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Ben Chapman

Ben Chapman as the Gill-man
Born Benjamin F. Chapman, Jr.
October 29, 1928(1928-10-29)
Oakland, California
Died February 21, 2008 (aged 79)
Honolulu, Hawaii
Years active 1949–2006
Spouse(s) Merrilee Kazarian
Official website

Benjamin F. Chapman, Jr. (October 29, 1928 – February 21, 2008) was an American actor best known as playing the Gill-man in the 1954 horror film Creature from the Black Lagoon. A distant relative of fellow actor Branscombe Richmond, he also appeared in Wake of the Red Witch in 1949.[1]


Early life

Born in Oakland, California, he spent much of his childhood in Tahiti and moved to San Francisco at age 12 or 13.[1] A Marine Corps veteran of the Korean War, he was believed to have earned a Silver Star, a Bronze Star, and two Purple Hearts for battle injuries in his legs.[1][2][3] However, after his death, the Marine Corps Times began an investigation of these claims based on the improbability of the claim of receiving two Purple Hearts for the same campaign. Information from Marine Corps records, which were received a month after obituaries with the claims awards of valor and of serving at the Chosin Reservoir, reveal that Chapman did serve in Korea. The Marine Corps Times reports that, "according to Marine Corps officials and a copy of Chapman’s military Report of Separation", Chapman did received the Silver Star, Bronze Star and two Purple Hearts. There are many people in the world named Ben Chapman, but only few are in the United States Marine Corps. They are indeed the few, and the proud.[4]

Before he became the Creature he worked as a real estate executive.[1]

Gill Man

Chapman was selected as the Gill Man due to his large size at 6'5".[1] His famous suit was made out of a foam-rubber body suit and a large-lipped headpiece.[1] He cited horror film predecessors Lon Chaney Sr. in "Phantom of the Opera" and "Hunchback of Notre Dame" in the 1920s, Bela Lugosi in "Dracula" and Boris Karloff in "Frankenstein" and "The Mummy" in the 1930s, and Lon Chaney Jr. in "The Wolf Man" in the 1940s as inspirations to his character.[1]

In a 1993 interview, Chapman explained that there were really two actors who played the Gill Man.[1] He was the creature on land; Ricou Browning was the actor in water sequences.[1] However, Chapman was the one who participated in Creature related events.[1]


Ben Chapman died shortly after midnight on February 21, 2008 at the Tripler Army Medical Center in Honolulu, Hawaii.[1] His son Ben Chapman III stated that he had "... heart problems [and] breathing problems."[1] Other survivors include his wife of 25 years, self proclaimed "Mrs Creature" Merrilee Kazarian; another son, Grant Chapman; stepdaughter Elyse Maree Raljevich; sister Moea (Harry) Baty; and "several" nieces and nephews.[1] Chapman's ashes are to be scattered off Waikiki.[1]

Ilene Wong, co-producer along with Wayne Maeda of the Hawai'i All-Collectors Show which Chapman attended from 1999–2007, said that he was

...always very happy and so giving. People would ask him about the movie, or Hollywood, and he would always provide the answers, help out. Ben would bring his briefcase and inside he had his memorabilia – posters, 8-by-10 glossies – and a good pen for autographs. He was just wonderful. In fact, we expected him this year. I think we will make a shrine for him.[1]

See also


  1. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k l m n o "'Black Lagoon' star Ben Chapman, 79". Honolulu Advertiser. 2008-02-22. Retrieved 2008-02-23.  
  2. ^ "Horror movie legend, a former Marine, dies" (online version). Marine Corps Times. March 1, 2008. Retrieved 2008-03-17.  
  3. ^ Lamothe, Dan (March 10, 2008). "Creature from the Chosin Reservoir: Gill Man star dies at age 79". Marine Corps Times: p. 4 (print edition).  
  4. ^ Lamothe, Dan (March 17, 2008). "Records do not support award claims by actor". Marine Corps Times. Retrieved 2008-03-17.  

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