Until recently, I had never seen an Esther Williams movie. I knew that she was famously called the “bathing beauty”, and was known for her swimming, but that was the extent of my knowledge. I decided to rectify this and went to Netflix to see which films of hers that they had. There were 14 of them. They went right into my queue. Last night I finished number 14 and I want to jot down a few things about Williams.
Esther was just okay as a dancer, singer, and actor. She was magic in the water. Despite this obvious fact, MGM kept putting her into roles that kept her on dry land. It’s no surprise that Million Dollar Mermaid is the best film I watched because they kept her in the water. A friend of mine said that maybe she was afraid of being typecast, but I doubt she had the kind of clout in Hollywood to do that. I think Hollywood just didn’t know what to do with her so they came up with a few swimming scenes, then wrapped a generic film around them. While Million Dollar Mermaid was the best Esther Williams film I have seen, she was best not only in the water, but when it was a fantasy sequence. This would mean full hair and makeup combined with an orgasm inducing swimsuit. After watching as many of her films as I have, you feel frustrated that Hollywood consistently avoided playing to her strength. I don’t need to see her next to a comedic Red Skelton, or a romantic Ricardo Montalban, or listen to yet another song from Xavier Cugat. I just want to watch her swim.