Julie Adams is known best as the bathing beauty Kay Lawrence in 1954’s “Creature from the Black Lagoon”. She also appeared in the musical comedy “Tickle Me” along side Elvis Presley in 1965. Recently, Adams has authored a book on her life and career called “The Lucky Southern Star: Reflections From The Black Lagoon”, which was published in 2011 and is currently available via her website. Media Mikes had a chance to chat with Julie about her role in “Creature from the Black Lagoon” and discuss her outstanding career.
Mike Gencarelli: Why do you think that Creature has resonated with fans for all these years?
Julie Adams: I think it’s a good movie. The script was well-written by Harry Essex and Arthur A. Ross. Jack Arnold was a fine director; he did a beautiful job directing the film. Our ensemble cast helped to make a fantastic story believable. The Creature suit was unique and original, and still captures audiences’ imaginations today with how immaculately it was designed and realized on film. The music also accentuates the suspense and enhances the scary moments. Creature enthusiasts from back in the 1950s watched the movie with their children in the 1970s. Today, people who grew up in the 70s run the film with their kids, so we now have three generations of fans — it is truly remarkable to be a part of this kind of phenomenon.
MG: What was your initial reaction when you first saw the Gill Man costume? Was it on Ben Chapman or Ricou Browning?
JA: I was startled the first time I saw the Gill Man fully realized. I’ll never forget how believable the costume looked. I did the majority of my work in the film with Ben Chapman. Ricou primarily worked with my double, Ginger Stanley, in the underwater sequences that were shot in Wakulla Springs, Florida.
MG: Did shooting the film in 3D cause any issues during production?
JA: Have you seen the new 3D Bluray? Shooting in 3D had very little impact on me throughout the course of the production. That aspect of the filmmaking was left up to our fine camera crew and director. I have seen the new 3D Bluray. In fact, we screened it in Jacksonville, Florida in March at Sun-Ray Cinema with a sold out audience. The entire film has been digitally restored. It’s almost like a new movie. Like a crystal clear window into the past. It is absolutely spectacular!
MG: What was it like swimming knowing that “the creature” was underneath you?
JA: In actuality, it was all an illusion. Because I only did the swimming on the surface at Universal Studios in Hollywood, the Creature was never beneath me at the studio. That was the magic of editing. The stunning underwater photography in Florida was seamlessly cut together with the shots of me on the surface on the studio backlot, creating the effect for the audience that the Creature and I were actually in the Black Lagoon together. I’m still astonished at how well the underwater ballet with Kay and the Gill Man still captivates viewers to this day!
MG: Any interesting stories from shooting in the water?
JA: Probably the most intriguing was from a scene near the end of the picture when I am being carried by Ben Chapman in the Creature’s underwater lair. Someone at the studio had forgotten to heat the tank that day. It was a chilly autumn morning, and the water was quite cold. So when Ben emerged with me in his arms I was trying desperately not to shiver. The goggles on Ben’s Creature mask fogged up and he couldn’t see very well. The cave set was made up of paper mache’ rocks that had a few jagged edges. While carrying me unconscious in his arms, Ben accidentally bumped my head against one of the rocks and my eyes suddenly opened and I raised my head. The director yelled “Cut,” and production was delayed momentarily while a small scrape on my forehead was tended to by a nurse. Of course, the studio made a publicity stunt out of it and pictures were taken of the mishap. I still love seeing the photo of Ben in his Creature suit looking over me solicitously as the nurse tends to my forehead. In the end, it was a very minor incident and production resumed about fifteen minutes later.
MG: Tell why did you decided to write your memoir “The Lucky Southern Star: Reflections From The Black Lagoon”?
JA: It was really the fans’ idea. Over the years a lot of folks who enjoy my work in movies and television asked me about writing a memoir. Finally in 2009, my son Mitch and I decided it was time to sit down and write one! It took us more than two years to complete. We have been delighted with the response to it, movie enthusiasts from all over world have read it, some have even sent nice notes telling me how much they have enjoyed it. There is an entire chapter about the making of Creature from the Black Lagoon, the book is also filled with numerous behind-the-scenes photos form Creature and other films and television shows that I appeared in through the years. It is available exclusively through my website at www.julieadams.biz.
MG: Any plans to release as audio book expanding the original small run?
JA: Due to the popularity of the print book, we released the audio book near the end of 2012. I read the entire story for the production, which was a lot of fun and brought back so many memories. I think my fans have enjoyed hearing me read the story on the audio book. Some even own both the print and audio book, which is wonderful!
MG: What was it like working with Elvis Presley?
JA: It was a dream. I’m from the South and Elvis was a true Southern gentleman. One example of this was how he sent all of the actresses in Tickle Me flowers on their first day on the set. I also marveled at how well he performed his singing numbers in the movie, lip-syncing them perfectly. Elvis was a phenomenon, and I cherished my time working with him!
MG: Looking back on your amazing career what were some of your favorite roles?
JA: Naturally, I loved the role of Kay Lawrence in Creature. It was nice playing an educated scientist who goes off on an adventure up the Amazon in search of the origin of a mysterious claw. I also enjoyed portraying Laura Baile in Bend of the River, opposite James Stewart, whom I consider to be one of the silver screen’s finest actors. Later in my career I had great fun as Eve Simpson, the realtor in Cabot Cove on Murder, She Wrote. She was an eccentric character who provided some funny moments on the show. And of course it was a great experience to play comedy with someone as skilled as Angela Lansbury. I also loved performing in the theatre. One of my favorite roles was as Mary Tyrone in Eugene O’Neill’s masterwork Long Day’s Journey into Night. I’ve been fortunate to play a lot of interesting women over the years, and feel blessed to have had so many opportunities in film, television, and on the stage to entertain audiences.