June 6, 2013

What was so wonderful about Esther Williams?

She was a swimming movie star. She died today at the age of 91, and I didn't think I had anything to say. Here's what Pauline Kael had to say: "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." That all seems so pointless and buried — submerged — in the past. But I found this YouTube montage, and I can understand what people must have found so mesmerizingly sexy:



There's something sexy about water, and she makes us feel that sexiness in such a wholesome and sublime way. Yes, it's perfectly silly too.

38 comments:

edutcher said...

She was made for Technicolor in a time when piling the family in the car and driving to the beach (if you didn't live in Wilmington) just wasn't in the cards.

She was the ultimate escape. After WWII, people were a lot more able to make that escape on their own.

Ann Althouse said...

There's something sexy about water

Women have all kinds of stuff that float.

And we come from an aqueous environment anyway. It so... primordial!

Methadras said...

Escapist fantasy, but also she kept the sex appeal classy. You know what was going on, but you had the moral sense to keep it to yourself and enjoy it.

Steve Koch said...

Great clip, really beautiful to watch and hear. She was really athletic and graceful. There were a couple of dives in the clip that were quite high. The dive into the middle of the water skiers was particularly impressive.

Simon Kenton said...

Silly it may be, but the thing I found charming (and disconcerting) were those sub-surface smiles. If I ever could, I haven't been able to smile underwater since that time I came within about 30 seconds of eating the big load under the water of Pride Goeth Before a Falls, in the upper box of the Rio.

The Godfather said...

My wife and I like to watch old ('40's and '50's) movies on TCM, and we come across Esther Williams movies fairly often. The last one we saw, a couple of nights ago, was "Easy To Wed" (1946), with Van Johnson and Lucille Ball. It's surprising, but she seems to have dome quite a few movies in which the swimming was quite minimal. She was a fairly decent comedy ingenue -- in "Easy To Wed" she even did a pretty good job as a spoiled little rich girl in the first half of the movie.

I'd say I'll miss her, but the films will live forever.

Titus said...

Wasn't she Liberace's beard?

tits.

gspencer said...

I preferred the animated turtle.

Sam L. said...

And then there's this:

http://maggiesfarm.anotherdotcom.com/archives/22143-Giraffe-Ballet.html

William Chadwick said...

I saw her in a couple of those "minimal swimming" movies The Godfather mentions. She was a decent actress outside the swimming pool and probably could have extended her range if she chose. But she did look great in those swimsuits.

William Chadwick said...

I saw her in a couple of those "minimal swimming" movies The Godfather mentions. She was a decent actress outside the swimming pool and probably could have extended her range if she chose. But she did look great in those swimsuits.

Jeff Teal said...

I remember her from the early WTBS days .Wholesome sexy without being in any way vulgar.

ricpic said...

EW was too close to an amazon in stature to come across as sexy.

virgil xenophon said...

Growing up in the 50s I had a crush on her as a young boy of seven, eight and nine--never missed a movie uptown just offf the town square at the (then) luxury art-deco Will Rodgers Theater where all her technicolor marveles were shown..

Titus said...

Or was Sonya Henning Lee's beard?

Hi Ricpic.

tits.

virgil xenophon said...

And ricpic is right. "Statuesque" would probably be tghe closest term.

SomeoneHasToSayIt said...

Beautiful. Is is art? Yeah, I think it's art.

Chip Ahoy said...

If you are of an age which allows you to remember Esther as your favorite pool pal don't destroy your fantasies with this book. Following endless self aggrandizing tales of "besting" the moguls of Hollywood with her youthful wit and intellect the book descends into a smarmy tell-all about people no longer with us. When not outsmarting the movie industry leaders Esther recalls the size and power of genitalia belonging to husbands, lovers and even acquaintances.

Obviously we'll want Million Dollar Mermaid through the A-AP $20.00 new or 1₵ used.

ricpic said...

Hi, Titus.

Maybe you can make it up with Baron.

I can't even figure out what you did that was so bad.

Oh well, one thing I know...I'm perfect.

Rockport Conservative said...

I went to all her movies as a young girl and of course, never saw the sexy. I just saw the beuaty of movement. The first time I saw the synchronized swimming events at the olympics I thought they were awful and could not hold a candle to the beauty of those who worked with such grace in these old movies.

Saint Croix said...

Now if she was just swimming around a Walther PPK she would be the perfect Bond girl.

Saint Croix said...

Now if she was just swimming around a Walther PPK she would be the perfect Bond girl.

David said...

Did all her own stunts. The real deal as an athlete.

The mother of a friend of mine looked a lot like Esther, even in a swim suit. That was impressive.

I loved (still love) to swim. Esther was a beautiful swimmer as well as a beautiful woman.

Hard to picture her at age 91. So I won't.

eddie willers said...

All I can say is hubba hubba!

At least I understand her attraction but the popularity of Madonna has always escaped me.

Carl said...

she makes us feel that sexiness in such a wholesome and sublime way

If sexiness is wholesome and sublime you're doing it wrong.

Esther Williams is certainly a very pretty and fit woman, so she's attractive and here can serve as a wonderful icon of beauty and elegance -- but the sexy -- in the sense of "relating to sex" -- if it happens at all consists of fantasies distinctly toward the dark side of despoiling that perfection with sweaty lust (one hopes on both sides).

It's tearing off the svelte elegant swimsuit and teasing the perfectly positioned ballet muscles into convulsive passion.

Nobody fantasized about fucking Esther in perfect rhythm, accompanied by a beautiful melody, while her hair remains exquisitely coiffed, her smile placid and restrained, all bodily fluids remain tastefully discreet, and nobody works up a smelly sweat. The whole attraction was seducing her out of all that.

Hagar said...

Esther Williams also had the reputation of being a really nice person.

Titus said...

Make up with Baron Ricpic?

I don't know what you are talking about?

We haven't been fighting.

William said...

She outlived most of her fans. She was pretty and did some dangerous dives, but compared to what gymnasts do nowadays, they're not so impressive.....Thanks to Chip for posting her autobiography. It's not on my list, but, according to the review, her intimate life was a great deal more troubled and sordid than one would expect.....Well, if you achieve wealth, fame and ninety one years, what's a few failed marriages.

William said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Phil 3:14 said...

Sublimation

PianoLessons said...

Our Mom was a huge Esther Williams fan and made us seven girls take synchronized swimming classes at the Oak Park, Ill. pool every summer for like five years,

Actually - we kind of loved it. We still do synchronized swimming shows when we gather every summer at a lake...

God bless our Mom and Esther Williams.

David said...

Our ancestors came from water, and we lived the first nine months of our lives in water.
No mystery there.

David said...

Incidentally, being beautiful is quite an achievement in itself.
Don't believe me?
Try it, you'll see it's almost impossible.

Mary Beth said...

She sold swimwear from her official website.

rhhardin said...

Imus suggested it would have been nice if she'd drowned, not that he wished her dead though.

D McC said...

Check out Take Me Out to the Ballgame, where she is with Gene Kelly and Frank Sinatra. She is quite charming, and spends only a brief sequence in a bathing suit.

Maybe not the best MGM musical of its time (1948), but worth the time.

dreams said...

When I was in the Air Force, I heard stories from some of the guys that during the second world war she would visit the injured in hospitals and get in bed with some of them and play with their dicks.

A few years ago I watched an interview of her on TV and she said that during the war she would occasionally get in bed with some of the injured GIs and do playful somewhat naughty things with them which she consider was okay because she was young so things like could be done or something to that effect.

rhhardin said...

"She made a series of truly awful technicolor pictures, implausible plots about virtuous debutantes that would suddenly and mysteriously break out into syncrhonous swimming musical numbers..."

Imus's Rob Bartlett doing Larry King

R.A. Crankbait said...

As Tom might say, "Rowrrr!"