During this scare season, I’ve been trying to focus on all manner of horror: on the screen, in comics and on the page. I’ve watched a lot of movies, read a pile of comics and even made my way through a few fiction novels. But there are also so many great true stories about the people who made this awesome art. With The Lady From The Black Lagoon, Mallory O’Meara chronicles the life and career of Milicent Patrick, the woman who designed the Creature From The Black Lagoon, my personal favorite of the Universal Monsters!
I first heard about O’Meara and her book on the dearly (though understandably) departed Killer POV podcast and then the Kindle version of the book went on sale, so I instantly snatched it up. The fascinating thing about O’Meara’s presentation of Patrick’s story is that she mirrors it with her own struggle to actually find out about her subject!
See, not only did Patrick live and work several decades ago and also changed her name a few times, but her status as the creator of the Creature remained highly contested, with many giving the credit to her male boss (who sounds like a real jerk!). I found myself as invested in O’Meara’s journey to find out more about this woman who had become a hero to her as I was in learning about the fascinating life she uncovered.
In addition to digging into Patrick’s early life — she grew up on William Randolph Hearst’s famous castle, San Simeon — and showing how she followed her heart into the world of art, O’Meara uncovered another astonishing element of Patrick’s life: she also designed the Chernabog from Fantasia! She was also one of the very first female animators at Disney.
As it turns out, Patrick is one of those people whose lives just keep becoming more and more remarkable the more you learn about them. And, thanks to the way O’Meara presents her book, you feel like you’re learning the details right alongside her! It’s not easy to infuse a biography with the pace of a National Treasure movie, but she pulls it off! Not only will I read anything else she writes, but I found this book inspiring as someone who’s been slowly realizing that non-fiction might be an avenue I want to go down.
With Mallory O’Meara’s The Lady From The Black Lagoon, I put the book down feeling informed about this fascinating woman’s life, mad at the misogyny she had to deal with and wildly impressed with O’Meara’s writing and detective skills! If you’re even remotely interested in Old Hollywood, Disney history, the Universal Monster and/or badass women making their way in life on their own terms, then read this book now!