Milicent Patrick

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Milicent Patrick
Milicent Patrick.jpg
Patrick with the head of the Gill-man from Creature from the Black Lagoon.
Mildred Elizabeth Fulvia di Rossi

(1915-11-11)November 11, 1915
El Paso, Texas, United States
DiedFebruary 24, 1998(1998-02-24) (aged 82)
Roseville, California, United States
  • Actress
  • makeup artist
  • special effects artist
  • Animator

Milicent Patrick (born Mildred Elizabeth Fulvia di Rossi, after marriage Milicent Trent; 11 November 1915 – 24 February 1998) was an American actress, makeup artist, special effects designer and animator. Born in El Paso, Texas, Patrick spent much of her early life in California, most notably in San Simeon, as her father, Camille Charles Rossi, was superintendent of construction at Hearst Castle. In 1939 Patrick began working for Walt Disney Studios and during her time there became one of the studio's first female animators. Patrick continued her career at Universal Studios and is cited as being the first woman to work in a special effects and makeup department. She is best known for being the creator of the head costume for the iconic Gill-man from the movie Creature from the Black Lagoon.

Early life[edit]

Mildred Elizabeth Fulvia di Rossi was born on November 11, 1915 in El Paso, Texas, the second of three children. Her father, Camille Charles Rossi, was superintendent of construction at Hearst Castle,[1] working under Julia Morgan, the first licensed female architect in the state of California.[1] The family moved from San Francisco to San Simeon, California when Patrick was six.[2] During her childhood Patrick grew close with William Hearst's wife, Millicent Hearst, who would become the model for Patrick's later name change.[2] In 1932 Julia Morgan and Camille Rossi's contentious working relationship caused Morgan to appeal to Hearst that Rossi be removed from the project, uprooting the Rossi family from the grounds at Hearst Castle.[2] The Rossi family then moved to Glendale, California and in 1933 Mildred started attending Glendale Junior College, but left in 1935 without graduating.[2] She went on to study at Chouniard Art Institute for three years, where she focused on illustration and drawing, receiving three scholarships based on her talent. [2]


Mildred Rossi began working at Walt Disney Studios in 1939 in their all-female ink and paint department.[1] By 1940, she was moved to the Animation and Effects department, where she became one of the first female animators at Disney.[3] Her work as a color animator can be seen in four of the sequences in the film Fantasia. She also created the animated creature, Chernabog, featured in the last sequence of the film, "Night on Bald Mountain".[2] During her time at Disney, she also worked on the film Dumbo before leaving the studio in 1941.[2]

After leaving Disney, she began modeling in trade shows and as a promotional model.[2] In 1947, while waiting outside a hotel, she met agent William Hawks, who began representing her and obtaining small acting roles in studio productions.[2]

Milicent Patrick began working behind the scenes when she met Bud Westmore, head of the Universal Studios makeup department, during an acting job when she showed him her sketches.[2] She became the first woman to work in a special effects makeup department and is credited with contributing to the pirate faces in Against All Flags, the makeup of Jack Palance in Sign of the Pagan, part of the design of the It Came From Outer Space Globs, Mr. Hyde in Abbott and Costello Meet Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde, the Metaluna mutant in This Island Earth, and was a mask maker for The Mole People.[4]

In 1953, Patrick designed the Gill-man creature for the film The Creature from the Black Lagoon.[5] During promotion for the film Patrick was sent on a press tour, dubbed "The Beauty Who Created the Beast", to discuss the creation of the creature.[2] This was quickly changed by Westmore to "The Beauty Who Lives With the Beast", to avoid citing Patrick as the creator of the Gill-man.[2] When she returned to Los Angeles from the press tour Patrick was informed that she no longer worked for Universal Studios, having been let go due to Westmore's jealousy over Patrick being associated with the creation of the Gill-man.[2]

After leaving Universal, Patrick never worked behind the scenes again and returned to small acting roles.[2] The creation of the Gill-man was credited to Westmore, until recent research, most notably by Mallory O'Meara in her 2019 book The Lady From the Black Lagoon, revealed Patrick to be the designer. Earlier, in the 1970s, Forrest J Ackerman did an eight-page article documenting Patrick's Black Lagoon creation and her work on other monster films in Famous Monsters Magazine; Ackerman knew Patrick and wished to give her proper credit.[2] Her Gill-man work was also explored in a 2011 article by Vincent Di Fate.[4]

Personal life[edit]

Mildred Rossi met her first husband, Paul Fitzpatrick, while working at Walt Disney Studios.[2] Fitzpatrick was married, and they began an affair that was discovered by Fitzpatrick's wife, who later committed suicide when Fitzpatrick refused to stop seeing Rossi.[2] They married in 1945, resulting in Mildred's estrangement from her family, and a name change to Mil Fitzpatrick.[2] When they divorced she changed her name again to Mil Patrick.[2]

In 1948, Patrick changed her name again to her most recognized name, Milicent Patrick.[5] Patrick then had a relationship with voice actor Frank L. Graham in 1950. Several weeks after she ended their relationship, Graham died from suicide at his home.[2]

She married again to Syd Beaumont, who died of cancer in 1954.[2]

In 1955, Patrick met Lee Trent, the voice actor for the first three and a half years of the Lone Ranger radio program.[2] After a tumultuous relationship marked by canceled engagements, Patrick married Trent in a Las Vegas chapel wedding in December of 1963. They filed for divorce in January 1969, but continued to have an on-off relationship for years.[2]

Patrick developed Parkinson's disease in 1988 and later breast cancer.[2] She died on February 24, 1998 at a hospice care center in Roseville, California.[2]





  1. ^ a b c Hand, Liz (March 2019). "Movie monster maker Milicent Patrick finally gets her due in 'The Lady From the Black Lagoon'". Retrieved 2019-07-02.
  2. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k l m n o p q r s t u v w x O'Meara, Mallory (2019). The lady from the black lagoon : Hollywood monsters and the lost legacy of Milicent Patrick. Toronto, Ontario, Canada. ISBN 9781335937803. OCLC 1080884379.
  3. ^ "Honoring Chouinard Alum and Legendary Monster Designer Milicent Patrick". 24700. Retrieved 2019-07-09.
  4. ^ a b Fate, Vincent Di (2011-10-27). "The Fantastic Mystery of Milicent Patrick". Retrieved 2019-07-09.
  5. ^ a b Gaddy, Kristina (2018-01-11). "The Forgotten Woman Behind a Legendary Monster". OZY. Retrieved 2019-07-09.
  6. ^ Weaver, Tom; Schecter, David; Kiss, Robert J; Kronenberg, Steve (2017). Universal Terrors, 1951-1955: Eight Classic Horror and Science Fiction Films. McFarland. pp. 179–181. ISBN 9781476627762.
  7. ^ "Milicent Patrick". IMDb. Retrieved 18 October 2017.

Further reading[edit]