While Bud Westmore is normally regarded as the name behind the make-up and designs of Universal’s later monster movies, it was Milicent Patrick who designed and gave birth to what we recognize as the Gill-Man. UMU takes a look at why Milicent Patrick isn’t recognized more so for her work.
Jack Pierce is the undeniable name behind the iconic make-up and look of Universal’s Classic Monsters. Chances are if you don’t know his name, you do know his work. Familiar with Frankenstein? That was Jack Pierce. The Mummy? That was him too. During the late 40’s and well into the early 70’s, Bud Westmore became what some view as the Jack Pierce of that era of film-making. Westmore, credited with Abbott and Costello Meet Frankenstein, Meet The Mummy, and It Came From Outer Space, famously worked on Universal’s last original monster movie – Creature from the Black Lagoon. Yet, while his name and role would famously be associated with the iconic Gill-Man, not many people realize that Bud Westmore was not the only parent of the creature. The one to conceive and give birth to the approved creature was a Disney illustrator named Milicent Patrick!
In a 2011 article on TOR, Vincent Di Fate titled his piece “The Fantastic Mystery of Milicent Patrick.” It sounded like a mystery story or a very exciting pulp novel to be released. But it really was neither. Di Fate’s article was on the illustrator Milicent Patrick and her downgraded involvement with Universal’s Creature from the Black Lagoon. Milicent Patrick, born Mildred Elizabeth Fulvia di Rossi, was an actor, costumer, designer, and illustrator. She was a true pioneer for artists and for women, especially as a working woman in the late 40’s to late 60’s. However, Milicent Patrick is one of the most intriguing people for film buffs and monster fans as she’s been largely written out of the history of an industry she was so famously a part of.
Born sometime in the 1930’s, it’s only believed that Ms. Patrick “was born around 1930,” yet other reports have her born in 1915. According to what has been learned of her through time and research, it’s interesting to take note that Milicent Patrick was the first female animator to ever be hired by Disney! Sadly, along with many other women that worked during this time, her legacy and creations would be overshadowed by those fearful of changing times.
While Ms. Patrick has been credited with the design of the alien in It Came From Outer Space and the Metaluna Mutant, most of her work has been improperly documented and credited after her exit from Universal.
Here is where the story of Milicent Patrick is very interesting. Among monster fans and film enthusiasts, there seems to be two schools of thought on Milicent Patrick, Bud Westmore, and the Universal exit. Some believe that Bud Westmore was not happy with Universal featuring Milicent Patrick so prominently and having her tour alongside the make-up as “The Beauty Who Created the Beast.” There have been reports over him obsessively citing that he was the sole creator of the Gill-Man, along with looking to penalize her for the credit she was being given for her work. It seems like the product of numerous memos and rants would see Ms. Patrick’s involvement diminshed so much so that many would forget that she did work on Creature from the Black Lagoon. Yet, the other belief is that this was not necessarily the case. Some believe that her role in the creation of the Gill-Man has been massively and grossly overblown. It’s been said that she was a key member in the design, but not the sole creator of the creature in as much the same way that Stan Lee is not the sole creator behind Spider-Man.
As with any film and monster movie, there’s always a solid team behind the make-up and designs. Just look towards Alex Kurtzman’s The Mummy, out June 2017. They have a whole team with Elizabeth Georgiou. But it’s a whole team that will ultimately be responsible for the beauty that is Sofia Boutella as the ancient queen awoken during modern times. With this said, Ms. Patrick was responsible for the approved design of the Creature for Jack Arnold’s 1954 picture and while on her “The Beauty Who Created the Beast” tour for Universal, she would always graciously credit the team, along with Westmore, and never take all the credit for herself.
There are hardly any verifiable facts and even fewer leads left to corroborate just what happened behind the scenes at Universal, but we do know there was a falling out with Bud Westmore as Milicent Patrick would never work with him again after Creature from the Black Lagoon.
Despite the situation between her and Bud Westmore, she would continually credit him for the opportunities that she was given and was apologetic that he felt that she had stepped on his toes.
Whether or not Milicent Patrick is the sole creator of the iconic Gill-Man from Creature from the Black Lagoon, she’s definitely “The Beauty Who Created the Beast,” and an inspiring woman in the history of the Universal Monsters!
(Steven Biscotti – @reggiemantleIII)