This book was provided to me by Hanover Square Press via NetGalley for review consideration.
The Lady from the Black Lagoon
Hollywood Monsters and the Lost Legacy of Milicent Patrick by Mallory O’Meara
As a teenager, Mallory O’Meara was thrilled to discover that one of her favorite movies, The 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.
Why was I interested in this book?
I’m a horror movie and special effects buff. The story of a woman working in early Hollywood as a Disney animator and creature-feature designer sounded good to me.
What Didn’t Work… For Me
Full disclosure: I did not finish reading this book. Usually, I don’t post reviews of books I haven’t finished, but I want to make an exception in this case. I read over a third of The Lady from the Black Lagoon while slowly realizing that this book is not to my taste. That doesn’t mean that it’s necessarily a bad book.
There is an adage that biographies and memoirs should have a compelling story at their heart. The problem with this quip is that “compelling” is subjective. There are plenty of perfectly good memoirs in existence that don’t interest me at all; I do not find them compelling for whatever reason. There are two narratives at play in The Lady… . One is life of Milicent Patrick, animator and creature designer. The other narrative is about the author Mallory O’Meara’s career as a woman in the modern horror movie industry and, especially, how she researched this book. Maybe it’s because I’ve done my own research work, but O’Meara’s portion of the book, bogged down Patrick’s story for me.
O’Meara is also very close to her subject and her attitudes continually bleed into history. That is something that is very attractive to some nonfiction readers. For me, I guess I’m a more stodgy in my attitudes. I feel like if you present history well enough, I can make my own comparisons to current events. I’ve also read a few biographies this year that weren’t afraid of being slim. The Lady… ended up feeling padded out instead of being a quick 200 page biography. Again, this might be more due to my particular taste in books lately.
I think Milicent Patrick is an interesting subject, a woman who lived an extraordinary life. I think Mallory O’Meara’s telling can add scope and context for some readers, just not me.
Publishing info: Hanover Square Press, published 3/5/19
My Copy: ePub, NetGalley