September 28, 2013

Esther Williams in "Million Dollar Mermaid" (1952), Part One

Esther Williams, who passed away this past June at the age of 91, was a dancing, diving, choreographed-swimming star in Hollywood's Golden Age. You'd think she would be a once-in-a-lifetime figure, but she wasn't. Esther Williams may have called herself the Million Dollar Mermaid in her autobiography, but the film Million Dollar Mermaid, which she starred in, was actually a biopic based on another dancing, diving, champion-swimming star -- the Australian Annette Kellerman, who was a generation older than her.

As biopics go, Million Dollar Mermaid is incredibly clunky, often to unintentionally hilarious effect.

The film starts near Sydney, Australia in 1900, "the home of the bush and the boomerang." You'd never be able to tell Annette was Australian, based on the resolute American accents of the actors.

Some signs of the times: a boxing kangaroo is part of a running gag...

 ...and a Caucasian actor paints his face dark for some Native American-face. (Though to be fair, was that not this summer's The Lone Ranger?)

Similar to her earlier On an Island with You, Williams' love interest is played by an actor (Victor Mature this time) who is more creepy than attractive.

Annette swims down the Thames as part of a stunt promotion, which is occasion not only for some piss-poor backdrops of the Palace of Westminster, but also what looks like fake-swimming by Williams.

As Annette grows fatigued, obvious gray makeup is slapped onto Williams' cheeks. She does quite a terrible job spouting out lines while swimming, but then who else could have pulled it off?

Appropriate swimwear for ladies in 1900s New York.

Annette is put on trial for public indecency.

And yet, this is also the film that brought us some glorious swimming numbers such as this...

 ...and this, which was choreographed by Busby Berkeley.

More images of the swimming numbers will be featured in the following post.

No comments: