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

4.01  ·  Rating details ·  4,288 ratings  ·  989 reviews
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, Milicen
Hardcover, 336 pages
Published March 5th 2019 by Hanover Square Press
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Feb 14, 2019 rated it it was ok
Shelves: arc, non-fiction
Despite the title, I would not call this a book about the Lady from the Black Lagoon. This is a memoir about O’Meara researching Milicent Patrick’s previously unknown life with a lot of filler to make this into a full-length book. With a few exceptions, the first 85% of this book doesn’t have much about Milicent Patrick. Instead we learn about her father’s background, William Randolph Hearst and his architect Julia Morgan, Nelbert Chouinard, the Westmores, a history of special effects and makeup ...more
Joe Valdez
May 19, 2020 rated it liked it
Shelves: film-tv
Beware! The Lady from the Black Lagoon: Hollywood Monsters and the Legacy of Milicent Patrick is a five-star subject given two-star writing treatment. Published in 2019, this is a debut book from Mallory O'Meara, who effectively translates her passion for late animator, actor and special effects makeup designer Milicent Patrick--creator of the iconic Gill Man from The Creature From the Black Lagoon--into a noble cause. I just wish I'd been able to fall in love with the writing as much as the sub ...more
Ross Blocher
Nov 16, 2018 rated it it was amazing
The Lady from the Black Lagoon tells the fascinating story of Milicent Patrick, the designer of the iconic Creature (he of the eponymous Black Lagoon). Milicent's is a name that deserves to be recognized by fans of film, horror and art, and Mallory O'Meara has done a great service by uncovering details of Milicent's rich and multi-faceted life. I'll share a more detailed review after the book is released, but I guarantee this is a rewarding, eye-opening and entertaining read. Highly recommended! ...more
Margaret Sankey
Mar 28, 2019 rated it liked it
I wanted to love this book about a pathbreaking woman and her resounding legacy as a film effects and creature designer (whose legacy includes some explanations for the in-jokes in The Shape of Water, among other things). However, my own hard-won and often denigrated professional background is in research and history, and I know from bitter experience that when you reconstruct the life of an under-valued, marginalized and under-documented person, you have to do it right and set up subsequent res ...more
Nov 23, 2018 rated it it was amazing
The Lady from the Black Lagoon is a celebration of the life and shamefully overlooked work of Milicent Patrick. It's also an unflinching, from-the-front-lines recounting of Hollywood's toxic patriarchal culture, a history of all manner of monsters. You'll be infuriated at the legacy of continuing injustice but inspired by the talent, will, and spirit of Milicent Patrick and Mallory O'Meara. ...more
Emily K.
Mar 22, 2019 rated it it was ok
Update: I'm pretty disappointed that Library Journal named this as one of their Best Arts Books of 2019.

I wanted to like this book, but the book I read and the book of my expectations were wildly different creatures. My expectations said, "Biography of a lost Hollywood monster designer." The book said, "hybrid memoir/non-fiction about a young horror producer seeking the tale of a lost Hollywood monster designer, with digressions." And I don't want to blame O'Meara, whose enthusiasm for the topic
Jon Nakapalau
Have you ever heard of Milicent Patrick? She worked at Disney as one of the first female animators - then went to Universal and designed The Creature From The Black Lagoon...but her boss took credit for everything and had her fired. Mallory O'Meara finds Milicent Patrick for us - and tells her heartbreaking story - the beauty who never got credit for creating the most original beast ever - highest recommendation. ...more

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The Creature from the Black Lagoon is a horror film that was released in 1954. It features a scaled and gilled monster which was created based on the design sketches of Milicent Patrick, an artist with Universal Studios. To date, the “gill-man” is considered one of the most iconic monsters of 1950's cinema and it continues to influence costume and design in and out of the horror genre. But Milicent Patrick's name was quickly disconnected from her contribution after she st
Apr 16, 2019 rated it did not like it
I really wanted to like this book. The story of Milicent Patrick the designer of the Creature from the Black Lagoon is absolutely fascinating. Unfortunately the writing style did not really work for me. There are a lot of asides or breathless foreshadowing that makes this seem like a bunch of blog posts rather than a book. The amount of research that the author did and the story she has uncovered is impressive, but this book felt like it needed stronger editorial intervention. Her account of goi ...more
Apr 02, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Mallory O'Meara's The Lady from the Black Lagoon is both a great rabble-rousing biography and a social science text. The author has an axe to grind, but I think it actually works as a strength rather than a drawback. There are some things that have upset her, and the reader will likely share in that feeling.

O'Meara work spotlights the little-known life and talent of Milicent Patrick. Patrick grew up post-WWI / during the Great Depression, mostly in California, with an overbearing architect fathe
James Hold
Mar 14, 2019 rated it it was ok
I'd heard of Millicent Patrick back in the 80s from reading different monster magazines. I'd also heard what an asshole Bud Westmore was, that he was the least talented of the three brothers and was more of an accountant than an artist. So none of that was anything new. What I was looking ahead to was a more detailed account of her experiences. Instead Mallory O'Meara concentrates more on herself and her feminist agenda than Ms Patrick. It would have been better had she concentrated on the life ...more
Apr 01, 2019 marked it as abandoned
Shelves: nonfic
dnf @ 30%
this is a story I wanted to like, but I feel like my expectations and the marketing of it were very different to the actual product. it was a bit too conversational, and far too much about the process of O'Meara researching Milicent Patrick than it was actually about Patrick herself.
Apr 30, 2019 rated it it was ok
DNF. This would have been a great story of Millicent but the author kept inserting her feminist goth persona into the story. Millicent 👍🏻 Author 👎🏻
Zack Orsborn
Apr 08, 2019 rated it did not like it
This is seriously one of the worst books I've ever read. Please do not write a nonfiction book when you have barely any details. Also, how many times can you say "badass"? Don't waste your time on this one. It's very repetitive and filled with a ton of assumptions. ...more
Kyra Leseberg (Roots & Reads)
Feb 25, 2019 rated it really liked it
Shelves: arc, giveaways
I had never heard the name Milicent Patrick until last year when this book began to appear on lists for upcoming releases.  I was immediately intrigued by the idea that a woman in 1950's Hollywood was responsible for creating the legendary monster (often called Gill Man) in Creature from the Black Lagoon.  

The Lady from the Black Lagoon is part biography and part detective story, covering the life of Milicent Patrick as well as Mallory O'Meara's journey to unearth clues about Patrick's film lega
Steve Wiggins
Aug 18, 2019 rated it it was amazing
There is incredible insight in this book. Mallory O’Meara has sketched a world where sexism, racism, and monsters mingle and only one of them comes out looking decent. The Lady from the Black Lagoon is part biography, part autobiography, part mystery, and wholly fascinating. One of my favorite movies growing up was Creature from the Black Lagoon. I had a soft spot for the Universal monsters, and they really created the genre that we now call horror movies. As I noted elsewhere (Sects and Violenc ...more
Richard Derus
Oct 25, 2019 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: kindled
Rating: 3* of five
Milicent’s incredible life should have earned her an honored place in film history. But few even recognize her name. There’s still time to change that.

It's not that this is a bad's that it's not a good biography. If you're marketing a book as a bio, make it one. The digressions, the disquisitions, the divagations all got in the way of Milicent Patrick's life. Of course it's clearly true that Patrick left little to no footprint to report on. A lot of that is down to se
Bark  |  Laurie  |  LOHF
Apr 17, 2019 rated it really liked it
Shelves: non-fiction
I read this over the course of a few days, took no notes so will have no review because I've read two books since and my brain can't hold on to all of that information. The Lady From The Black Lagoon is a super interesting story once you get past the pages about Patrick's dad (those bits made my eyes glaze a bit). Milicent Patrick was an artist whose name was buried under the thumb of her manly superiors who took credit for her work. Both infuriating and fascinating. Milicent Patrick certainly h ...more
M.  [storme reads a lot]
Well, this book is so cool! I loved learning about the creator of the Creature. Milicent is a bad ass woman of horror who deserves more recognition! Mallory is such a cool person for doing all of the research and writing this amazing book! I loved this book and would definitely recommend to nonfiction fans, horror movie fans, and anyone who wants to read more feminist based books!
Mar 22, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: netgalley, 2019
Milicent Patrick was one of the most remarkable women working in Hollywood. After being one of Disney’s earliest female animators, she moved her talents onscreen, working primarily as a background extra in many films. She should best be known as the designer of the titular monster in the movie Creature from the Black Lagoon. Yet her contributions have gone largely unknown, stripped from cinema history by a male colleague with an ego. Her life went so underreported that when filmmaker Mallory O’M ...more
Mar 07, 2019 rated it liked it
I began reading Mallory O’Mara’s THE LADY FROM THE BLACK LAGOON with high hopes. It purported to be the story of Milicent Patrick, a woman who in the early 1950’s became the first woman hired in the Universal Studios make up department to create special effects for their “horror” movies. Patrick was primarily responsible for the creation of the “gill man” creature mask/makeup used for the movie Creature from the Black Lagoon. The “studio big wigs” were so impressed with her creation (it also did ...more
Michael Hicks
My review of The Lady from the Black Lagoon can be found at High Fever Books.

In the 1950s, a young artist and background performer of various film roles designed what is easily the most visually arresting of the Universal horror movie monster. Employed in the special effects shop at Universal Studios, Milicent Patrick created the Gill Man for the 1954 film, Creature from the Black Lagoon. While her creation would become one of the most recognizable and iconic movie monsters in cinema, Patrick wo
Jun 21, 2019 rated it liked it
I bought this book as a gift for my dad as he is a huge movie buff and the Creature from the black lagoon is a "classic" to him. I thought this would be a good (new) perspective and provide some interesting behind the scenes info. While it does do that, it's a little heavy handed at times.

I listened to the audio (read by the narrator- which is my favorite thing) and followed along with the book. I love O'Meara's snarky comments and the footnotes and photos she includes in the print version of
This is by no means just the life story of Milicent Patrick. It is a journey - the dissection of what it took to write about the life story of Milicent Patrick and all the nifty nuggets the author prised from the tightly closed lips of the Creature from the Black Lagoon! (Milicent's creation, by the way, not Bud Westmore's).

I, raised in California, was thrilled to hear of all the spots where nuggets were found: Hearst Castle, burbs in towns I'd lived in, entertainment hubs in which I spent many
Nov 20, 2018 rated it liked it
This book is part biography, part memoir and part crusade against the misogyny found in the monster movie world. (And the author is not even talking about the fans, where there is, without a doubt, no shortage of men who hate women.) While one definitely wants to wholeheartedly support Mallory O'Meara's crusade, I don't think the way she wrote her book worked well. Reading about Milicent Patrick's life was like reading in slow motion, everything slowly stretched way out until the end; where one ...more
Lance Carney
May 03, 2020 rated it really liked it
Milicent Patrick gets her due! The Lady from the Black Lagoon is the pieced together story of Milicent Patrick, from her childhood with her hard-nosed architect father at the building of Hearst Castle; her banishment from the family as she moved to Hollywood to pursue an art career; her work at Walt Disney studios where she became one of the first female animators; her short-lived acting career; and her work in the makeup department of Universal Studios, where she was credited and then un-credit ...more
Sarah Ames-Foley
This review can also be found on my blog.

cw: suicide, sexual harassment
disclaimer: I received an advanced copy of this book from NetGalley and the publisher in exchange for review consideration. All of the opinions presented below are my own. All quotes have been taken from the advanced copy and are subject to change upon publication.

I was so excited when I learned that Mallory O’Meara was putting out a book. If you’ve ever heard her speak (and if you haven’t, you should give her podcast Reading
The Shape of Water was created by Guillermo del Toro with Creature from the Black Lagoon in his mind. Many were not aware that the creature (the ‘Gill-man’) was designed by Milicent Patrick. Why? Because her boss in the make-up department, Bud Westmore, envied her and claimed the work for himself (Oh and the Universal executives let him do that, so it’s a group effort). Sadly, this was neither the first nor the last time a female creator experienced such oppression in the film-making industry.

An entertaining and insightful look at a forgotten woman in Hollywood history. The author weaves information she learns about the life of actress/artist Milicent Patrick with her own memoirs as a newcomer in L.A. working in film production. I thought the narration was fun, self-deprecating... it had a "rah-rah, women deserve acknowledgement for their work!" vibe to it. I mean, of course they do + Milicent was a very interesting person. I learned quite a bit about horror movies and monsters, too. ...more
Amanda Van Parys
I really enjoyed this. I'm not a fan of Hollywood monsters or horror, but I am a fan of badass women who bulldozed their way into places where they aren't/weren't traditionally accepted. This book will make you proud for what Milicent accomplished and sad for the way she'd been paved over by history. Hopefully O'Meara's work will keep the memory of Milicent Patrick alive and open the door to discover other women path-makers like her in the depths of un-credited Hollywood. ...more
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Play Book Tag: The Lady From The Black Lagoon by Mallory O'Meara / 3 stars 1 16 Feb 23, 2020 03:22PM  

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