★★★★★ out of ★★★★★
By Mallory O’ Meara
The 1954 film The Creature from the Black Lagoon is the pinnacle of the monster movie cannon. While it was made over 60 years ago, it is still providing inspiration to filmmakers, recently Guillermo del Toro with his 2017 Academy Award winning best picture The Shape of Water, and you’d be hard pressed to find a makeup or effects craftsperson working in the genre today who will not list the Creature among their inspiration. When you watch the film the makeup is credited to Bud Westmore but in her new book The Lady from the Black Lagoon: Hollywood Monsters and the Lost Legacy of Milicent Patrick, Mallory O’ Meara is here to make sure you know who really designed the creature and whose role as creator was subverted by the patriarchy of Hollywood.
Milicent Patrick’s, until now, undocumented life is fascinating. From growing up on the grounds of Hearst Castle, to becoming one of the first female animators at Disney; from bringing an idea of Ray Bradbury’s to life, to designing the Creature, she did it all with much lauded style and grace. What really shines the most in this book though is O’Meara. The Lady from the Black Lagoon: Hollywood Monsters and the Lost Legacy of Milicent Patrick is a true labor of love and that absolutely comes through in the pages of this book. It’s a painstakingly researched biography woven with autobiographical details of O’Meara’s life focusing on her quest to produce this book and discovering parallels between her own experiences working in Hollywood today and Patrick’s years ago. The book is completely of the zeitgeist addressing the “me too” movement and painfully detailing O’Meara’s own experiences handling the disgusting misogyny of Hollywood. I especially loved getting to know O’Meara through her snarky footnotes that helped to lighten it up when shit got heavy.
Full disclosure, before I picked up this book, I had not seen The Creature from the Black Lagoon. If you’ve listened to the podcast then you know that the classic monster movies are my horror blind spot. After devouring the book, I watched the film and was surprised by how much I enjoyed it because of the Creature makeup effects and let’s be honest, Kay’s myriad outfit changes while floating down the Amazon. Milicent Patrick legacy is now living through a new fan and I think that’s what O’Meara really wants readers to take away from her book.
Lady From the Black Lagoon: Hollywood Monsters and the Lost Legacy of Milicent Patrick will be released on March 5, 2019 by Hanover Square Press and is available to pre-order on Amazon, Powell’s or wherever you buy your books.
If you listen to the Reading Glasses podcast which O’Meara co-hosts with genre actor and director Brea Grant you will hear Mallory’s voice in your head the whole time you’re reading so I’d highly recommend the audiobook which O’Meara will be narrating.
- Hardcover: 336 pages
- Publisher: Hanover Square Press; Original edition (March 5, 2019)
- ISBN-10: 1335937803