Monday, December 7, 2009

Bathing beauty from the creature feature

State Archives of Florida

I recently had the honor of chatting with Ginger Stanley Hallowell, a lovely lady who had a front row seat for much of Florida's entertainment history in the 1950s and '60s. As a young beauty queen in Ocala, Ginger was recruited to be a mermaid by Newt Perry. Perry, the innovator of underwater entertainment and promotion at first Wakulla Springs and then Weeki Wachee, admired Ginger's "mermaid-like" blonde hair. It was at Weeki Wachee where Ginger met Ricou Browning, the man who would become a science fiction legend by playing the "Creature from the Black Lagoon". So when they need stunt double to do the swimming for actress Julie Adams, Ricou suggested Ginger.

Newt Perry's underwater bubble at Wakulla Springs
State Archives of Florida

Ricou Browning as the Creature

State Archives of Florida

Ginger told me about how the movie's producers asked her to dye her hair to match Adams' brunette locks and when they tried to dye it back to blonde after the movie's conclusion they could only accomplish an auburn tint. She mesmerized me with stories about how difficult it was for Browning to swim in the costume and how his signal for needing air was to simply "go limp" in the water.

Ginger also starred in the sequel, "Revenge of the Creature" filmed almost entirely at Marine Studios at Marineland. She remembers being placed in the large saltwater tanks with sharks and moray eels swimming about. To ensure her safety, the sharks were fed unusually large amounts of food prior to shooting with hopes they would be too full to notice Ginger! I asked her about an unknown actor in appearing making his first film appearance in "Revenge". "He was tall and good looking and very clean cut; his role was small as a scientist in a lab coat," she said of the then unknown Clint Eastwood.

She also posed for holiday pictures at Marineland with an underwater Christmas tree and dolphins trained to bring her ornaments to place on the tree.

Film production at Marine Studios (Marineland)
Courtesy of Marineland

Ginger also talked about appearing as the underwater weather girl with Dick Van Dyke in New York City. They built a tank in the studio with heavily chlorinated "city water" that ended up turning her hair green. Van Dyke would give the forecast and Ginger would draw on a glass map of the US with white make-up pencil to match the weather patterns.

Courtesy of Ginger Stanley Hallowell

The young beauty was also the "primary model" for Bruce Mozert's underwater images shot at Silver Springs, according to Gary Monroe in his book Silver Springs: the Underwater Photography of Bruce Mozart. One of the best stories she told us about her Silver Springs days, was when Howard Hughes premiered his film "Underwater" by showing the motion picture, underwater at Ocala attraction. Movie stars from Hollywood were flown in by Hughes for the promotion, but they were all upstaged by an unknown in a scandalous red bikini named Jayne Mansfield, (the Internet Movie Database reports that Mansfield was hired to perform in an underwater skit and intentionally "lost" her bikini top to attract attention.)

Ginger at Silver Springs
State Archives of Florida

More Mozert magic
Courtesy of Ginger Stanley Hallowell

It was a thrill for me to meet Ginger and she actually lives a short distance from Studio Hourglass. She was warm, witty and had a wonderful laugh. Her stories are amazing and colorful and I am eagerly anticipating hearing her again when she speaks at the Orange County Regional History Center in March.

Ginger did the underwater sequences for Esther Williams
Jupiter's Darling
(Esther Williams top left, Ginger top right)
Courtesy of Ginger Stanley Hallowell