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very funny guide to the distaff side of geekdom and reproduces photos and examples of Patrick’s work, many previously unpublished.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 documents it all, with poignant honesty and palpable love for her subject (not to mention some very witty footnotes). What she ends up revealing are two eventful lives (one of them just getting started; O’Meara’s still in her 20s) and two remarkable women, now forever linked.”

The Seattle Times

“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

“An idiosyncratic, much-needed biography of ‘a woman before her time’ […] this passionately written biography will do much to bring Patrick the recognition she deserves.”

Kirkus Reviews

“In this excerpt, O’Meara reveals how Hollywood gatekeepers attempted to keep Patrick in the shadows and, in turn, tarnished her legacy.”

Entertainment Weekly Excerpt

“This book is more than simply a tribute to a forgotten pioneer […] engaging, forthright, and personal history of both the author and her muse.”

Library Journal


“The story O’Meara uncovers is of an ambitious, artistic woman ahead of her time […] thrillingly inspirational.”

Bainbridge Island Review

“O’Meara’s investigative skills match her crackling, engaging prose. Even her footnotes are hilarious. This is a wonderful, enlightening mixture of film history, memoir and love letter to the horror movie genre.”

Shelf Awareness

“Casting fresh light on this seminal fright flick, author Mallory O’Meara has written a captivating new book that unveils the amazing story of Milicent Patrick.”


“Mallory O’Meara, a horror movie producer, delves into the previously untold history of Patrick with undisguised (and infectious) enthusiasm for her subject matter […] The Lady From the Black Lagoon restores Patrick to the pantheon of Hollywood trailblazers, where she belonged all along.”


“Engaging, written in an inviting and welcoming style, packed with fascinating details, and frequently witty and funny. THE LADY FROM THE BLACK LAGOON is a great read. Highly recommended for all fans of film, and horror in particular.”

Civilian Reader

“If you loved “Hidden Figures,” you’ll love this much-overdue biography of Disney’s first female animator, and Hollywood’s only woman (still) to design a monster for a major motion picture.”

Town and Country Magazine

“The Lady from the Black Lagoon describes the author’s personal search for [Milicent] Patrick and is equal parts Hollywood history and detective story – and it’s thrilling on both counts.”

Christian Science Monitor

“With a story as full of character and drama as any movie, once The Lady from the Black Lagoon has you in its grip, it won’t let go.”

The Mary Sue

“In her pursuit of learning and sharing the story behind Milicent Patrick, Mallory O’Meara has crafted an engaging narrative full of intriguing and once hidden details […] When we think of books about film and about the artists that help create them, it is fair to say that THE LADY FROM THE BLACK LAGOON is an essential read.”

Bloody Disgusting

“A must-read for fans of classic horror. This book not only tells the tale of this important figure in Hollywood, but of women’s treatment then, and now, in cinema. This book was long overdue and I’m hoping it inspires others to tell the tales of other contributors to the arts that have been forgotten or dismissed because of their gender, race, or ethnicity.”

Sci Fi Pulse

“From Hearst Castle to Disney animation studio to the Universal backlot and beyond,THE LADY FROM THE BLACK LAGOON is as extensive as it is engaging and entertaining.”

Punk-Ass Book Jockey

"O’Meara’s style is witty, engaging and strong throughout."

Starburst Magazine

Awards & Accolades