The Lady from the Black Lagoon

The Lady from the Black Lagoon uncovers the life and work of Milicent Patrick—one of Disney’s first female animators and the only woman in history to create one of Hollywood’s classic movie monsters

As a teenager, Mallory O’Meara was thrilled to discover that one of her favorite movies, 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.


“O’Meara achieves her goal. Thanks to her persistent efforts, THE LADY FROM THE BLACK LAGOON pulls Milicent Patrick and her considerable accomplishments out of the murky swamp of overlooked history and back into the light.”

The New York Times

“An intermittently entertaining and exhausting work about rediscovering the stylish life and scary art of its heroine [...] Being the first woman to design an iconic movie monster might not seem the most exalted of feminist achievements. But O’Meara makes a good case that it matters, because women’s psyches matter.”

The New Yorker

“O’Meara has seen to it that [Milicent Patrick] won’t be forgotten again. Her book is a fierce and often very funny guide to the distaff side of geekdom and reproduces photos and examples of Patrick’s work, many previously unpublished. That alone would be worth the price of admission to the world of this complex, brilliant artist.”

The Los Angeles Times

“Hollywood has long forgotten the legacy of Millicent Patrick one of the first female animators at Disney and a designer for the 1954 monster movie Creature From the Black Lagoon. O’Meara, a screenwriter, producer and fan, sets out to learn what became or the artist. Along the way she connects Patrick’s story to the uneven power dynamics still in pace in the modern movie industry”.

TIME Magazine

“[Milicent Patrick’s] brilliant career makes for an often-fascinating life well told by O’Meara, who views Patrick as something of a groundbreaking role model for the author’s own path as an artist and advocate for female empowerment in Hollywood.”

The Washington Post

“O’Meara’s chatty, impassioned book, THE LADY FROM THE BLACK LAGOON, lifts Milicent Patrick out of the mire of obscurity. There’s so much great material here — including Patrick’s childhood at Hearst Castle and her early career as one of Disney’s first female animators — that her own life story could be a film.”

NPR's "Fresh Air"

“This is a book that O’Meara was born to write, and she seamlessly meshes her own life story with that of her heroine in a way similar to how Julie Powell paid tribute to Julia Child in “Julie and Julia” ...The Lady from the Black Lagoon is a riveting, sincere Hollywood saga that will quickly win your heart.”

BookPage, Starred Review

“Captivating and exhaustively researched...This is a fascinating slice of Hollywood history with a feminist slant, correcting a sexist wrong from decades ago and restoring Patrick to her rightful place of esteem.”

Publishers Weekly, Starred Review

“There's never a dull moment in this beautiful, heartfelt tribute to a pioneering special- effects designer and animator and passionate call for change in the industry that forgot her.”

Booklist, Starred Review

Awards & Accolades