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Thursday, June 6, 2013

Remembering Esther Williams 1921 - 2013

Actress and teenage swimming champion Esther Williams, who died today at age 91, signed her first movie contract with MGM in 1941 while appearing in Billy Rose's Aquacade, a music, dance and swimming show (MGM chief Louis B. Mayer was looking for a female sports star to compete with 20th Century Fox's ice-skating musical star, Sonja Henie). She made a series of films in the 1940s and '50s known as "aqua-musicals" (featuring synchronized swimming and diving), including Bathing Beauty (1944), On an Island with You (1948), Neptune's Daughter (1949) and Dangerous When Wet (1953). Williams left MGM in 1956 when she refused to star in the film, The Opposite Sex (a musical remake of 1939's The Women), and she retired from acting in the early 1960s.

Below are some videos I've selected to celebrate Esther Williams' life and career.

Williams made her feature film debut in Andy Hardy's Double Life (1942) starring Mickey Rooney.

Bathing Beauty (1944) with Red Skelton.

Take Me Out to the Ball Game (1949) with Frank Sinatra, Gene Kelly and Betty Garrett.

Neptune's Daughter (1949) with Red Skelton, Ricardo Montalbán, Betty Garrett and Xavier Cugat (Williams and Montalbán - as well as Garrett and Skelton - sing the Frank Loesser tune, "Baby, It's Cold Outside", which won the Academy Award for Best Original Song).

Skirts Ahoy! (1952), in which Williams, Joan Evans and Vivian Blaine sing "What Good Is a Gal (Without a Guy?)".

Million Dollar Mermaid (1952) with Victor Mature.

Dangerous When Wet (1953) with Fernando Lamas (whom Williams married in 1969) and Tom and Jerry.

What's My Line? mystery guest on January 16, 1955.

The Unguarded Moment (1956) with George Nader and John Saxon.

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