Friday, 7 June 2013
Esther Williams dies at the age of 91
Esther Williams would have been the first to laugh at the famous quote, attributed to many, that described her Hollywood success: "Wet, she is a star."
The swimming champion-turned-actress, who died in her sleep at her Los Angeles home on Thursday at age 91, was one of the shimmering lights of the Technicolor water musicals of the 1940s and 1950s.
"She was a major, major star, a tremendous box office attraction," says film historian Leonard Maltin.
"Esther Williams had one contribution to make to movies — her magnificent athletic body," wrote New York Times film critic Pauline Kael. "And for over 10 years MGM made the most of it, keeping her in clinging, wet bathing suits and hoping the audience would shiver."
After her dream of swimming in the 1940 Helsinki Olympics was squashed when the event was canceled due to World War II ("It was her one big regret not swimming in those Games," says Maltin), she made an unlikely detour to Hollywood.
Williams became one of the great moneymakers of that era by appearing in spectacular swimsuit numbers that capitalized on her wholesome beauty and perfect figure.