In more than six decades in film and on television, Adams also starred with Donald O’Connor in Francis Joins the WACS (1954), played opposite Elvis Presley in Tickle Me (1965) and appeared with Dennis Hopper in The Last Movie (1971) and with John Wayne in McQ (1974).
Fans of Murder, She Wrote know Adams for playing the eccentric realtor Eve Simpson on the long-running Angela Lansbury starrer, and in the early 1970s, she portrayed Jimmy Stewart’s wife in the legendary actor’s first foray into starring on his own series.
As a publicity stunt, Universal Studios once declared her legs “the most perfectly symmetrical in the world” and insured them for $125,000. And in “The Case of the Deadly Verdict,” a 1963 episode of Perry Mason, Adams’ character had the notable distinction of being one of the lawyer’s few clients to be found guilty.
A standout in a series of quickly made Westerns at Paramount, Adams (then billed as Julia Adams) blossomed after she signed with Universal and was showcased in support of such stars as Arthur Kennedy in Bright Victory (1951), Stewart in Anthony Mann’s Bend in the River (1952), William Powell in The Treasure of Lost Canyon (1952), Rock Hudson in The Lawless Breed (1953) and Van Heflin in Wings of the Hawk (1953).
Then the actress was offered the role that assured her a place in monster-movie history.
Seeking to cash in on the growing popularity of 3D films, Universal began production on Creature From the Black Lagoon. Jack Arnold, who had just done It Came From Outer Space, was tapped to direct.
Conceived as an underwater version of Beauty and the Beast, it featured a mythical sea monster dubbed “Gill-Man.” Played by Ben Chapman and Ricou Browning, the creature menaced a scientific expedition to the Amazon. Richard Carlson, Richard Denning, Antonio Moreno, Nestor Paiva and Whit Bissell were cast as researchers.
The studio wanted Adams to star as Carlson’s girlfriend, Kay Lawrence, who would become the creature’s object of desire. But Adams considered the whole thing a step down in her career.
“I thought, ‘The creature from what? What is this?’” Adams said in a 2013 interview for the Horror Society, “because I had been working with some major stars and so on. But I read it and said, ‘If I turn it down, I won’t get paid and I’ll be on suspension.’ And then I thought, ‘What the hay! It might be fun.’ And of course, indeed it was. It was a great pleasure to do the picture.”
A young Guillermo del Toro was a fan and years later used the movie as inspiration for The Shape of Water.
“The creature was the most beautiful design I’d ever seen,” he told THR‘s Borys Kit in October 2017. “And I saw him swimming under Julie Adams, and I loved that the creature was in love with her, and I felt an almost existential desire for them to end up together. Of course, it didn’t happen.”
Creature From the Black Lagoon has become a cult classic, with Gill-Man joining the pantheon of Universal legendary monsters alongside Frankenstein, Dracula, The Wolf Man and The Mummy. It spawned the sequels Revenge of the Creature (1955), also in 3D, and The Creature Walks Among Us (1956). Adams did not appear in those.
In her Horror Society interview, Adams offered one reason why the first film remains so popular. “I think the best thing about the picture is that we do feel for the creature. We feel for him and his predicament,” she said.