Tales of the golden era of Hollywood have a habit of transporting you back in time, painting the world with a unique blend of rose-tinted nostalgia as only celluloid can deliver. Despite us knowing that it could never all be sunshine, lollipops and rainbows, the seduction of the Hollywood sheen has ingrained in us with the message that the leading man’s story is the only one worth telling.
Any mention of Universal’s contribution to the pantheon of classic monsters (Dracula, Frankenstein, The Invisible Man, The Phantom of the Opera, The Wolf Man, The Mummy) would be incomplete without The Creature from the Black Lagoon. Yet very little has ever been mentioned of its creator, a woman named Milicent Patrick. For decades, credit for the creature had been attributed to the men who ran the make-up and special effects departments (something not uncommon in an age where the credits’ run time rarely eclipses a movie’s run time). Despite the discovery of an image showing a woman working on the creature, the consensus was that the woman in the picture, Milicent Patrick, was merely a pretty face for the marketing campaign, a photogenic front for the genius of men.
Unconvinced by the flimsy evidence, movie producer Mallory O’Meara turns detective in her biography of Milicent, The Lady From The Black Lagoon: Hollywood Monsters and the Lost Legacy of Milicent Patrick, to uncover who she was and why her contribution to Hollywood history has for so long been disavowed.
Like any good LA detective story, Mallory’s twists and turns through the history of the Hollywood hills, from Milicent’s unconventional upbringing at William Randolph Hearst’s Castle (Google it), through to her time as one of first female animators at Disney. Milicent is revealed to be an inspiring and artistic feminist trailblazer who has been forgotten by history thanks to problematic and systemic issues that blight Hollywood culture to this day.
Feeling almost like a two-for-one, The Lady From The Black Lagoon is an addictively bingeable biography of both Milicent and Mallory (plus more than a few others), with the latter’s career as a movie producer giving an invaluable insight into the Hollywood of today.
Jam-packed with anecdotes and delightful asides of Mallory’s inner monologue, the book’s upbeat and familial tone is instantly engaging. Despite the fact that the author’s own personal experiences start to uncomfortably parallel Milicent’s with an alarming and depressing regularity, the book never ceases to remain a joyous tale of empathic confrontation and moving discovery.
Mallory O’Meara’s biography is a passionate and honest exposé of the treatment of women in the movie business, revealing a hopeful and inspiringly layered story that is as much Milicent’s as it is Mallory’s.
The Lady From The Black Lagoon by Mallory O’Meara is out now from Rebellion Publishing.