In Mallory O’Meara’s new book there is a picture of her subject, Milicent Patrick. Probably the most famous picture of her. It’s her, dressed to the nines, working away at her art board.
I never considered who designed any of the movie monsters I love. Not until way later when DVDs came out and all the behind-the-scenes info became readily available. Around that time (mid 2000s?) I remember seeing this exact picture of Milicent in the context of “this is who designed the Creature From the Black Lagoon.” I thought, “that’s really fucking cool.” I love The Creature, both the movie and the design (I have a massive leg tattoo of him) and that’s really all the thought I gave it. It never occurred to me that there would be any controversy over the design of it, or Milicent herself, but I suppose that was naive of me and it’s exactly why O’Meara wrote this book.
The Lady From the Black Lagoon is more of an autobiography of author Mallory O’Meara that exposes the much needed-to-be told story of Milicent Patrick through the lens of sexism in Hollywood, horror movies, and society in general. Mallory is a horror movie producer and found strength in Milicent Patrick’s story and inspiration looking up to a woman who made monsters, something that O’Meara didn’t think was possible. Patrick herself is massively inspiring, as told through the book, being one of the first women animators at Disney, and working on the (incredible) design of the Metaluna Mutant from This Island Earth as well as designing the best designed movie monster ever (that’s scientifically true, fight me), the Creature From the Black Lagoon, among other accomplishments. O’Meara shares the experiences Patrick had with sexism and what it meant to be a woman in a creative field over 60 years ago, interwoven with her own stories of sexism and skeevy encounters and it’s devastating how very little has changed. O’Meara peppers the book with statistics about women in the industry which is good data to see so bluntly presented.
The core of the book, and what I found truly inspiring, is O’Meara’s reverence for Patrick and how whether she knew it or not was a trailblazer for women, especially on the creative side. O’Meara writes extremely causally and personably about her adventures uncovering everything she could about Patrick as well as her personal history and stories of movie-making and it lends a friendly voice that makes the book feel like your best friend is telling you these stories. They’re entirely beautiful as they are heart-breaking, eye-opening, depressing, and important.
You should probably read this fucking book.