The year was 1954, Marilyn Monroe marries baseball player Joe DiMaggio, Rock and Roll is born when Bill Haley & His Comets record “Rock Around The Clock”, and The U.S. Supreme Court rules unanimously that segregated schools are unconstitutional via Brown v. Board of Education and Universal Pictures last classic monster film Creature from the Black Lagoon is released into theaters. The film becomes an instant hit for the studio making it one of the greatest horror films of the 1950’s and cementing The Creature’s status as one of the main monsters in Universal’s pantheon of classic monsters, joining the ranks of Frankenstein’s monster, Bride of Frankenstein, Dracula, The Mummy, The Wolf Man, The Invisible Man and Phantom of the Opera.
Betty May Adams was born in 1926 in Iowa; she then moved and grew up in Arkansas performing in school plays with aspirations of becoming an actor. In the late 40’s, she followed her path to Hollywood to become an actor. With a little luck, she was cast in several westerns under her real name Betty Adams which she changed to Julia Adams once she signed with Universal, then fate took over.
The female lead and star of Creature was the lovely Julia Adams (she would later change her name to Julie) in the role of swimming scientist Kay Lawrence. Unbeknownst to Julie, her role in the soon to be classic film would make her immortal to fans of horror and fantastic cinema and would be the unlikely benchmark in her long career that has spanned over 60 years and over 145 film and television roles. Of the many highlights in Creature, Julie’s swimming appearance in that iconic white, one-piece bathing suit which graced the movie’s one-sheet and plethora of still pictures, stands out as the epitome of beauty from Hollywood’s Golden Age and is still stunning to this very day.
Julie worked with some of the biggest names in Hollywood at the time, including Jimmy Stewart, Elvis Presley, Rock Hudson, Arthur Kennedy, Tyrone Power and John Wayne, to name a few. She has worked steadily throughout her long and varied Hollywood career in everything from westerns, dramas, comedies, musicals, action and of course a few horror films. Julie Adams remains a classic example of the warmth, integrity and grace of what a leading lady from Hollywood’s Golden Age should be. She has written her autobiography along with her son, Mitchell Danton. Her book entitled The Lucky Southern Star: Reflections From The Black Lagoon is available on her website: www.julieadams.biz and at her signing and screening appearances.
I had the distinct honor of being allowed to chat with Julie to promote her upcoming Chicago appearance for two very special screenings of Creature from the Black Lagoon in 3D on Saturday, September 28th at The Patio Theater, 6008 Irving Park Rd, Chicago, IL. Please join me as I chat with Julie (her son Mitchell Danton chimes in during the interview as well) about Creature from the Black Lagoon, some of her film and television roles, her autobiography and more.
Details of Julie Adams Chicago appearance are following the interview!
Horror Society: Ms. Adams, I just wanted to say first of all, thank you so much for taking a little bit of time out of your day to speak with myself and the readers of Horror Society. I’ve been a huge fan of yours for many years, I’ve loved The Creature from the Black Lagoon and I wanted to thank you so much.
Julie Adams: All I can say is you are certainly welcome and I’m very pleased that you liked the movie and like my work in it.
HS: I also wanted to say to start off, I have a six year-old son Benjamin and The Creature from the Black Lagoon is his favorite monster movie.
JA: Well, give him my very best wishes OK. Tell him I’m glad he liked our movie.
HS: He just loves watching that movie.
JA: That’s great; it’s nice that we have young fans coming up.
HS: Yes, and I’m sure that you always will. So to start off, I just want to talk a little bit about The Creature from the Black Lagoon. Of all your notable and substantial film and television appearances, you’ll probably forever be known as the beautiful Kay from the Universal Pictures CFTBL film. First of all, does it bother you at all that an unlikely B-horror movie has stood the test of time and made you primarily what you’re known for?
JA: Well, no, not at all. We’re in show business, whatever the fans have loved, more power to them you know. I’ve done stage work; I’ve worked in plays by Eugene O’Neill that I’ve loved. It all depends on what people respond to and like, and this picture has had a great life so more power to it.
HS: Are you surprised at all that still to this very day it commands an audience wherever it’s played and is so wildly popular?
JA: I think it’s rather amazing because there are so many new pictures and so many new stories or scary pictures or whatever. I think it’s kind of a tribute to everybody who worked on the picture, the people who wrote it, photographed it and so on. What can I say, I’m delighted we’re still entertaining people.
HS: Awesome! CFTBL is often described at its heart as a beauty and the beast tale. Is that how you see the film? If not, what is your take on the film?
JA: I think the best thing about the picture is that we do feel for the Creature. We feel for him and his predicament and where he is and so on. I think that’s a very positive thing really. I like that we feel sympathy for the Creature.
HS: I agree that’s what makes CFTBL such the classic it is, the empathy that the audience feels for The Gill-man.
JA: I agree completely. He didn’t invade our world, we went into his world.
HS: How did you get on with director Jack Arnold and when you were filming it, did he have a clear vision of what he wanted the film to be as it was being shot?
JA: I think he did because I felt very comfortable working with him. He was a good director, everything he suggested made sense and I got along with him very well. It was a very pleasant experience. The life of the picture itself testified that he was a good director.
HS: Definitely, one of the best of that age. Ms. Adams, while you were at Universal, you were a contract player there. What were your first thoughts when you were initially given the role in CFTBL?
JA: I thought the creature from what? What is this, because I had been working with some major stars and so on? What I thought were loftier ideas of film but I read it and I thought if I turn it down I won’t get paid and I’ll be on suspension and then I thought, what the hay, it might be fun and of course, indeed it was. It was fun and was more than fun; it was a great pleasure to do the picture.
HS: That’s wonderful. I know beforehand there were several designs of what the creature might look like. When The Gill-man was revealed to you and the rest of the cast, what were your first thoughts when you saw it?
JA: I felt a bit in awe because I thought they had done such a great job. I thought it was remarkable and there was something touching about it. I admired them all, the people who designed it and executed the finished product. I think it has stood the test of time as well, new generations seem to like this film as well and the creature.
HS: Were you privy to any of the behind the scenes strife about how the creature was created or did you learn later on about Milicent Patrick actually creating the look of the creature but Bud Westmore taking credit for it for almost 50 years?
JA: Well, I heard about it later but since I didn’t know anything about all of that, I never participated in it because I didn’t know all the facts and all the discussion so I stayed out of it.
HS: Right, OK. The film is often cited for having a few scenes of sexual innuendo, especially for the 1950’s. Was any of this hinted about while you were shooting or did that come later on from film historians?
JA: I think that all came later. While I was making the movie, I just did the job and I worked with the director and it was a very congenial atmosphere. I always felt comfortable doing what he asked and it was all fun. It’s only later that talk began.
HS: Were you ever approached to work on the sequel Revenge of the Creature?
JA: No, no I wasn’t and I was glad because I felt this was the original creature and I did that one and that was enough. I would rather do other projects instead of the sequel to it.
HS: I think that makes the original film that much more special.
JA: Well thank you.
HS: How was it to work with your two male leads in the film, Richard Carlson and Richard Denning?
JA: They were both wonderful film actors and gentlemen. I enjoyed working with both of them, they’re very good. It was a very congenial cast all in all. We all got along and we had a wonderful director as you know.
HS: It’s also widely known that during the scene in the cave when The Gill-man is carrying you out of his cave, that the actor Ben (Chapman) accidentally hit your head on the rocks while walking through the narrow walkway because he couldn’t see out of the mask. How did that accident turn out for you and do you have any other interesting stories from the film?
JA: I don’t know if it’s such an interesting story (laughing). I was of course being carried with my eyes closed and all of a sudden, I had this bump on my head. It was presumably a cave that he was carrying me through and the cave had these prongs that stuck out from the side as caves do sometimes and that’s what he hit my head on and I jumped (laughing). Then the publicity department got all excited and they brought some cameramen down and they had somebody from the set hospital and bandaged my head and they made a big deal out of it, publicity wise. I always thought it wasn’t that much of a deal, but there we are.
HS: Do you have any other fun stories from filming the movie that you can share?
JA: It was really a very congenial set. I enjoyed working with everybody. In the morning I would come in and there would be Ben Chapman all done up in his outfit and I would pat him on the rubberized cheek that he had and say “Good morning beastie!” So we all sort of teased each other and joked around and we had a good time. It was a wonderful atmosphere on our set thank goodness.
HS: To step back for a few minutes. How did you get bitten by the acting bug and was it a long road to Hollywood for you or did that come fairly quickly?
JA: Well, when I was a kid I was in some school plays and I loved doing school plays. I was in every one that they would give me a chance to be in. Later on, my father had been married to his first wife, we chatted often and she was a very nice person, she said she knew I was very interested in acting. She said if I ever wanted to try my luck in movies, I’ll help you. She ran a bathing suit shop; she outfitted many girls for beauty contests so she knew some talent scouts and things of that sort. So she said she could help me out. So when I came to California, I looked her up, I called her my aunt Ruth, and she did indeed help me. There was a young woman who had worked for her who was also an actress and she lived in Hollywood and so I shared an apartment with her. Ruth linked me up with her and lent me money when I was starting out, she really was a great instigator in terms of my life and career.
HS: Wow, that’s fascinating. We’re all so very glad that you took that path.
JA: So am I.
HS: You also made many television appearances, which medium did you prefer working in, TV or Film or did it even matter at all?
JA: Well, I loved to work so in a way it didn’t matter. It was just interesting to work in different mediums because each one had its own problems and privileges so to speak. I enjoyed them all really. I enjoyed working on the stage because you got that immediate response from the audience. In film, I worked with so many fine actors and it was really a great learning experience and they all became truly kind of a learning experience always because you learn something new as you go along. I really had a good time working, I enjoyed working.
HS: Also, you worked during the Golden Age of Hollywood. How was it different back then than what it is today?
JA: I suppose it’s hard to say because I liked to work so work was one thing or another and different times and so on. It was a great privilege to work with actors who were very skilled like James Stewart or Arthur Kennedy and so on because it was a great learning experience with me. I remember one day doing a scene with James Stewart and when they turned the camera around to do his close-up, I thought how does he do that? I’m acting with him but I’m still watching him, he’s not “doing anything” and yet everything is better and I thought that’s what I want. That wonderful thing not seeming to “act” and so it was a wonderful learning experience to work with very fine actors.
Mitchell Danton: One thing that was interesting is that she was assigned movies during the Golden Age when you were under contract and then later obviously you had an agent to help find you work right?
JA: Oh yes, yes that was a very different thing. It was wonderful because very often I was working opposite really skilled actors and I learned a lot at that time. Later, if we were cast with someone who was not as skilled, I would play the role of the one who was skilled and make it better because that’s what we do.
HS: Awesome. That brings me to my next question. Of all your leading men, and there were some big ones including Elvis Presley, Jimmy Stewart, Tyrone Power, The Gill-man (laughing), do you have any particular favorites out of the group?
JA: I really enjoyed all of these gentlemen, working with them very much. I suppose just for the reason I said before that probably James Stewart would be way up on the list because I learned so much from him. I enjoyed working with Elvis Presley, he was a delightful young man and I admired him very much the way he could do a musical number in one take and all that sort of thing. Each person was very good in their own way. Rock Hudson and I both worked at the studio together and we had a real friendship and had a lot of fun working together, we just enjoyed each other’s company very much. Each time was different in one way or another.
HS: To ask you a couple questions about some of your television appearances. You appeared in the episode “Mr. R.I.N.G.” of Kolchak: The Night Stalker, do you have any recollections at all about working on that show with Darren McGavin?
JA: Yes, kind of. When you worked in television, it all happens very quickly and then next week, you’re working on something else so my memories are a little blurred but I enjoyed that show very much and I liked Darren McGavin very much.
MD: What was fun about her character, she was kind of a drunk I think, if I recall.
HS: Yes, I just re-watched it last night.
MD: She was getting a visitor during the day and your character was drunk as a skunk at 12 o’clock in the afternoon. So she was kind of a rascally character if I recall and your husband had been killed by the robot and they were coming to investigate the murder, I think.
JA: See my son has a better memory about it than I do (Laughing). I enjoyed working with Darren McGavin very much, indeed. He was a wonderful actor and a wonderful person.
MD: It was kind of a black comedy that you played, it was kind of tongue in cheek through it all.
JA: Oh yes, oh yes, it was a fun part to play. I enjoyed all my roles, each one had something about it that I could find. I always had a good time working, I loved working.
HS: You also made an appearance on Rod Serling’s Night Gallery show; did you ever get to meet Mr. Serling?
JA: Yes, yes I did. It was on the set, I don’t think he directed the episode but he was on the set and he was very charming and very polite. I was delighted to meet him and pleased that I was cast in one of his projects, so it was all fun.
HS: You have written your autobiography, The Lucky Southern Star: Reflections from the Black Lagoon. What made you decide to want to write your autobiography?
JA: Well, when I would go around to screenings and so on and I would meet the fans, they would say, “Why don’t you write a book?” and I got that so often they wanted more stories and I thought what the hay, maybe I should. I got to work with my son here, Mitchell Danton and I wrote a lot of it in long hand and then he and I put it together. Really, he did so much of the work but I wrote it myself and then we polished it a bit and that’s it.
MD: One interesting thing about the book was, I travel with her to most events and we share a table. We were able to hear all the stories that all the fans wanted to hear so we were able almost make an Eagles greatest hits kind of thing where we knew the stories they liked and were able to elaborate on them further than we could in a few minutes at the table. Of course, we have many behind the scenes pictures that accompany the stories which I think bring them even more to life for the readers. So it’s kind of like Life magazine, you get to read the story and see the pictures; it’s almost a photo journal. We have about 200 pictures in the book, some from Night Gallery which you mentioned as well. It’s kind of the best of Julie Adams and a whole chapter about CFTBL for the creature fans.
HS: I have not read the book yet, but I definitely plan on reading it.
MD: It is available exclusively at www.julieadams.biz which is her official website. We’re not really on Amazon or at major bookstores. Also, there will be a book signing at the Patio Theater in Chicago on the 28th along with a Q&A with Foster Hirsch and the screenings of the 3D film, so it should be quite an afternoon for the creature faithful.
JA: We travel carrying our book.
HS: How long did it take for you to write the book?
JA: I can’t really say how long.
MD: About 2 1/2 years.
JA: I sat down and wrote things in longhand. As memories came back to me, I wrote it out in longhand and I kept those pages and that eventually became the book.
HS: Very interesting. Do you enjoy going to conventions and screenings and meeting your fans?
JA: Yes I do, after all, these are the people we did it all for. It’s wonderful to meet people who have enjoyed your work and the film and so on. I really do enjoy it very much.
MD: One fact that made me think about Creature in particular. She and the film now have about three generations of fans. The folks that watched it in the 50’s are now grandparents, they ran it for their kids and now their kids run it for their kids so it’s not unusual to see a little girl named Kay about five years old who is named after Mom’s strong willed Kay Lawrence, the scientist and beautiful swimmer. It’s a pretty wild experience if you come out and join us at the Patio Theater.
JA: Yes, come on out anytime.
HS: We horror fans can be a pretty obsessive group and it’s my belief that we’re the best fans in the world. Have you ever run across any really strange, scary types of fans?
JA: Very rarely and if you do, you can just give them some kind of answer and be friends with them. I don’t really have a problem with fans. If somebody says a little too much, you can always just say Excuse me, I have to go do something else. I really don’t have any problems with the fans.
MD: Overall, the creature fan base is extremely enthusiastic and extremely gracious. Each one seems to have their own unique story about the first time they saw the film or who they saw it with. Many have elaborate man caves or woman caves filled with posters, now hopefully our book and pictures. Each of them has their own take on the film which is always enlightening. Many travel for hundreds if not thousands of miles to come to these appearances for which we are extremely grateful. We had a gentleman travel from Phoenix to Hollywood for the screening of Wings of the Hawk last week at the Egyptian Theater in 3D. We had one gentleman drive from Colorado to Burbank for Monsterpalooza once. He came to get one poster signed for his basement man cave and then he drove straight back to Colorado. We were both astonished and grateful.
HS: That’s wonderful. Ms. Adams, I don’t want to take up too much more of your time. I just wanted to plug your appearance. You’re going to be appearing in Chicago next Saturday, the 28th of September at the Patio Theater for Two very special screenings of CFTBL in 3D and you will also be doing some Q&A sessions after each screening as well as having a book signing before and after each screening. I know I’ll be there and I’ll be looking forward to it.
JA: Well good, I’ll look forward to meeting you in person.
MD: I just wanted to say that Chicago is probably one of the greatest cities that we go to. The film fans of Chicago I think are the best, I don’t know if it’s the cold winters where you guys get to see a lot of movies, it is a great film community and this will be our third trip in the last 12 months. It’s a tribute to all the great film enthusiasts in Chicago, horror fans; we have western fans there, folks that like Perry Mason that she was in, Alfred Hitchcock presents. One of the most knowledgeable group of film enthusiasts that we have come across in our lengthy travels of America since the book tour began.
JA: Also they have a great art museum in Chicago that I manage to find a couple of hours to always escape to at least once while I’m there.
HS: Yes, that’s awesome. Ms. Adams, I just wanted to say that you’re a bonafide member of Hollywood royalty. As a horror fan in the horror community, you’re legendary. I’ve grown up watching the creature since I was too small to remember, I’ve seen it so many times, I’m a big fan of yours in the film and I just wanted to say thank you so much for taking the time out to talk with me.
JA: Well thank you for liking the Creature and enjoying our picture and I give you my very best wishes.
HS: Thank you very much and I’ll see you when you come to Chicago next week.
JA: Alright, I’m looking forward to meeting you in person.
HS: Ms. Adams and Mitch, you have a great day and take care. Bye bye.
Watch the trailer for Creature from the Black Lagoon here:
“Creature From the Black Lagoon” in 3D (35mm Print!)
screening with Julie Adams in Person on Saturday, September 28th!
6008 Irving Park Road
Chicago, IL 60634
Meet Julie Adams, star of “Creature From the Black Lagoon” in Person!
2 SHOWS TO CHOSE FROM:
2PM – CREATURE FROM THE BLACK LAGOON 3D (35mm print) screening with JULIE ADAMS in Person!
Doors open at 1pm
1PM – Autographs/Book Signing/Picture Taking with
2PM – Creature from the Black Lagoon (on 35mm in 3D)
3:30PM – Q & A with Julie
4PM – Autographs/Book Signing/Picture Taking with
7PM – CREATURE FROM THE BLACK LAGOON 3D (35mm print) screening with JULIE ADAMS in Person!
6PM – Doors open.
6PM – Autographs/Book Signing/Picture Taking
with Julie Adams.
7PM – Creature from the Black Lagoon (on 35mm in 3D)
8:30PM – Q & A with Julie
9:15PM – Autographs/Book Signing/Picture Taking
with Julie Adams.
Julie will be signing copies of her book (co-written with Mitchell Danton), “The Lucky Southern Star, Reflections
From The Black Lagoon” as well as pictures in the lobby before and after the screening.
Interviews will be conducted by noted film historian and author, Foster Hirsch (The Dark Side of the Screen: Film Noir) and Julie Adams biographer, Mitchell Danton.
Tickets are $12 pre-sale, $15 at the door, day of show.
Get advance tickets now through brownpapertickets:
For more info:
One CommentLeave a Reply
Very Nice article. Miss Julie is the best!