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The Lady from the Black Lagoon: Hollywood Monsters and the Lost Legacy of Milicent Patrick (2019)

by Mallory O'Meara

Other authors: See the other authors section.

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4142559,879 (3.95)32
The Lady from the Black Lagoon uncovers the life and work of Milicent Patrick-one of Disney's first female animators and the only woman in history to create one of Hollywood's classic movie monsters. 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. A true-life detective story and a celebration of a forgotten feminist trailblazer, Mallory O'Meara's The Lady from the Black Lagoon establishes Patrick in her rightful place in film history while calling out a Hollywood culture where little has changed since.… (more)
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» See also 32 mentions

Showing 1-5 of 25 (next | show all)
3.5 stars, rounding up to 4- I do like this and for a biography of someone so obscured Mallory does excellent digging (with notes when she's unable to verify things). However, I recognize the author asides in footnotes and casual conversational tone could be off-putting to readers and I almost feel like I should include the caveat that I do listen to Reading Glasses so I've heard Mallory speak before.

There are two narratives here: the framing is Mallory O'Meara's interest in Milicent Patrick as a fellow woman in the horror film industry and digging through research to find her, and then the story of Milicent's life from being raised at Hearst Castle while her father built it to being pioneer in many ways in the entertainment industry. Milicent changed names periodically which obfuscated the trail, and the credit for designing Gill Man was hidden by an egotistical department head. Despite decades separating us from Patrick's working years, the entertainment industry still has a long way to go in terms of equitable, safe working environments where the work of marginalized folx is respected.

I find Mallory personable, like this is another podcast episode and she's amiably telling me about how her research quest is going. i recognize that's not everyone's cup of tea! It makes for a breezy read though.

Additional caveat: I actually still haven't seen Creature from the Black Lagoon or its sequels, though I did watch The Shape of Water and Lindsay Ellis's vid on why we love monster boyfriend stories- suggest that next if you're interested in the topic. ( )
  Daumari | Dec 28, 2023 |
This book is amazing. I am a lifelong fan of The Creature From the Black Lagoon and reading the story of Milicent Patrick was a journey well worth taking. Her design of the creature was perfection. This book was full of joy for me. Watching horror movies as a kid are some of my only fond memories. Watching Creature From the Black Lagoon was what made me a lifelong movie fan. ( )
  cdaley | Nov 2, 2023 |
This was an amazing listen, and I loved everything about it. Milicent Patrick had a fascinating life, but I most loved how Mallory O’Meara shared her own story and her journey to writing this book; the way she researched was truly inspiring for me as a layperson who just wants to keep finding out more. There’s so much here about women through the years and how they have to continually deal with bad men, and I appreciated the calling out of them and oof Hollywood seems like it sucks. I loved having the ebook also nearby to check out the photos, and I loved all the footnotes as only a few made it into the audiobook. ( )
  spinsterrevival | Nov 4, 2022 |
A worthy tale, certainly, both the historical section and O'Meara's personal journey, but 100% of my issues with it have to do with O'Meara's inexperience as a journalist; she projects wildly and draws larger generalizations where they may not be warranted.

I'm not, to be clear, talking about generalizations about sexism and sexual harassment in Hollywood. I'm certain that part is true. But much of the analysis of Patrick's motivations seem to be drawn from O'Meara's personal experience rather than any evidence, barring documents and letters that she didn't directly mention in the text. Shorter version, this needed a lot of footnotes to make the assertions that it does.

That said, worth reading if you have an interest in Hollywood of years gone by, or want to read about the story of Millicent Patrick, who was unjustly denied credit for her achievements for many years. ( )
  danieljensen | Oct 14, 2022 |
I'm not a huge fan of the Hollywood scene. I'm not enamored of any part of the industry. When this book was selected for my women's history book club, I sighed. I could think of a thousand other books I wanted to read. It wasn't as bad as I feared, but neither was it great. The book's subject was makeup artist and animator Milicent Patrick who went by various names over her life. Her most famous creation was the Creature from the Black Lagoon. While the author dug into Milicent's background, her research could have been improved by paying for genealogical services--whether in the form of digging into the lives of the FAN Club or just expert consultation. Toward the end she did consult "the Mormons," but it is obvious she neglected some of the things she couldn't find earlier when she did consult them and that she put too much stock into trees that may or may not meet standards. Still the author found quite a bit of information through newspapers, interviews, and even some corporate archives. Fans of monster movies or animators may enjoy this, but it's a safe pass for most readers. ( )
  thornton37814 | Sep 11, 2022 |
Showing 1-5 of 25 (next | show all)
The Creature from the Black Lagoon has reemerged from the deep, deep waters of history.
 
[starred review] Patrick was a footnote long lost to film history, but O’Meara has decided to change all that with her fascinating biography.
added by karenb | editBookPage, Alice Cary (Mar 5, 2019)
 
Patrick died in 1998, at age 82, largely forgotten except for a coterie of devoted fans. O’Meara has seen to it that she won’t be forgotten again. Her book is a fierce and often very funny guide to the distaff side of geekdom and reproduces photos and examples of Patrick’s work, many previously unpublished. That alone would be worth the price of admission to the world of this complex, brilliant artist.
added by karenb | editLos Angeles Times, Liz Hand (Mar 1, 2019)
 
In this captivating and exhaustively researched biography, screenwriter and producer O’Meara chronicles the largely unknown story of artist and actress Milicent Patrick, designer of the monster in the 1954 film Creature from the Black Lagoon.
 

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Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
Mallory O'Mearaprimary authorall editionscalculated
Buck, MattCover designersecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
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Epigraph
In a low-cut, tight-fitting black crepe dress, worn under a white lace coat, with flashing necklace, earrings and bracelets, Miss Patrick, who is of Italian German descent, looked a lot more like a fashion illustration herself than a creator of bizarre monsters. Unmarried, she admits to no current romance.
"Why should I bother with Hollywood wolves?" she murmured. "I'm happy with my monsters."

-Milicent Patrick in an interview with journalist Jane Corby for the Brooklyn Daily Eagle, Valentine's Day, 1954
Dedication
To all the monster girls.
Show them your teeth.
First words
In 1954, Milicent Patrick was an artist working for the world-renowned special effects shop at Universal Studios in California, the movie company famous for its monsters.
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(Click to show. Warning: May contain spoilers.)
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The Lady from the Black Lagoon uncovers the life and work of Milicent Patrick-one of Disney's first female animators and the only woman in history to create one of Hollywood's classic movie monsters. 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. A true-life detective story and a celebration of a forgotten feminist trailblazer, Mallory O'Meara's The Lady from the Black Lagoon establishes Patrick in her rightful place in film history while calling out a Hollywood culture where little has changed since.

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