How The Woman Who Created The Gill-Man Was Erased By Hollywood History

If you are a fan of horror movies, you have likely binged everything available on Netflix. If you are looking to expand your watchlist, tuning in to a classic horror film, especially those made by Universal, is a must for any scary movie fan!

Classic horror movies — specifically those made by Universal Studios during the Golden Age of Hollywood — are especially fun to watch during the Halloween season but can be enjoyed during any time of the year. While the studio is now best known for its theme parks in California and Florida, it paved the way for the horror movies we know and love today (via One Room With a View). 

Universal monsters like Dracula, Frankenstein, and the Bride of Frankenstein have become cultural icons. However, few have caught the attention of fans the way the creature from "The Creature from the Black Lagoon" has. The film is almost always in the top five of Universal monster film rankings (per Game Rant). 

The movie is a must-watch — however it's important to learn the truth behind who created the character, and how her legacy was nearly stolen from her before you tune in this spooky season.

Patrick created one of the most iconic monsters with no real credit

"The Creature from the Black Lagoon" features one of the most recognizable Universal monsters, the Gill-man. The iconic figure was tricky to play, NPR reports, with two different actors wearing the suit throughout the making of the film. The creature, who could both swim and walk on land, required a lot of work to play as an actor and even more to create. However, the legacy of his initial creator has been nearly diminished.

Milicent Patrick was the mastermind behind the creation of the Gill-man, but for decades, she was forgotten. Though her ability to construct special effects in the 1950s had inspired filmmakers like Steven Spielberg to Guillermo del Toro, her name remains virtually unknown today (per the New York Post).

A book titled "The Lady from the Black Lagoon" by author Mallory O'Meara looked to put her name back in the spotlight. During the peak of her career, she was so in demand that Universal arranged a cross-country tour for her. Why has her star faded now?

An author is teaching a new generation about Patrick's legacy

According to Mallory O'Meara, author of "The Lady from the Black Lagoon," Milicent Patrick broke down gender barriers in horror film production. O'Meara wrote, "[Patrick] wasn't being helplessly carried away in the arms of the monster. She was creating it," (via the New York Post). Her impact on monster movies was so great that she helped invent a new animation style with Disney.

However, a man involved in the film industry succeeded in removing her legacy from her. Bud Westmore, the head of Universal's makeup department, stole credit for the majority of her work and not only got her fired from Universal, but blackballed by all studio makeup departments. "It was the '50s. She couldn't fight back," shared author O'Meara.

Because of the jealousy on Westmore's end, Patrick's name is mostly unknown today (via NPR). She died at the age of 82 in 1998, and throughout her life she continued to sketch ideas for new designs but was unable to find work in any studio. However, with the help of O'Meara, Patrick's name is being learned by a whole new generation.