She might be a forgotten name in some quarters but fans of monster movies will forever remember her as Kay Lawrence in the 1954 film The Creature from the Black Lagoon. That film will keep her foremost in the minds of those who pay attention to movie trivia. I thought she was beautiful and talented. It may be that a career was not as important to her as it was to a Davis or Crawford or Hepburn or Stanwyck. Being under contract to Universal-International (as Universal Studios was then called) probably didn't help in elevating her to star status.
Who could ever forget Adams swimming in the lagoon with the creature beneath her and even touching her toes? If you have forgotten or want to see it for the first time, here you go:
As a 10-year old I saw it numerous times and found it thrilling. As I grew older, of course, I realized it was typical of 1950s horror films and that generally translates as kind of cheesy. The creature was played by two people... one on land and one in the water. The male stars, two Richards, Carlson and Denning, were both rather bland and not much to recommend in the romance department. Still, it was all about the creature and his romance for the fetching Miss Adams.
Early in her career, she was mainly a staple of westerns, which is, of course, being the life-long cowboy that I am, how she first came to my attention. She was initially known professionally as Betty Adams, then for a longer spell as Julia Adams and finally as Julie.
It seemed that I saw her in one film after another. The first one I remember was Bright Victory (1951) with Arthur Kennedy as a blind soldier. She was the girl back home who did not stand by him. Victory was also the first of five films she made with Rock Hudson, the best of which was Bend of the River (1952), which also co-starred Jimmy Stewart, with whom she would work in a short-lived television series in the 1970's. The other films she made with Hudson were all B-films, Horizons West (1952), The Lawless Breed (1953) and One Desire (1955). She also worked with Hudson's good buddy George Nader in three films, 1955's Six Bridges to Cross, a fictionalized account of the famous Brink's robbery; the excellent war drama Away All Boats (1956), and a fun programmer about aspiring actresses, 4 Girls in Town (1957).
In 1953 alone she made five westerns. Along with the aforementioned The Lawless Breed, she made such Saturday matinee fare as Wings of the Hawk, Man from the Alamo, The Stand at Apache River and a favorite of mine from that year, The Mississippi Gambler, an above-average oater co-starring Tyrone Power and Piper Laurie.
In 1955 she made The Looters about a plane crash and she married one of her handsome co-stars, Ray Danton. They would work again in a good 1958 war drama Tarawa Beachhead. They had two sons and would be married for 23 years.
Her Universal-International movie career lost whatever steam it had gathered in the 1950s. By the 1960s she had turned mainly to television and it is safe to say that she became primarily a television actress, seemingly to appear in every show ever made. (If you think I'm kidding, check out her list of credits on imdb.) In those early years, while quite pretty, I always thought she had rather thick eyebrows that detracted from her being a real glamour girl... probably another Universal decision. Ultimately, however, she turned into quite a beauty in her middle years.
It's too bad that she didn't pursue the course that her Mississippi Gambler costar Piper Laurie did. Laurie found the Universal contract stifling and restrictive and was none too pleased with the type of work she was ordered to do. She hated the servitude and walked out on Universal and Hollywood for a few years. Had Adams gone that same way and stamped her foot and shouted at her bosses, she might have had a more glorious career. She had it in her; she was a good actress.
As it is, she will forever be remembered for being the girl from the Black Lagoon. She still occasionally works but is known to attend special screenings of The Creature from the Black Lagoon or monster or horror or science fiction tributes all over the country.
Personally, I thank her for all the pleasure she brought me as a young kid. Every Saturday I went to the movies. It was usually a western and it often featured Julie Adams as the hero's girlfriend or wife.
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