By: James Bartlett
Even if you’re not a movie fan, you would surely recognize Dracula, Frankenstein and The Mummy. Their characters have been remade, rebooted and reimagined for decades – sometimes with mixed results – but there’s another Universal Studios movie monster who only appeared on the silver screen three times in the 1950s, but has never been forgotten.
1954 saw the 3-D release of The Creature from the Black Lagoon, and it’s gilled, human-like underwater beast (known as Gill-Man) is arguably still as famous and just as recognizable as the others are today.
Gill-Man became an icon of classic horror monsters too, but for some reason it has resisted many remake attempts over the years (Guillermo Del Toro, a huge admirer, paid tribute in the Oscar-winning smash hit The Shape of Water).
But more than any of that, The Creature from the Black Lagoon has an interesting and, until recently, rather secret story – something that Mallory O’Meara explored in her book The Lady from the Black Lagoon: Hollywood Monsters and the Lost Legacy of Millicent Patrick.
Patrick, a former Disney animator and pioneer make-up artist and special effects designer, was the creative genius behind the design for Gill-Man.
But even though she was sent on tour as “The Beauty Who Created The Beast,” her jealous department head ensured she was sidelined, uncredited and eventually fired from the project. After all, a mere woman couldn’t be getting the credit, surely?
O’Meara, a young, up-and-coming horror fan, podcaster and producer – and fan of “Black Lagoon” – has tried to change all that, weaving in her own story of frustration and sexism in Hollywood with that of Patrick’s.
An examination of both Patrick’s skills, the role of women in front and behind the camera within the horror genre, and also a condemnation of how little things have changed in Tinsel Town, O’Meara was recently on a book tour for the paperback release, and she snatched some time to give The Irish American Post a quick interview.
O’Meara grew up in New England, and lived in New York before coming to her current home in Los Angeles.
“My family is Irish on my father’s side,” she explained when asked about her very Irish-sounding last name. “And I finally got to visit Ireland in the fall of 2018,” she added. “It was absolutely wonderful, and my favorite memory was just driving around the countryside! It was so beautiful.”
She continued, saying that she first started traveling to L.A. for work in 2014, and moved there in 2016. It was L.A. that provided her with one of her most memorable moments so far: launching the hardback edition of her book in what she admitted was her favorite bookstore, The Last Bookstore, in downtown last year.
There was quite a response to her book – mostly positive, but also negative – though O’Meara said happily that “the most notable thing about my audience and their response to my book since it came out last year has been how inspired people have been by Millicent Patrick. People draw a lot of strength and insight from her story.”
Perhaps unsurprisingly, the blue-haired O’Meara said that if she could go back in time she wouldn’t want to visit the set of “Black Lagoon”, or try and see another horror movie up close and personal: she would try to meet and talk to Patrick, who died over 20 years ago at a hospital in Roseville, California.
As for her life in Southern California, O’Meara says that a perfect day would be spent reading with her cats, but that seems to be a rare treat since she has plenty of projects going on at the moment – and in the future.
Aside from touring with the book again, she shared duties on the weekly literary podcast “Reading Glasses” with filmmaker and actress Brea Grant, and was always looking to add to her producing resume. Her last co-producing effort Yamasong: March of the Hollows, a stop-motion fantasy animation about a girl and tortoise warrior on a quest to save their world, was released in 2017.
As for her favorite (recent) movies, Oscar winner Parasite is on her list, as well as last year’s low-budget releases The Wind, a supernatural story set in the 19th century, and After Midnight, another gritty effort about a monster stalking down a human. Sounds familiar?
Her next book is titled Girly Drinks: A Women’s History of Drinking Through the Ages.
Full details are under wraps right now, but she admitted to being someone who came to cocktails late (drinking beer and other drinks she didn’t really like just to appear “cool” and fit in during those tough teenage years), and then being disappointed (but not surprised) to find that books about the role women played in the history of alcohol were thin on the ground.
Even ones that did look at some of the historical figures – from rum runners to distillers to entrepreneurs – were written by men, so she felt it was time for a women’s history actually written by a woman.
That led to the obvious last question: which was her favorite Irish adult beverage?
“I like both Guinness and Irish whiskey,” she said diplomatically, but then admitted that her favorite was a glass of Telling.
I think we can all say cheers to that!