Posted by: Loren Coleman on August 26th, 2011
It was learned on Friday, and then spread around the web, that actor/stuntman Tom Hennesy, 87, who played the Black Lagoon Gill Man on land in the film Revenge of the Creature, died in Malibu, California, on May 23, 2011.
Tom Hennesy in 1991 and 1992. Photo credits.
Born Thomas Daniel Hennesy on August 4, 1923, in Los Angeles, he used his 6 feet 5 inches height to advantage. Hennesy began working in movies as an extra in the early 1940s, when he was a student at USC. He later became a stunt man, doubling action stars like Randolph Scott, Rod Cameron, Rock Hudson and Jeff Chandler. He also worked as a general secondary and elementary schoolteacher in many Hollywood film and TV studios; his students included Natalie Wood, Sal Mineo, Tim Considine, Molly Bee, Paul Anka, Tommy Rettig and Annette Funicello.
Tom Hennesy most famous role was in 1955′s Revenge of the Creature, the first sequel to 1954′s Creature from the Black Lagoon (which was inspired by the discovery of the second coelacanth in December 1952). The film is notable for being the only 3-D film to be released in 1955; the only 3-D sequel to a 3-D film; and for being the first screen role for Clint Eastwood. The movie was released May 11, 1955, in the United States. It was followed by a sequel in 1956, The Creature Walks Among Us.
The plot of the film is as follows: Having survived being riddled with bullets at the end of The Creature from the Black Lagoon, the Gill-man is captured and sent to the Ocean Harbor Oceanarium in Florida, where he is studied by animal psychologist Professor Clete Ferguson and ichthyology student Helen Dobson. Helen and Clete quickly begin to fall in love, much to the chagrin of Joe Hayes, the Gill-man’s keeper. The Gill-man takes an instant liking to Helen, which severely hampers Professor Ferguson’s efforts to communicate with him. Ultimately, the Gill-man escapes from his tank, killing Joe in the process, and flees to the open ocean. Unable to stop thinking about Helen, he soon begins to stalk her and Ferguson, ultimately abducting her from a seaside restaurant where the two are at a party. Clete tries to give chase, but the Gill-man escapes to the water with his captive. Clete and the local law enforcement must now try to track down Helen and her amphibious abductor.
Marineland of Florida (shown above in 1955) played the part of the film’s Ocean Harbor Oceanarium.
This film is the first screen role for Clint Eastwood, who appears uncredited as a lab technician named “Jennings” early in the story. He is shown having a discussion with Professor Ferguson, accusing a test subject cat of eating a lab rat, only to find that his character had in fact accidentally put the lab rat in his lab coat pocket.
The Gillman in Creature from the Black Lagoon was Benjamin Chapman (above); he passed away on February 21, 2008. See his obit here.