUNT COORDINATOR:
HEAVENLY KID
 

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