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Friday 18 October 2019

Obituary: Julie Adams

Actress who was a hit in 'Creature from the Black Lagoon' and whose legs were insured for $125,000

Julie Adams, a natural brunette with a deep and sultry voice, who has died aged 92, was a stalwart at Universal studios, having arrived in Hollywood in the 1940s.

Her most memorable film was Creature from the Black Lagoon (1954), in which she played the only woman in a team of scientists exploring an uncharted region of the Amazon. Naturally the amorous creature, an amphibious scaly "Gill Man" with webbed, clawed hands, stalks Julie Adams (as Kay Lawrence) through the murky waters.

Filmed in 3D, the film was an instant hit - especially as Julia Adams wore little more than shorts and a bathing costume. It became a cult classic and she received letters from fans well into her 90s.

It was, however, in westerns that she really made her mark. At Universal she was cast in a number of B-movies in the genre produced by Robert L Lippert.

"Lippert Productions were known for their quick turnaround and minuscule budgets," she recalled. "He cleverly once said, 'The word around Hollywood is: Lippert makes a lot of cheap pictures but he's never made a stinker'. And that was true enough."

In 1949 she played the cowgirl love interest to Don 'Red' Barry in The Dalton Gang, and was put on the payroll for a batch of further features.

Life in the sagebrush was tough: "We did six movies in five weeks. I often had difficulty remembering who I was supposed to be: 'Now I'm a farm girl, I'm a softie, I'm a tough-nut'. Not that such subtleties made much difference, she explained: "The men were the stars, the girls just eye-candy."

Betty May Adams was born at Waterloo in Iowa on October 17, 1926 to parents who rarely stayed in one place for long. She decided at an early age that she wanted to be an actress and headed to California and worked as a secretary, while taking speech classes and paying calls to casting departments. Betty, as she then was, made her film debut, in the Victor Mature and Betty Hutton comedy Red, Hot and Blue (1949).

The following summer, she signed with Universal, which entailed a change of name: "They didn't like me as 'Betty'. The big cheese at the studio told me I was now Julia. I never liked that name, so I later changed it to Julie."

She arrived at the same time as Piper Laurie, Rock Hudson and Tony Curtis, and like all newcomers, had to suffer Universal's publicity stunts such as having her legs - "the most perfectly symmetrical in the world" - insured for $125,000 (€110,000). She also became Rock Hudson's "girlfriend" for a spell. They got joint top billing in the Western The Lawless Breed and, later, she turned up in Hudson's 1970s television police series, McMillan & Wife.

Her first Western for Universal was The Treasure of Lost Canyon (1952) with William Powell, but though billed as Powell's leading lady, she had one line of dialogue. "I believe I had some nice scenes - pity most of 'me' ended up on the cutting room floor," she said.

Anthony Mann's Bend of the River, starring James Stewart as the leader of a wagon train of pioneers heading to Oregon, followed: she and Stewart became lifelong friends. And Horizons West, with Hudson and Robert Ryan, was her first meaty "mean girl" role.

In 1953, she made The Man from the Alamo in 110 degree heat, though her leading man Glenn Ford was "as cool as a cucumber throughout".

She was paired with Van Heflin in Wings of the Hawk and almost drowned filming The Stand at Apache River, during a scene where she had to fall in a river. "There was supposed to be a harness," she recalled. "They forgot, and off I went in full Western dress down the river and into the rapids."

Julie Adams left Universal and in the 1960s switched her focus to television, making appearances on programmes such as Bonanza, Alfred Hitchcock Presents, Dr Kildare, Perry Mason and The Girl from U.N.C.L.E. She also played the dutiful wife on The James Stewart Show (1971-72).

There was the occasional return to the big screen. In 1965, she played opposite Elvis Presley in Tickle Me as the owner of a ranch and health spa who hires Presley's rodeo cowboy to take care of the horses. In 1971, she featured with Dennis Hopper in his critically panned The Last Movie, was John Wayne's ex-wife in the 1974 thriller McQ, and a year later appeared in Psychic Killer, a horror film directed by her second husband, Ray Danton.

During the 1980s, she enjoyed a recurring role as Cabot Cove's estate agent Eve Simpson in Murder, She Wrote, starring Angela Lansbury. She would turn up sporadically on television in such shows as Quincy, ME and CSI.

Her autobiography, The Lucky Southern Star: Reflections from the Black Lagoon, was published in 2011 and recently made into a short film.

Julie Adams's brief first marriage, to the screenwriter Leonard Stern, ended in divorce, as did her second marriage, to Ray Danton. She later enjoyed a long relationship with the television and film writer Ronald Cohen, who died in 1998.

Julie Adams, who died on February 3, is survived by her two sons.

© Telegraph

Telegraph.co.uk

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