- NAME: Esther Williams
- OCCUPATION: Film Actress, Entrepreneur, Pin-up, Professional Swimmer
- BIRTH DATE: August 08, 1921
- DEATH DATE: June 06, 2013
- Did You Know?: Williams served as a color commentator during the 1984 Olympic Games, held in Los Angeles.
- Did You Know?: Williams designed her own swimsuit line and lent her name to a brand of backyard swimming pools.
- PLACE OF BIRTH: Los Angeles, California
- PLACE OF DEATH: Inglewood, California
- Full Name: Esther Jane Williams
- Nickname: "America's Mermaid"
- AKA: Esther Williams
Best Known For
Esther Williams, nicknamed "America's Mermaid," was an American actress who helped popularize synchronized swimming through a string of hugely popular films in the 1940s and '50s.
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Born in Los Angeles in 1921, Esther Williams hoped to compete as a swimmer at the 1940 Olympic Games, but the Olympics were canceled that year due to World War II. Disappointed, Williams took a job at a department store before landing the lead role on a swimming and diving show. After the show ended, she landed a contract with MGM studios, making her film debut in Andy Hardy's Double Life in 1942. In the '60s, Williams stepped out of the limelight. She died on June 6, 2013, at age 91.
"Clark Gable was the first to have called me a mermaid."
"I was 15, and the years of hard swimming had packed muscle on my frame and made me very strong. Not as strong as a football player, but strong enough to inflict heavy damage."
"When you're out of sight for as long as I was, there's a funny feeling of betrayal that comes over people when they see you again."
Born in Los Angeles, California, on August 8, 1921, actress Esther Jane Williams, sometimes called "America's Mermaid," helped popularize synchronized swimming through a string of hugely popular films in the 1940s and '50s. The youngest of five children, Williams suffered a great personal at an early age when her older brother, Stanton, a promising actor, died at the age of 16. Soon after her brother's death, Williams found a respite from her sadness by learning to swim. She even got a job at a local swimming pool near her house to earn free swimming time.
As a teenager, Esther Williams was a member of the Los Angeles Athletic Club swim team. She won several national swimming competition events in 1939 and hoped to compete at the 1940 Olympic Games. Unfortunately, the Olympics were canceled that year due to the onset of World War II. Disappointed, Williams took a job at an upscale department store, but she wouldn't stay there for long. Shortly after she took the new job, producer Billy Rose asked Williams to audition for his swimming and diving show, Aquacade, in San Francisco. She landed the lead role opposite Johnny Weissmuller, best known as Tarzan in the popular film series of the same name.
After the show ended, Williams returned to Los Angeles and eventually landed a contract with Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer studios. Around this same time, her brief marriage to first husband Leonard Kovner ended. In 1942, Williams made her film debut in Andy Hardy's Double Life, co-starring with Mickey Rooney.
Williams made a bigger splash, however, with her first swimming movie: 1944's Bathing Beauty with Red Skelton. To film the elaborate synchronized swimming scenes, a special pool was built with all sorts of cranes and lifts to capture the action on film. Bathing Beauty went on to become one of the most popular films that year.
The following year, Williams married singer and actor Ben Gage. The couple would have three children—Benjamin, Kimball and Susan—before divorcing in 1958.
Though not an especially good actress, Williams was a sight to see in the water. She starred in a number of aquatic Technicolor musicals, including Thrill of a Romance, Neptune's Daughter and Million Dollar Mermaid. People around the world flocked to movie theaters to see the graceful Williams work her magic on screen, making her an international superstar. Unfortunately, her life—both professionally and personally—hit a rocky period in the late 1950s: Her marriage to Gage ended in divorce, and she had some misses at the box office.
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