"MILLION DOLLAR MERMAID" ESTHER WILLIAMS GONE
Cinema's legendary aquatic musical queen ESTHER WILLIAMS has passed in her sleep at age 91.
The iconic star of MGM’s “Bathing Beauty” musicals was born in Los Angeles in 1921 and spent more time in the water than on land.
By age fourteen, the future "Million Dollar Mermaid" had won a municipal swimming championship and the Women's Outdoor Nationals in the 100 meter free-style, adding further crowns in the 100 and 50 meter breaststroke events.
Esther was not only fast, but she was beautiful and the belle won three berths on the US Olympic team destined for Helsinki, Finland in May 1940 but the games were canceleld due to the outbreak of World War 2 in Europe.
Legendary showman Billy Rose needed a female lead to star opposite Olympian and film Tarzan Johnny Weissmuller and promptly signed Esther for his Aquacade.
Wowed by Neptune's Daughter, MGM offered Esther a screen test - paired with Clark Gable and she was inked to a studio contract by mogul Louis B. Mayer in October 1941.
She made her screen debut alongside Mickey Rooney in “Andy Hardy's Double Life,” in which she gave the popular hero his first kiss - underwater.
Possessing the quintessential combination of glamour and athleticism, Esther Williams swam her way to stardom in such timeless motion pictures as "Bathing Beauty," "Neptune's Daughter," and "Million Dollar Mermaid."
She even did a number with cartoon stars "Tom and Jerry".
For Esther's films a special 90-foot square, 20-foot deep pool was built at Stage 30 on the MGM lot, complete with hydraulic lifts, hidden air hoses and special camera cranes for overhead shots.
"No one had ever done a swimming movie before," Esther revealed, "so we just made it up as we went along. I ad-libbed all my own underwater movements."
Throughout her illustrious film career, she swam more than 1250 miles in 25 aqua-musicals for MGM and continually proved that she was a champion in the pool and at the box office.
She was married four time including Latin matinee idol Fernano Lamas.
A champion, a true American dream, Esther Williams will forever be synonymous with swimming and the stuff dreams are made of.