Thursday, June 13, 2013

Celebrating Esther Williams.

I do not remember the first film I watched of Esther Williams, but.. I do remember how colorful and amazing her swim routines were. Esther Williams, was a graceful bathing beauty and superior athlete. Not many actress could fill her flippers. These are my five favorite Esther Williams films.

On an Island With You(1948). Musical/ romantic/comedy film directed by Richard Thorpe. Cast: Esther Williams, Peter Lawford, Ricardo Montalbán, Cyd Charisse, Kathryn Beaumont and Jimmy Durante.

Williams stars as Rosalind Reynolds, a swimming star who goes to Hawaii to make a film, bringing along her fiance Ricardo. A military technical adviser named Larry, brought in for the film, is madly in love with her. After, having once done a number with her and been kissed at the end a show. Only problem is... she can't remember him. So he takes her to an island in hopes that she will remember after dancing with her. Ricardo, her fiancee and fellow co-star is not too happy about the romantic trip. Her best friend Yvonne Torro, secretly wants Ricardo for herself.

Williams and Lawford made a perfect couple and Ricardo Montalban and Cyd Charisse, make a perfect dance team during their two romantic dance duets (look out Fred and Ginger).Jimmy Durante, fans will enjoy seeing him perform his jokes. He has a couple of cute scenes with Peter Lawford comparing profiles. The films vibrant colors will take you back to a island paradise. If you love happy and romantic musicals this one is for you. And of course we get to see Esther splashing around. :).

During a scene in which Williams falls into a hole camouflaged by vegetation, the crew had failed to cushion at the bottom of the hole to break her fall. She sprained her ankle and had to finish the film using crutches.

Cyd Charisse completed the most of this film (most impressively in two romantic dance duets with Ricardo Montalban), then broke her leg during the filming of the big ceremonial dance, where the corps de ballet is in island native costume. A double completed her scenes, but the injury kept her out of her next film, Easter Parade. That role, which would've advanced her to fourth billing, went to Ann Miller, making her MGM debut.

Neptune's Daughter(1949). Musical/romantic/comedy film. Cast: Esther Williams, Red Skelton, Ricardo Montalbán, Betty Garrett, Keenan Wynn, Xavier Cugat and Mel Blanc. It was directed by Edward Buzzell, and features the Academy Award winning song "Baby, It's Cold Outside" by Frank Loesser. This was the third movie that paired Williams and Ricardo Montalbán together, the other two being Fiesta (1947) and On an Island with You (1948), and the second to co-star Red Skelton (1944's Bathing Beauty).

Esther Williams, plays Eve, who is designing a new line of swimwear and is always worried about her scatterbrained, man-trap of a sister Betty. Who's next victim is... Jack Sprat, a masseuse at the club resort that Eve and Betty are staying. He has no luck with women and takes advice from South American polo player Jose who's all the ladies seem to love.

Jack, lacking confidence pretends to be Jose O'Rourke, when he begins dating Betty. When Eve finds out about "Jose O'Rouke", things become more complicated. Eve fears Betty's heart will be broken when Jose returns to South America. She arranges a meeting with the real O'Rourke and they eventually fall in love.

Frank Loesser, did the score for Neptune's Daughter. Loesser had a big hit on Broadway at the time and was working on another project when Neptune's Daughter came out. Played instrumentally, but not sung is his previous hit "On A Slow Boat To China" done during a swim suit fashion show sequence. Loesser, won a Oscar for best song with "Baby, It's Cold Outside". Montalban and Williams sing it first and later there's a comic routine with Skelton and Garrett, which is just as good....


Topping it all off is a water ballet by Esther and they typically got bigger and better in films as she tried to top herself.

Williams discovered she was pregnant with her first child with husband Ben Gage early into shooting.

Williams contracted with Cole of California to appear as their spokesperson before making the film. As a result, the company created the suits that Williams and the aqua chorus wore throughout the film.

After filming was done, Williams's doctor ordered her to stay away from activity and she instead gave swimming lessons to blind children. "Teaching those children how to swim was "one of the most gratifying experiences I've ever had."

The movie was filmed on location at Weeki Wachee Springs in Florida.

Williams played a swimsuit designer in this film and went on to copy several swimsuit designs from this film in the line of swimwear she would later create.

Fiesta(1947). Cast: Esther Williams, Ricardo Montalbán, Mary Astor and Cyd Charisse. The film was directed by Richard Thorpe. The film was shot on location in Puebla, Mexico. This was Montalbán's first credited role in a Hollywood film. It was also the first of three films pairing Williams and Montalbán, the other two being On an Island with You (1948) and Neptune's Daughter (1949). Fiesta was the first time Williams's name was billed above the title.

Famous matador Antonio Morales, is thrilled when his wife gives birth to twins... a girl tan a boy. He names them Mario and Maria. As the children grow up, Antonio's wife dreads the idea of her son becoming a bullfighter, but it is the sister Maria, who has the dreams of becoming a bull fighter.

As a gift on their 21st birthday, Maria sends a copy of Mario's  music composition to Maximino Contreras, a famed orchestra conductor. Maximino, who later pays a call on the Morales family just before Mario's first bullfight. Antonio, promises to pass along Maximino's message... but does not.

Before a second bullfight, Maximino, stops by.. wondering why Mario never contacted him. Realizing that his father ignored it, Mario angrily walks out of the ring, disappointing spectators and disgracing his father.

After Mario disappears, Maria disguising herself as her twin brother and puts her life in danger fighting the bull. Will her brother, Mario get there in time to save her?

This film features wonderfully festive Mexican music where dancer Charisse, is just as amazing as Rita Hayworth. Montalban, is no slouch on the dance floor, in the bull ring and at the piano. His timing is excellent and it makes you wonder is he really playing the piano? Esther, does not have a swim number in this film.. I enjoy watching this film even though I am not a fan of bullfights, but in this film the scenes in the ring are very interesting because of the fancy cape work.

Easy To Wed(1946). Musical/comedy directed by Edward Buzzell. Cast: Van Johnson, Esther Williams, Lucille Ball and Keenan Wynn.

The wealthy J.B. Allenbury, threatens to sue The "Morning Star," for 2 million dollars for an article they printed saying that his daughter is chasing after married men. Reporter Bill Chandler's job is to prove that the story is true.

To save his paper from financial ruin editor Curtis Farwood asks his friend Warren, to help come up with a plan. Warren, then asks reporter Bill Chandler to temporarily marry Gladys so that she can sue Connie for alienation of affection when an incriminating photograph of Bill and Connie Allenbury is printed. In order to get the damaging picture, Bill must befriend the Allenburys, who are vacationing at the Hotel Del Rey in Mexico.

He introduces himself to the Allenburys as a writer who enjoys hunting, which is J.B.'s favorite hobby. Bill, is having trouble getting himself photographed with Connie and Gladys and Warren become suspicious that Bill has become romantically involved with Connie. Warren flies to Mexico in hopes he can persuade them to drop their lawsuit.

When they refuse, Warren telephones Gladys, who arrives at the resort and tells J.B. she is married to Bill. When J.B. shares the news to his daughter, Connie decides to prove him wrong by proposing to Bill. They are wed by a justice of the peace. When Warren and Gladys threaten to expose Bill as a bigamist or is he?

This was the first film in which Williams sang.

This was Johnson and Williams' second film together, after Thrill of a Romance.

Van Johnson's biography, he states that Lucille Ball's performance as Gladys "reveals the embryo of her Lucy Ricardo role in the later I Love Lucy television series," and also states that Keenan Wynn had been in a motorcycle accident before filming, had his mouth wired shut and as a result, he had to talk between his teeth while losing thirty pounds in four weeks.

The film also features organist Ethel Smith in a musical sequence with Johnson and Williams, her second appearance in an Esther Williams film, the first being Bathing Beauty.

Bathing Beauty(1944). A musical starring Red Skelton, Basil Rathbone and Esther Williams and directed by George Sidney. Although this was not William's screen debut, it was her first Technicolor musical. The film is also Janis Paige's film debut.

Songwriter Steve Elliott, is engaged to Caroline Brooks, who has promised to give up her job as a college swimming instructor after their wedding. Steve, also plans to quit his songwriting career, even though his producer George Adams, is planning for him to write songs for his new water ballet show. Not happy about their plans George, hires Maria Dorango, an aspiring actress to help him stop the marriage.

Moments after the wedding, Maria rushes in, claiming that Steve is her husband and the father of her three redheaded children. Although Steve is innocent, Caroline storms off and returns to her teaching job. Steve and Carlos, follow close behind her, but are denied entrance to the all-female school.

Later, in a nightclub, Steve meets drunken lawyer Chester Klazenfrantz, who has been hired to change the rules to an all female College.

Steve returns to Victoria and registers as a student. Unaware of Caroline's relationship to Steve, Dean Clinton allows him to be admitted for a two-week probationary period, during which time the college can give him 100 demerits, which would get rid of him before Parents Day. Steve tries to speak with Caroline, but she tells him she is seeking an annulment.

Later, in music class, Professor Hendricks orders him to write his own version of the Scottish ballad Loch Lomond and teach the next day's class. With help from the other students and Steve's friend Harry James and his orchestra, Steve meets Hendricks' challenge.

That night, Steve visits Caroline at her house, until botany professor Willis Evans, who is in love with Caroline, arrives. When Caroline finds Steve is hiding in her closet, she commands Willis' Great Dane, to guard him, then reminding Steve that unless he is in his room in five minutes, he will be expelled for breaking curfew. Steve manages to trick the dog and run back to his room. Steve is then visited by George, who threatens to expose him unless he finishes his songs. When Steve swears revenge on the person who hired Maria, George offers to help Steve with his homework.

Concerned about Parents Day, Dean Clinton, commands Steve's professors, to make even life harder him. Mme. Zarka , the ballet teacher, forces him to wear a tutu and dance with the co-eds, but Steve once again meets the challenge. Now running out of options, Dean Clinton asks Caroline to go out with Steve and make sure that he arrives back at Victoria after the curfew. Caroline agrees and Steve is able to convince her of his innocence and as they make plans for their future together...

In this film Red Skelton, has great pantomime show in which he mimes how ladies' dress up in the morning and his swan lake ballet is very cute. Topping it all off is a water ballet by Esther.

Video: Esther Williams interview.


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