Title: The Lady from the Black Lagoon: Hollywood Monsters and the Lost Legacy of Milicent Patrick
Author: Mallory O’Meara
Year Published: 2019
Milicent Patrick was born Mildred Elisabeth Fulvia Rossi in 1915. She used different names throughout her career, but either way, I didn’t recognize any of them before reading this book.
This book tells her story. The daughter of Camille Rossi (an engineer who helped build Hearst Castle in California), one of the first female animators at Disney, frequent background actress and creator of the iconic creature in the movie, Creature from the Black Lagoon (1954).
It’s a story about author Mallory O’Meara as much as it is about Milicent. Since Milicent isn’t a well-known name, O’Meara chronicles how she uncovered Milicent’s story through extensive research. This research was necessary because as a female in Hollywood in the mid 1900s, Milicent wasn’t actually credited for her work. O’Meara is giving Milicent the spotlight she deserved through this book.
This isn’t your typical biography. There’s no “Milicent Patrick was born on this day and first did this then that etc etc.” There are breaks in between big parts about her life describing how the author found the information. So I love how this book is not really a biography as much as it is the author’s journey to discovering her.
One of the takeaways I got out of this book was that Milicent Patrick lived a life that proved that women can defy odds and didn’t have to conform to what society believed women should be (a wife and mother), a big deal especially during her time.
But in a way, I couldn’t help but feel really sad at the end when I finished reading. Yes, she was accomplished. She was making good money and was apparently physically beautiful.
The book says her last words were “God doesn’t love me.” She had so much hurt. Estranged from her family, never really fully getting closure with her father and sister who passed away before she did, had people close to her who died too soon and of course, didn’t get credit for one of the biggest projects she worked on. It makes me think, what is life after accomplishing so much?
I felt there was a lot of real anger and hate coming out of the author throughout the book. As a woman, I do understand we are discriminated and treated differently than men, not just in Hollywood as this book specifically covers. But I’m just not sure I really wanted to read about her anger throughout the entire book. (When I looked past this, I really enjoyed it).
I’m glad the author mentioned this though, quoted below. Society shouldn’t have to dictate what a woman wants to do with her life. She can have a career, or she can have what’s considered ‘normal’. It’s up to you and what you want out of life.
No, she didn’t get to “have it all” in the patriarchal way that women are pressured to strive for. Get a husband, a stable job, buy a house, have children. Some of those things or all of those things might be what some women genuinely want. I do not believe that there are better or worse kinds of happiness and fulfillment.
Get your own copy here.
Thank you Hanover Square Press for providing a copy of this book.