Family & Companions
For generations of moviegoers, the name Julie Adams conjured up an arresting black-and-white image of the actress swimming gracefully through the murky waters of the Amazon - actually, Wakulla Springs in Florida - while the Gill-Man, the scaly man-fish monster in "Creature from the Black Lagoon" (1954), glided below her, captivated by her presence in his environment. The film, one of the greatest titles in science fiction history, came to encapsulate Adams' career, though she had been an in-demand actress, most notably in Westerns, since the late 1940s. Despite its popularity, "Creature" did little for her film career, but she became one of the most recognizable faces on television, providing poised, highly professional guest turns on series from the early 1960s through the first decade of the 21st century. If she bore any ill will towards her "Creature" typecasting, Adams did not show it, as the title of her 2011 autobiography, The Lucky Southern Star: Reflections from the Black Lagoon, clearly illustrated. If never a household name, Julie Adams enjoyed both exceptional career longevity and the lasting fame afforded to a cult icon.
Born Betty May Adams on Oct. 17, 1926 in Waterloo, IA, she was raised primarily in Little Rock, AR. There, she caught the acting bug while performing in a grade school production of "Hansel and Gretel." After attending Little Rock Junior College, she lit out for Hollywood in 1946, where she lived with an aunt while studying drama and supporting herself as a part-time secretary. She made her screen debut in "Red, Hot and Blue" (1949), a comedy-musical vehicle for Betty Hutton; Adams was uncredited for her ironic turn as an aspiring starlet. She used her real name for seven low-budget Westerns, all shot within a period of five weeks, for producer Robert Lippert, who cast her as a frontier damsel in need of rescue by B-movie cowboys James "Shamrock" Ellison and Raymond Hatton. Her lucky break came in 1951 when she was tapped to appear in a screen test for Universal opposite Detroit Lions' defensive end Leon Hart, who was attempting to break into show business. The studio passed on Hart but signed Adams to a contract, for which they also changed her first name to Julia and later Julie.
She worked steadily during the early 1950s, giving solid turns in features like "Bright Victory" (1951), which cast her as the fiancée of blinded soldier Arthur Kennedy. Universal made sure she remained in the public eye thanks to a cheeky publicity campaign that claimed that her legs - "the most perfectly symmetrical in the world," according to the PR hype - had been insured by the studio for $125,000. She enjoyed a string of leading lady turns opposite the likes of William Powell in "The Treasure of Lost Canyon" (1952), Rock Hudson in Raoul Walsh's Western "The Lawless Breed" (1953), and Tyrone Power in "The Mississippi Gambler" (1953) for Rudolph Maté. But these were soon overshadowed when Adams was cast as the female lead in Universal's "Creature from the Black Lagoon," which remained her most enduring film credit. Cast as a comely researcher on an Amazon expedition for a mythical man-fish hybrid, Adams' deep water swim, clad in a blinding white bathing suit while the Gill-Man lurked below her, became one of the most iconic images of the 1950s science fiction boom. Repeated TV broadcasts over the course of the next half-century preserved the popularity of both "Creature" and Adams' appearance in it, but also effectively overshadowed the screen work that came before and after it.
Despite this career-arresting element, Adams worked steadily throughout the 1950s, though largely in unremarkable fare like "Francis Joins the WACs" (1954) and "The Looters" (1955), which co-starred her husband, actor Ray Danton, whom she had married the previous year. The union-gangster drama "Slaughter on Tenth Avenue" (1957) proved to be her last notable feature for decades; by the following year, she had moved almost exclusively into television. There were occasional returns to features, most notably "Tickle Me" (1965) with Elvis Presley, but for the most part, she remained one of the most prolific guest stars on episodic television during the 1960s, as well as an occasional series regular on "General Hospital" (ABC, 1963- ) as Denise Wilton.
After surprising many with her appearance in Dennis Hopper's psychedelic "The Last Movie" (1971), Adams settled into a season of "The Jimmy Stewart Show" (NBC, 1971-72) as the spouse of Stewart's university professor. It was followed by a string of off-beat feature roles, including "McQ" (1974), with John Wayne in a rare foray into modern day action, as well as "The Psychic Killer" (1975), an oddball horror picture directed by Danton and a grim adaptation of noir novelist Jim Thompson's "The Killer Inside Me" (1976). Adams began to settle almost exclusively into TV guest appearances for the next decade. From 1987 to 1993, she had a recurring role as the flirty real estate agent Eve Simpson on "Murder, She Wrote" (CBS, 1984-1996). She remained active on television through the new millennium, most notably in a pair of appearances as Amelia, one of the Others, on "Lost" (ABC, 2004-2010). Viewers with keen hearing also noted Adams as one of the telephone voices in Roman Polanski's acclaimed film version of "Carnage" (2011). That same year, she published her autobiography, The Lucky Southern Star: Reflections from the Black Lagoon, which she co-authored with Mitchell Danton, one of her two sons from her marriage to Ray Danton.
By Paul Gaita
Director (Feature Film)
Cast (Feature Film)
Film acting debut, "Red, Hot and Blue"
Had second lead in "Bright Victory"
TV acting debut, "Appointment with Love" on "The Lux Video Theater"
Co-starred on TV series, "Yancy Derringer"
Stage debut starring in "Dear Sir" in summer stock in Redding, CA
Directed by then-husband Ray Danton in "Psychic Killer"
Last film appearance to date, "Champions"
First screen credit as dialogue coach, "The River"
Played recurring role on "Beverly Hills, 90210" (Fox)
Acted in the TV-movie "The Conviction of Kitty Dodds" (CBS)