Monday, March 03, 2008
THE CREATURE FROM THE BLACK LAGOON RETURNS TO THE DARKNESS: R.I.P. BEN CHAPMAN (1928-2008)
Near and dear to the hearts of monster movie freaks everywhere, the Creature From the Black Lagoon — affectionately known as "Blacky" or "Gilly" — is one of the iconic American movie monsters of the 1950's, and arguably the last of the great Universal horror creations, a descendant of Dracula, Frankenstein's Monster, the Mummy, and the Wolf Man. Forever ripping a new one into any foolish enough to get in the way of him scoring with hot, swimsuit-clad babes like Julie Adams, Blacky left an indelible mark on the imagination that shows no sign of stopping, what with a remake of his 1954 debut announced, but now the man who played the Gill-Man's above water sequences (and photo shoots) is no longer with us. Here's the story, from the Associated Press:
Ben Chapman, ‘Black Lagoon’ Creature, Dies at 79
By THE ASSOCIATED PRESS
Published: March 1, 2008
HONOLULU— Ben Chapman, who played the title role in the 1954 horror film “Creature From the Black Lagoon,” died here on Feb. 21. He was 79. His death was confirmed by his son Ben Chapman III, who said he had been suffering heart and breathing problems.
Mr. Chapman, a decorated Korean War veteran and real estate executive, played the monster known as the Gill Man when he was a contract player for Universal Pictures. Released in 1954, the movie was the quintessential 3-D black-and-white monster movie of the 1950s. Mr. Chapman, who was 6 feet 5 inches tall, got the Gill Man part because of his size. He said there were actually two actors who played the part. He was the creature on land; Ricou Browning was the actor in the water sequences.
In publicity photos Mr. Chapman was the one beneath the foam-rubber body suit and the large-lipped headpiece. Julia Adams was the object of his affection. The Gill Man is shot and stabbed in the final moments of the film. He sinks into the depths of the water, only to return in a pair of sequels that never replicated the success of the original. Neither featured Mr. Chapman.
Mr. Chapman had a Web site (the-reelgillman.com), where his fans could contact him.
Ben Chapman was born on Oct. 29, 1928, in Oakland, Calif., but was reared in Tahiti. When he was 12 or 13, his family moved to San Francisco. He served in Korea with the Marine Corps, earning a Silver Star and a Bronze Star. He also earned two Purple Hearts for battle injuries to his legs, which doctors wanted to amputate. Instead, he nursed himself back to health.
Besides his son Ben, he is survived by his companion of 25 years, Merrilee Kazarian, who often referred to herself as “Mrs. Creature”; another son, Grant Chapman of Las Vegas; a stepdaughter, Elyse Maree Raljevich of Coto De Gaza, Calif.; and a sister, Moea Baty of Los Angeles.
Ben Chapman, rockin' the scales.