Esther Williams Was So Good, Hollywood Created a Genre for Her

Swimming actress was massive star in era of the 'aqua musical'
By John Johnson,  Newser Staff
Posted Jun 6, 2013 4:30 PM CDT
Esther Williams Was So Good, Hollywood Created a Genre for Her
This May 1950 file publicity photo originally released by Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer shows Esther Williams on location for the film "Pagan Love Song."   (AP Photo/Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer, file)

If the name Esther Williams doesn't qualify as "household" anymore, a quick reading of obituaries today makes clear why it once did in a very big way. Williams—a national swimming champ who translated that into a huge Hollywood career in the 1940s and '50s—died today at 91, reports AP. A sample of the write-ups:

  • Hollywood Reporter: "The audience response to the athletic All-American girl was phenomenal as MGM put Williams' career into high gear. For more than a decade, she reigned in a new Hollywood genre created just for her: The Aqua Musical."
  • Washington Post: Her "irrepressible smile, physical allure, athletic grace and sheer stamina made her one of the most bankable stars of the era." Big films included Bathing Beauty, Jupiter's Darling, Neptune's Daughter, and Dangerous When Wet.
  • New York Times: It resurrects a quote from critic Pauline Kael, who wrote, “Esther Williams had one contribution to make to movies—her magnificent athletic body. And for over 10 years MGM made the most of it, keeping her in clinging, wet bathing suits and hoping the audience would shiver.”
  • Williams gave up her career for good when she married actor Fernando Lamas in 1962. "A really terrific guy comes along and says, 'I wish you'd stay home and be my wife,' and that's the most logical thing in the world for a Latin," she said years later. "And I loved being a Latin wife—you get treated very well. There's a lot of attention in return for that sacrifice."
(Read more Esther Williams stories.)

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