2019 SCIBA Book Award Winner for Biography
One of Booklist’s 10 Best Art Books of the Year
The Los Angeles Times Bestseller
A PureWow “Book We Can’t Wait to Read in 2019”
A Bustle Nonfiction Book Coming Out In 2019 To Start Getting Excited About
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, 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.
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. O'Meara traces Patrick's journey from precocious art student to her tenure as one of the first female animators at Disney and her discovery by Universal Studios' head of makeup, Bud Westmore. After designing the creature for the hit film and being sent on a whirlwind press tour, Patrick became the target of Westmore's jealousy, was fired, and subsequently was denied credit for her work. O'Meara also shares her own filmmaking experiences in modern-day Hollywood, including being accused of getting a job by sleeping with the boss and being sexually harassed by a voice actor, to highlight the continuing challenges for women in the film industry. These personal anecdotes may initially appear a distraction from Patrick's story, but O'Meara's enthusiasm for her subject soon overcomes all objections. This is a fascinating slice of Hollywood history with a feminist slant, correcting a sexist wrong from decades ago and restoring Patrick to her rightful place of esteem.