For a while I had a hard time getting into the films of Esther Williams. I just could not understand the appeal of Esther Williams. To me, all she did was look beautiful and then jump into the water with every random MGM star but why was I unwilling to dive headfirst into any of her frothy pictures? All MGM pictures are lavish spectacles that require the viewer to suspend their disbelief. How was Esther Williams any different? Esther Williams represents what MGM does best. I realized I had placed judgment on her for no apparent reason and decided it was time to dive in (pardon the pun). Million Dollar Mermaid was the first Esther Williams picture I saw. In it, she portrays Australian swimmer Annette Kellerman in the 1920’s but has no Australian accent but who cares? The film is so much fun and the over-the-top swimming numbers are some of Williams’ best on film. I was hooked. (Check out The Blonde at the Film’s review of the film here)
A fellow blogger who is an Esther Williams enthusiast recommended her autobiography to me so I sought it out and I am so glad I did. Williams is so refreshingly candid and paints a very vivid portrait of the Hollywood studio system. I wasn’t all that surprised to hear about the sexism she endured in the industry but was at how she reacted. This woman didn’t take shit from anyone and I found myself saying ‘You Go Girl,’ when she recounted stories of the making of Take Me Out to the Ballgame and her confrontations with studio brass. While I initially disregarded her pictures, I realized what an error it was. This woman was a gifted swimmer and was put in some very dangerous conditions. In the book, she reveals countless injuries she suffered during the production of a variety of swimming routines and how she almost drowned twice. Watching her films, she made it look effortless. That was the magic of Miss. Williams.
Williams is also candid about her personal life including affairs with leading men and the highs and lows we expect from our celebrities. There’s a lot to read about in Million Dollar Mermaid but it goes by quickly because you feel as if you’re at Esther Williams’ house and she’s reliving the ‘good ol’ days’ to you like an old friend.
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