THE MILLION DOLLAR MERMAID by Esther Williams

THE MILLION DOLLAR MERMAID

An Autobiography

KIRKUS REVIEW

Film star Williams reveals all, including how every hair and eyelash remained in place during the spectacular water ballets that were the core of most of her movies. The 1940—50 Williams’s films, like Neptune’s Daughter, Thrill of a Romance and Million Dollar Mermaid, are featured on cable television’s movie channels, so a younger generation of viewers is familiar with the signature splashing fountains, corps de bathing beauty, and spectacular Esther Williams smile. Here’s a description of how those effects were achieved (oil and Vaseline for the hair; the smile was her own), as well as tales about the star’s four marriages, several affairs, three children, and coming of age as a contract player in the MGM “finishing school,” along with Lana Turner, Katharine Hepburn, June Allyson, and Judy Garland. The Esther Williams films, as bland and predictable as the plots were, were big moneymakers. Only 18 years old when she signed with MGM, she had already been in the Olympics, where she swam fast, and a star of Billy Rose’s Aquacade, where she swam “pretty.” Straightforward and unpretentious, she understood that it was the wet Williams that drew people to her films. She developed increasingly complicated routines (precursors of synchronized swimming) and did her own sometimes dangerous stunts—she once broke three neck vertebrae in a diving sequence. As her career tapered off in the mid-'50s, she found that her second husband had lost or gambled away virtually all the money she'd earned in the water. Unhappy and confused, she took LSD (overseen by a doctor); it was like “instant psychoanalysis” and enabled her next marriage, to actor Fernando Lamas, although uneven, to last for 22 years until his death. Now happily married to husband number four, she heads a bathing suit firm. With the help of L.A. media critic Diehl, this is written with humor and a sense of proportion that leaven the usual movie star bio. (16 pages b&w photos, not seen)

Pub Date: Sept. 1st, 1999
ISBN: 0-684-85284-5
Page count: 416pp
Publisher: Simon & Schuster
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 1st, 1999




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