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FSWL contributor Mark Cerulli remember Ricou Browning (1930-2023)

By: Mark Cerulli
Published:
2023-03-01
Ricou Browning, Thunderball
Another link to the epic James Bond film from 1965, Thunderball, has sadly left us. The American underwater maestro Ricou Browning passed away in his Florida home on 27th February 2023 at age 93.

Ricou Browning hit the limelight early – at age 23 he toured a Universal scout team around Wakulla Springs, Florida. Asked to swim in some test footage, his natural athleticism landed him the title role in the upcoming film – The Creature from The Black Lagoon. The last of Universal’s “classic” monsters, it became a huge hit. Ricou reprised his role in the two sequels that followed and went on to co-create the 1963 film Flipper about a boy caring for an injured dolphin. He also directed 36 episodes of the Flipper TV series, writing many of them himself.

All of this helped prepare him for unique challenges of directing the massive underwater battle in Thunderball. A casting call went out in the Florida diving community and Ricou soon had an army of scuba divers at his command. He used a floating barge as a training and staging area, then coordinated the battle below the surface. Thunderball was a massive hit – grossing over 141 Million dollars at the cinemas – over 1.3 Billion dollars today.

One of the underwater fights in Thunderball (1965) led by Ricou Browning:



Browning commented about the work, “The underwater fight was the most difficult sequence, only in that there were so many people involved and we had dangerous weapons. We didn’t want anyone to get hurt, and to coordinate each sequence we took some time to rehearse topside aboard the huge barge that we had rented, and then we would try and recreate underwater what we had rehearsed on the surface.”

Other films like Island of the Lost (1967), Lady in Cement (1968), Around the World Under the Sea (1966) and Hot Stuff (1979) followed. He went back into the water with Sean Connery in 1983’s Never Say Never Again, coordinating all the underwater scenes. He even lent his expertise to Caddyshack, directing the now-famous Jaws parody pool sequence for the 1980 comedy smash.

Ricou’s legendary career spanned five decades and over 50 films and TV projects. In recent years he was a very popular guest at conventions where fans were delighted to meet the horror icon.

Ricou is survived by his four children including son Ricou Browning, Jr. who followed his footsteps into the film industry as a top underwater coordinator, actor, and stuntman. He also left an amazing legacy for his 10 grand-children and 11 great-grandchildren.

Our sincere condolences to Ricou Browning's family.

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