Spotlight on Ricou Browning

by Jennifer Hoesing

Ricou Browning as the Creature From the Black Lagoon

Ricou Browning in his movie costume during the filming of Creature From the Black Lagoon at Wakulla Spring, Florida. Image from the State Archives of Florida.

An early icon in Florida films, Florida Artists Hall of Fame inductee Ricou Browning wrote, acted, directed and designed many of the most popular movies and television series shot in the Sunshine State. These films included Creature from the Black Lagoon, Flipper, Seahunt, Gentle Ben and others. A penchant for underwater stunt work came from his years in the 1940s as a “merman” swimmer at Wakulla Springs, Weeki Watchee, and Silver Springs.

He pioneered the field of underwater motion picture photography, beginning with his work at the legendary Ivan Tors film studio in Miami — the only major studio to have originated in Florida. Among his many honors, Mr. Browning became President of Ivan Tors Studio and in 1968 was elected to head up the newly created Florida Motion Picture and Television Producers Association.

Once he began working in film, he never stopped. From directing some of the most daring underwater scenes ever filmed in James Bond’s Thunderball in 1966, directing underwater scenes in Caddyshack in 1980, to coordinating marine stunts in an episode of Boardwalk Empire in 2010.