Saturday, June 8, 2013

The End of an Era: Esther Williams 1921-2013

There aren't many of those classic Hollywood movie stars left, and this week saw the end of an era. Swimming star Esther Williams died on Thursday just two months before her 92nd birthday. She was one of MGM's many stars during the 1940s and '50s, but she was certainly one of the most unique stars to appear on the Silver Screen. There were lots of singers, dancers and actors. But as Donald O'Connor says in That's Entertainment --- ". . . there was only one Esther Williams."

She starred in a score of flashy, colorful films that were unlike anything at the time and are certainly unlike anything that's been made since. The plots are quite sappy, but she always had top-notch casts and crew. You weren't really there to watch a story, anyway. You were there to watch Esther swim, dive and accomplish amazing aquatic feats. She swims the English Channel in Dangerous When Wet, she water skies with a whole troop at Cypress Gardens in Easy to Love and she swims in a sunken Ancient city in Jupiter's Darling. But her crowning glory when it comes to one of these water ballets has to be the Hippodrome number in Million Dollar Mermaid. Esther appears as you'll never see her elsewhere. The finale of the ballet shows her rising from the water on a spectacularly lit platform --- and slowly disappearing again amidst a chorus of aquatic ballerinas. And it's all done with a smile.

That's Entertainment is a wealth of appropriate sentiment when it comes to MGM musicals. Frank Sinatra say, "You can wait around and hope, but I'm telling you --- you'll never see the likes of this again." He says it in reference to Fred Astaire, but it is just as true when it comes to Esther Williams. There will never be another performer like her again.