Title: The Lady from the Black Lagoon: Hollywood Monsters and the Lost Legacy of Milicent Patrick
Author: Mallory O’Meara
Synopsis: As a teenager, Mallory O’Meara was thrilled to discover that one of her favorite movies, The Creature from the Black Lagoon, featured a monster designed by a woman, Milicent Patrick. But for someone who should have been hailed as a pioneer in the genre there was little information available. For, as O’Meara soon discovered, Patrick’s contribution had been claimed by a jealous male colleague, her career had been cut short and she soon after had disappeared from film history. No one even knew if she was still alive.
As a young woman working in the horror film industry, O’Meara set out to right the wrong, and in the process discovered the full, fascinating story of an ambitious, artistic woman ahead of her time. Patrick’s contribution to special effects proved to be just the latest chapter in a remarkable, unconventional life, from her youth growing up in the shadow of Hearst Castle, to her career as one of Disney’s first female animators. And at last, O’Meara discovered what really had happened to Patrick after The Creature’s success, and where she went.
Huge thank you to Harper Collins Canada for this ARC!
I love Mallory O’Meara on the Reading Glasses podcast. She’s crass, sassy, and just very entertaining when it comes to the discussion of reading and writing. She’s a very passionate individual and her first book The Lady from the Black Lagoonnot only focuses on the life of Milicent Patrick, who crafted monsters for a living, but O’Meara also parallels Patrick’s struggles of being a woman in Hollywood with her own personal struggles as a young genre film producer.
I was to first comment on how personal the writing felt in this book. It’s very conversational, very open-faced and honest. Reflecting on Milicent Patrick’s life and trying to uncover who she was, O’Meara goes through great lengths to learn about how Patrick survived in male dominated Hollywood as a woman who worked in Disney’s animation Department (she was responsible for “Night on Bald Mountain” and Chernabog design in Disney’s Fantasia!) to what it was like designing the suit for The Creature from the Black Lagoon. O’Meara shares her discovery of Patrick’s lack of credit for her various accomplishments and the toxic culture that unfortunately, still exists in Hollywood today.
I think what I loved about this book was just reading Mallory’s experience is doing research about someone who was fairly elusive. It was amazing to read about the lengths she went from doing specialized research with the L.A Library, to situations involving special collections, to even just stepping foot on Disney property to uncover as much as she could about Milicent Patrick. The library nerd in me was very into the deep dive of what it meant to go into an intense research frenzy. You feel O’Meara’s highs and lows while reading this book. Learning about the horror industry as well was very fascinating as someone who is fairly unfamiliar. Learning about how the horror industry is fairly sexist and misogynistic was of course, known, but reading about both O’Meara and Patrick’s experiences definitely made my blood boil at times.
I love when I get to read a book that is all about uncovering new truths about someone or something. Not only was Lady from the Black Lagoon a very approachable read, but it was one that allowed me to learn so much about an industry and a genre that I’m not the most familiar with. All in all Lady from the Black Lagoon was an enjoyable romp into uncovering the bright and darksides of what it means to be a female in the film industry.