In Remembrance: Ben Chapman

 

     Ben Chapman, the six-foot, five inches tall actor who played the Gill-man in the 1954 Universal classic The Creature From The Black Lagoon, has passed away on February 21, 2008 in Honolulu, Hawaii. He was 79.

 

     Chosen for the role due to his height, the Gill-man suit extenuated his height to an imposing seven feet tall. Although he wore the foam-rubber suit in all of the Creature From The Black Lagoonís land-bound scenes, Chapman was always quick to give credit to stunt man Ricou Browning for playing the Gill-man in the underwater sequences. Chapman also participated in the promotion for the film, posing for iconic pictures with the filmís co-star Julie Adams. He would be paid just $300 a week for his work on the film.

 

     Initially released in 3-D, the film would earn itself generations of new fans through television screenings through the 1970s and 80s. The film proved popular enough to spawn two sequels, though Chapman did not play the Gill-man in either of them.

 

     Born on October 29, 1928 in Oakland, California but raised in Tahiti, where as a child actor he worked as an extra on the Marlon Brando film Mutiny On The Bounty. His family relocated to San Francisco as he entered his teenage years. He served in the Korean War, where he earned a Bronze and Silver Star and two Purple Hearts.

 

     Although a majority of Chapmanís work was as an extra in such films as Pagan Love Song (1950) and Ma And Pa Kettle At Waikiki (1955), he did have small speaking roles in the John Wayne film Wake Of The Red Witch (1949) and Jungle Moon Men (1955). Following his departure from acting, Chapman worked in real estate in Hawaii.

 

     More recently, Chapman had been a presence at many science-fiction and autograph collectors shows, enjoying interacting with fans.