Review: “The Lady from the Black Lagoon: Hollywood Monsters and the Lost Legacy of Milicent Patrick” by Mallory O’Meara

LadyFromTheBlackLagoon-feat1

Release Date: March 5, 2019
Publisher: Hanover Square Press
Genre: Fantasy

Description

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.” (via Goodreads)

 

My Thoughts

LadyFromTheBlackLagoon-cover1From Hearst Castle to Disney animation studio to the Universal backlot and beyond, The Lady From the Black Lagoon is as extensive as it is engaging and entertaining. This compelling examination uncovers the life and the legacy of the artist who created one of the most famous movie monsters of all time. Overlooked by film historians and ignored by horror movie nerds, Milicent Patrick was long overdue for her moment in the spotlight. Mallory O’Meara’s debut does just that, sharing Milicent’s story with a rush of geeky delight and honest introspection.

I’m not normally much for biographies or historical non-fiction beyond African American history or whatever I’m reading for research purposes. It takes a lot to get me to veer away from my usual genres of science fiction and fantasy or contemporary YA. There has to be a hook, something intriguing enough to pull me away from dragons and spaceships and teen romances. This book had three: first, I know the author (I was a guest on her and Brea Grant’s awesome podcast Reading Glasses); second, I’m a sucker for Hollywood/SoCal history; and third, how could I pass up a book about a trailblazing woman in a male-dominated field? So yeah, Black Lagoon was an automatic Must Read.

And lucky me, it’s fucking fantastic. O’Meara is a phenomenal writer with a wry wit and brazen honesty. She pulls no punches in her scathing critique of the Hollywood machine, of her own experiences, even of Milicent Patrick herself. She takes us along on her journey through archives and research libraries as she hunts down every tidbit of information on her subject and weaves that into the story of Milicent’s eccentric, exciting life.

The Lady From the Black Lagoon is part biography, part autobiography, part history of Hollywood, and all feminist critique. At times laugh-out-loud funny, at others deeply moving, this engrossing book challenges the reader to look beyond what they think they know to see the secrets those in power have tried to bury.

On the cusp of the nationwide release of The Creature from the Black Lagoon, Milicent had been a guest on over forty different television and radio shows all over the country and featured in countless newspapers and magazines. She ad been working in the art world for fifteen years, in and out of the film industry. She had been a professional creative for almost her entire adult life, blazing trails for women in film. Finally, she was receiving the public recognition she deserved and her star was on the rise.

Thanks to Hanover Square Press for sending me a review copy.

Do the world a favor and buy this book from your local indie bookstore or borrow it from your public library.

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