Universal Studios
Universal Studios

10 Aquatic Facts About Creature From the Black Lagoon

Universal Studios
Universal Studios

The black-and-white horror film about a half-man, half-amphibian first swam into theaters in 1954. Today, the 3D film is widely considered one of the greatest monster pictures ever made.

1. The Movie’s Concept Was Conceived at a Citizen Kane Dinner Party.

RKO Radio Pictures, Wikimedia Commons

One night during filming of Citizen Kane, Orson Welles invited one of the movie's actors, William Allandover for dinner along with a cinematographer named Gabriel Figueroa. While there, Figueroa shared a story he had heard during his travels of a race of amphibious beasts—half man, half reptile—that stalked the Amazon River. More than a decade later, still intrigued by the concept, Alland dramatized it by producing Creature from the Black Lagoon.

2. The Creature Was Modeled After the Academy Award.

Universal managed to snag an up-and-coming filmmaker with a prestigious resume to direct the film: In 1951, Jack Arnold’s documentary With These Hands had received an Academy Award nomination. Though he didn’t get the Oscar, Arnold kept the souvenir certificate that the Academy always mailed to its nominees. The little card would go on to become an unexpected source of inspiration behind the scenes of Creature from the Black Lagoon.

As Arnold told Cinefantastique magazine in 1975, “There was a picture of the Oscar statuette on it. I said, ‘If we put a gilled head on [the figurine], plus fins and scales, that would look pretty much like the kind of creature we’re trying to get.’ So they made a mold out of rubber, and gradually the costume took shape.” At first, the creature had what leading lady Julie Adams (credited as Julia Adams) described as an “eel-like” physique. Slick and streamlined, the outfit didn’t come with much in the way of fins, ridges, or body armor. These were later enhanced to give the monster a more menacing appearance. 

3. Part of the Film Was Shot on Location in Florida’s Panhandle.

Observant viewers may have noticed that the film's Amazon looks a lot like parts of the greater Tallahassee, Florida area. Though Creature from the Black Lagoon was mainly filmed in Hollywood, several river and underwater sequences were shot at Wakulla Springs State Park.

4. A Former Frankenstein Actor Turned Down the Main Role.

Monogram Pictures, Wikimedia Commons

When Boris Karloff retired from playing Mary Shelley’s reanimated monster, Glenn Strange took over. From 1944 to 1948, Strange terrified audiences in Universal’s House of Frankenstein, House of Dracula, and Abbott & Costello Meet Frankenstein. Years later, the studio tapped him to play their web-footed “Gillman” in Creature from the Black Lagoon, but because swimming wasn’t his forte, Strange declined the part.

5. The Gillman’s Designer Didn’t Get Her Due Credit.

Millicent Patrick’s huge contributions to the horror genre have been largely forgotten, even by die-hard fans. Her talents were numerous: Patrick acted in 21 films, drew concept art for countless others, performed as a concert pianist, and became the first female animator that Disney ever hired. Before Creature from the Black Lagoon, she’d sketched various monster body parts for Universal. The Gillman gave her an opportunity to really shine, as Patrick was responsible for designing every inch of the creature’s body.

As part of the film's ad campaign, Patrick posed with Gillman masks and sketches for some publicity shots. But makeup artist George Hamilton “Bud” Westmore, didn't want to be upstaged. He falsely claimed that he was the beast’s sole designer and made sure that Patrick’s name stayed out of the opening credits.    

6. Two Slightly Different Suits Were Built.

During the pre-production stage, Florida native Rico Browning was asked to show the filmmakers around Wakulla Springs. At the site, he also agreed to swim about for some underwater test shots. A few weeks later, the young man received a fateful phone call. As Browning reveals on the DVD documentary Back to the Black Lagoon, Jack Arnold said, “We like the way you swam. How would you like to be the creature from the Black Lagoon?”

Browning said “yes,” but soon learned that portraying the monster would be a two-man job: While the Floridian did all of the Gillman’s underwater scenes, Ben Chapman played him on dry land. This presented a few technical challenges: While Browning stood just under six feet in height, Chapman was an imposing 6’ 4”. Clearly, they couldn’t share a costume. So full-body molds of both actors were made, which formed the lowest layer of each man’s creature suit. Due to the height disparity, there are a few subtle differences between the outfits (Chapman’s, for example, came with an extra chest plate).

7. Restricted Eyesight Became a Big Challenge for the Creature Performers.  

“Vision was the hardest part,” Browning said of his experience playing the Gillman. “I didn’t wear any goggles or [a] facemask and the eye of the suit sat about an inch from my eye ... it’s kind of like looking through a keyhole with blurred vision, so it was difficult seeing.”

Chapman, too, suffered from eyehole problems. Near the finale, the creature carries a passed-out Kay Lawrence (played by Adams) through his cave. Since Chapman’s peripheral vision was limited, he accidentally slammed Adams’ head right into an artificial rock. “I was of course being carried with my eyes closed and, all of a sudden, I had a bump on my head,” Adams recalled. Luckily, she was unhurt and shooting resumed a few hours later.  

8. Studio Execs Demanded that the Striking “Creature Theme” Be Replayed Ad Nauseam.

Film scholar David Schecter estimates that the tune gets repeated around 130 times (listen for it at 0:35 in the clip above). As Schecter notes in Back to the Black Lagoon, the movie’s three composers—Henry Mancini, Herman Stein, and Hans J. Salter—were “told from on high ... ‘We want to hear the creature theme every time.’ So they no doubt grumbled a little and they did their job and their job was to incorporate this very intrusive theme.” Viewers won’t find a single Gillman sequence in which they don't hear that refrain.

9. Its 1955 Sequel Was Clint Eastwood’s First Movie.  

Pleased by the box office success of the original film, Universal rushed a sequel production. Revenge of the Creature premiered in Denver on March 23, 1955. At one point, audiences got to see future star Clint Eastwood portraying a lab assistant. Though his appearance was uncredited, it hardly went unnoticed when the cast of Mystery Science Theater 3000 riffed Revenge of the Creature in a 1997 episode:

For Revenge of the Creature, Arnold resumed directing duties and he didn’t care for the young Eastwood's bit, telling Alland, “I told you I don’t want to do that goddamn scene!” Eventually, he relented and the footage stayed in. Eastwood never forgot the experience. As he told The Telegraph, “It was a hell of a way to start your acting career: walk on a set and you know that the director hates the scene. Therefore you know he hates you.”

10. The Gillman Enjoyed a Quick Appearance on The Munsters.

During the first season episode “Love Comes to Mockingbird Heights,” television’s spookiest family received a crate filled with their Uncle Gilbert’s rare doubloons. In the final scene, Gilbert shows up and is revealed to be none other than the creature from the Black Lagoon (as played by Richard Hale, who dons both a Gillman mask and a three-piece business suit).

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Shout! Factory
10 Surprising Facts About Mr. Mom
Shout! Factory
Shout! Factory

John Hughes penned the script for 1983's Mr. Mom, a comedy about a family man named Jack Butler (Micheal Keaton) who loses his job. To ensure their three kids are taken care of, his wife, Caroline (Teri Garr), goes back to work—leaving Jack to fight off a vacuum cleaner and learn why it's never a good idea to feed chili to a baby.

In 1982, Keaton turned in a star-making role in Ron Howard’s Night Shift, but Mr. Mom marked the first time he headlined a movie, and it launched his career. Hughes had written National Lampoon's Vacation, which—oddly enough—was released in theaters the weekend after Mr. Mom. But Hughes himself was still a relative unknown, as it would be another year before he entered the teen flick phase of his career, which would make him iconic.

In the meantime, Mr. Mom hit home for a lot of viewers, as the economy was on the downturn and more and more women were entering (or reentering) the workforce. But some people think that the movie's ending—which sees the couple revert to traditional gender roles—sidelined the movie's message. Still, on the 35th anniversary of its release, Mr. Mom remains an ahead-of-its-time comedy classic.

1. IT'S BASED ON A TRUE STORY.

Mr. Mom producer Lauren Shuler Donner came across a funny article John Hughes had written for National Lampoon. Based on that, she contacted him and the two became friends. “One day, he was telling me that his wife had gone down to Arizona and he was in charge of the two boys and he didn’t know what he was doing,” Donner told IGN. “It was hilarious! I was on the floor laughing. He said, ‘Do you think this would make a good movie?’ And I said, ‘Yeah, this is really funny.’ So he said, ‘Well, I have about 80 pages in a drawer. Would you look at it?’ So I looked at it and I said, ‘This is great! Let’s do it!’ We kind of developed it ourselves.” In the book Movie Moguls Speak, Donner mentioned how Hughes “had never been to a grocery store, he had never operated a vacuum cleaner. John was so ignorant, that in his ignorance, he was hilarious.”

The players involved with the movie told Donner and Hughes they thought it should be a TV movie. Hughes had a TV deal with Aaron Spelling, who came aboard to executive produce. “Then the players involved were upset because John was writing out of Chicago instead of L.A.,” Donner said in Movie Moguls Speak. “They fired John and brought in a group of TV writers. In the end, John and I were muscled out. It was a good movie, but if you ever read John’s original script for Mr. Mom, it’s far better.”

2. JOHN HUGHES REJECTED THE IDEA OF DIRECTING MR. MOM.

Stan Dragoti ended up directing the film, but only after Hughes turned it down, because he preferred to make his movies in Chicago, not Hollywood. “I don’t like being around the people in the movie business,” Hughes told Roger Ebert. “In Hollywood, you spend all of your time having lunch and making deals. Everybody is trying to shoot you down. I like to get my actors out here where we can make our movies in privacy.” Hughes remained in Chicago and filmed his directorial debut, Sixteen Candles, there.

3. MICHAEL KEATON GOT THE ROLE BECAUSE OF NIGHT SHIFT.

In 1982’s Night Shift, Keaton’s character works at a morgue and starts a prostitution ring with co-worker Henry Winkler. Donner had an agent friend, Laurie Perlman, who represented the not-yet-famous actor. She contacted Donner and pitched Keaton to her. “’Look, I represent this guy who is really funny. Would you meet with him?’" Donner recalled of the conversation. "So I met with him. Usually I don’t like to do this unless we’re casting, but I met with him because she was my friend. And then she said, ‘You have to see this movie Night Shift that he’s in.’ So I went to see Night Shift, and midway through I couldn’t wait to get out of that theater to give Mr. Mom to Michael Keaton. Fortunately, he liked it."

Keaton told Grantland that he turned down one of the main roles in Splash to play Jack Butler. “I just remember at the time thinking I wanted to get away from what I’d just done on Night Shift,” he said. “I thought if I do it again, I might get myself stuck. So then Mr. Mom came along. So I said no [to Splash] so I could set up this framework right away where I could do different things.”

4. THE FILM BROKE NEW GROUND.

Teri Garr, Michael Keaton, Taliesin Jaffe, Frederick Koehler, and Martin Mull in Mr. Mom (1983)
Shout! Factory

In 1983, more women stayed at home than worked, so it was a novelty for a man to be a stay-at-home dad. Today, an estimated 1.4 million men are stay-at-home dads, and 7 million men are their children's primary caregiver. “Mr. Mom became part of the vernacular,” Donner told Newsweek. “Mr. Mom represented a segment of men who were at home dealing with the kids who, up until then, really hadn’t been heard from. That’s what really told me about the power of film, because it spoke for a lot of men. It also helped women, because I think that women sometimes, if you’re a housewife, you’re not really appreciated for what you do. This sort of made women feel better about what they did because they knew that men were understanding it.”

5. TODAY, “MR. MOM” IS CONSIDERED A PEJORATIVE TERM.

More than 30 years after the film’s release, stay-at-home dads feel the term “Mr. Mom” should die. The National At-Home Dad Network launched a campaign to terminate the phrase and instead have people refer to men as “Dad.” In 2014 Lake Superior State University voted to banish “Mr. Mom” from the lexicon.

“At least, the pop-culture image of the inept dad who wouldn’t know a diaper genie from a garbage disposal has begun to fade,” wrote The Wall Street Journal, after declaring “Mr. Mom is dead.”

6. TERI GARR DIDN’T KNOW IT WAS A MESSAGE MOVIE.

The movie redefined gender roles, but when the producers pitched the premise to Garr, they hid the plot reversal. “They just told me it was about a guy who does the work that a woman does, because it’s so easy,” she told The A.V. Club. “And I went, ‘Oh, yeah. Ha ha.’ It’s so easy. All the women I know who stay home and take care of their kids, they go, ‘Oh yeah, this is easy.’ Hmm.”

7. MARTIN MULL IMPROVISED THE “220, 221” LINE.

The quote everyone remembers from the movie comes from Jack, holding a chainsaw, standing next to Ron Richardson (Martin Mull) and discussing what kind of wiring Jack will use in renovating the house: “220, 221, whatever it takes,” Jack says.

“We’re doing the scene and it was okay,” Keaton told Esquire. “And I remember saying to the prop guy, ‘Go find me a chainsaw.’ When he comes back with it, he says, ‘You wanna wear these?’ And he holds up some goggles. I go, ‘Yeah.’ You know, they make me look crazy. And when Martin shows up, I know I should look under control, I’m not sweating it. I’m a dude. So we’re standing there, Martin pulls me aside and says, ‘You know what you ought to say? When I ask about the wiring, you oughta just deadpan: ‘220, 221.’ I died. It was perfect. I may have added ‘whatever it takes.’ But it was his.”

“That was a little ad-lib that we just threw in, but every carpenter or construction person I’ve ever worked with, they’re always quoting that line from Mr. Mom,” Mull told The A.V. Club.

8. MR. MOM OUTGROSSED HUGHES’S OTHER 1983 SUMMER MOVIE—VACATION.

Mr. Mom only opened on 126 screens on July 22, 1983, but managed to gross $947,197 during its opening weekend. Once the film went wide a month later to 1235 screens, it hit number one at the box office and spent five weeks at the top. By the end of its run, the film had grossed just shy of $65 million, making it the ninth highest-grossing film of 1983 (just between Staying Alive and Risky Business). National Lampoon’s Vacation, Hughes’s other film that summer, came out July 29 and ended its theatrical run with $61,399,552 (at its height, it showed on 1248 screens). Vacation finished the year in 11th place.

9. THE MOVIE LED TO HUGHES BEING CALLED “A PURVEYOR OF HORNY SEX COMEDIES.”

During a 1986 interview with Seventeen magazine, Molly Ringwald asked the writer-director why he never showed teen sex in Sixteen Candles or The Breakfast Club. “In Sixteen Candles, I figured it would only be gratuitous to show Samantha and Jake in anything more than a kiss,” he said. “The kiss is the most beautiful moment. I was really amused when someone once called me a ‘purveyor of horny sex comedies.’ He listed The Breakfast Club and Mr. Mom in parentheses. I thought, ‘What kind of sex?’ Yes, in Mr. Mom there’s a baby in a bathtub and you see its bare butt.”

10. MR. MOM WAS MADE INTO A TV MOVIE AFTER ALL.

In the beginning, producers wanted Mr. Mom to be a TV movie, not a feature film. But a year after the film came out in theaters, ABC produced a TV movie called Mr. Mom, with the same characters and premise. Barry Van Dyke played Jack and Rebecca York played Caroline. A People magazine review of the movie stated: “They and their three kids are immediately likable … But it goes downhill from there as the script lobotomizes all its characters. Here’s a textbook case in how TV takes a cute idea—and a script that does have some good lines—and leeches the wit out of it.”

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Central Press/Getty Images
Ernest Hemingway’s Guide to Life, In 20 Quotes
Central Press/Getty Images
Central Press/Getty Images

Though he made his living as a writer, Ernest Hemingway was just as famous for his lust for adventure. Whether he was running with the bulls in Pamplona, fishing for marlin in Bimini, throwing back rum cocktails in Havana, or hanging out with his six-toed cats in Key West, the Nobel and Pulitzer Prize-winning author never did anything halfway. And he used his adventures as fodder for the unparalleled collection of novels, short stories, and nonfiction books he left behind, The Sun Also Rises, A Farewell to Arms, Death in the Afternoon, For Whom the Bell Tolls, and The Old Man and the Sea among them.

On what would be his 119th birthday—he was born in Oak Park, Illinois on July 21, 1899—here are 20 memorable quotes that offer a keen perspective into Hemingway’s way of life.

ON THE IMPORTANCE OF LISTENING

"I like to listen. I have learned a great deal from listening carefully. Most people never listen."

ON TRUST

"The best way to find out if you can trust somebody is to trust them."

ON DECIDING WHAT TO WRITE ABOUT

"I never had to choose a subject—my subject rather chose me."

ON TRAVEL

"Never go on trips with anyone you do not love."


Ernest Hemingway Photograph Collection, John F. Kennedy Presidential Library and Museum, Boston. [1], Public Domain, Wikimedia Commons

ON THE RELATIONSHIP BETWEEN INTELLIGENCE AND HAPPINESS

"Happiness in intelligent people is the rarest thing I know."

ON TRUTH

"There's no one thing that is true. They're all true."

ON THE DOWNSIDE OF PEOPLE

"The only thing that could spoil a day was people. People were always the limiters of happiness, except for the very few that were as good as spring itself."

ON SUFFERING FOR YOUR ART

"There is nothing to writing. All you do is sit down at a typewriter and bleed."

ON TAKING ACTION

"Never mistake motion for action."

ON GETTING WORDS OUT

"I wake up in the morning and my mind starts making sentences, and I have to get rid of them fast—talk them or write them down."


Photograph by Mary Hemingway, in the Ernest Hemingway Photograph Collection, John F. Kennedy Presidential Library and Museum, Boston., Public Domain, Wikimedia Commons

ON THE BENEFITS OF SLEEP

"I love sleep. My life has the tendency to fall apart when I'm awake, you know?"

ON FINDING STRENGTH 

"The world breaks everyone, and afterward, some are strong at the broken places."

ON THE TRUE NATURE OF WICKEDNESS

"All things truly wicked start from innocence."

ON WRITING WHAT YOU KNOW

"If a writer knows enough about what he is writing about, he may omit things that he knows. The dignity of movement of an iceberg is due to only one ninth of it being above water."

ON THE DEFINITION OF COURAGE

"Courage is grace under pressure."

ON THE PAINFULNESS OF BEING FUNNY

"A man's got to take a lot of punishment to write a really funny book."


By Ernest Hemingway Photograph Collection, John F. Kennedy Presidential Library and Museum, Boston. - JFK Library, Public Domain, Wikimedia Commons

ON KEEPING PROMISES

"Always do sober what you said you'd do drunk. That will teach you to keep your mouth shut."

ON GOOD VS. EVIL

"About morals, I know only that what is moral is what you feel good after and what is immoral is what you feel bad after."

ON REACHING FOR THE UNATTAINABLE

"For a true writer, each book should be a new beginning where he tries again for something that is beyond attainment. He should always try for something that has never been done or that others have tried and failed. Then sometimes, with great luck, he will succeed."

ON HAPPY ENDINGS

"There is no lonelier man in death, except the suicide, than that man who has lived many years with a good wife and then outlived her. If two people love each other there can be no happy end to it."

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