November 11, 2014
The Gill Man from Creature from the Black Lagoon is among the most identifiable and beloved of all Hollywood monsters. For this last of the Universal Monsters who has elicited both terror and empathy and entranced classic monster-movie viewers and creature model kit makers, we must thank MILICENT PATRICK (born Mildred Elizabeth Fulvia di Rossi, 1915–98). She was the daughter of Camille Charles Rossi, a flamboyant character and engineer who oversaw the early construction of William Randolph Hearst’s opulent San Simeon estate. (In the mid-’80s, Patrick sought to bring attention to her father’s role in Hearst Castle’s design.) Supposedly born a baroness, she accompanied her father on his projects from Northern California to South America. At age 14 she won a scholarship to Chouinard Art Institute (now CalArts) and in the 1940s became one of the first women to work in animation for Disney. Patrick was also an actress with small, often uncredited parts in film and television including Ramar of the Jungle, Lust For Life, and Raintree County. She designed several famous monsters of filmland including the Xenomorph in It Came from Outer Space and the Metaluna Mutant in This Island Earth but the Gill Man was her masterwork. Sent on tour to promote Creature from the Black Lagoon as “The Beauty Who Created the Beast,” she drew the ire of head Universal makeup artist Bud Westmore. The jealous Westmore never again hired Patrick and spent most of the next five decades earning acclaim for the creation of the Gill Man. What electronic composer Delia Derbyshire is to the sound of the Doctor Who theme Milicent Patrick is to the look of the Gill Man. Like her remarkable creature, her name has risen to the surface.
On his or her birthday, HiLobrow irregularly pays tribute to one of our high-, low-, no-, or hilobrow heroes. Also born this date: Hans Magnus Enzensberger, Carlos Fuentes, U-God, Kurt Vonnegut, Richard Lindner.
READ MORE about members of the New Gods Generation (1914-23).