When horror superfan and film producer Mallory O’Meara watched The Creature from the Black Lagoon at age 17, her life changed forever. She found a lifelong heroine when she discovered that the movie’s titular creature had been created by a female artist named Milicent Patrick. “For all of my adult life and film career, Milicent Patrick has been a guiding light, a silent friend, a beacon reminding me that I belonged,” O’Meara writes.
Patrick was a footnote long lost to film history, but O’Meara has decided to change all that with her fascinating biography, The Lady from the Black Lagoon: Hollywood Monsters and the Lost Legacy of Milicent Patrick. Patrick’s story is enthralling: She spent part of her childhood on the grounds of Hearst Castle, where her megalomaniac father was an architect. A talented artist, she became one of Disney’s first animators and, later, the only woman to create a classic Hollywood monster―only to be fired because her boss was jealous of the attention she was receiving. Nonetheless, her legacy continues to inspire, as her creature was the impetus behind the Oscar-winning film The Shape of Water. Patrick was also an actress (albeit not a great one) and a glamorous personality who embodied the allure of Hollywood.
Those details alone would be enough to make this an interesting read, but O’Meara adds her own unique narrative voice, including 177 fact-filled, endlessly funny footnotes. This is a book that O’Meara was born to write, and she seamlessly meshes her own life story with that of her heroine in a way similar to how Julie Powell paid tribute to Julia Child in Julie and Julia. Although O’Meara quickly discovered that her quest to learn more about Patrick was “a researcher’s nightmare,” she makes the journey unforgettable.
“Uncovering her life over the past two years,” O’Meara writes, “has helped me see the things I need to do to protect more women from her fate. It’s helped me be brave, be strong and be loud.”
Even if you’re not a fan of horror films, The Lady from the Black Lagoon is a riveting, sincere Hollywood saga that will quickly win your heart.
ALSO IN BOOKPAGE: Read our Q&A with Mallory O’Meara for The Lady from the Black Lagoon.