Million Dollar Mermaid tells the story of Australian swimming sensation Annette Kellerman, who overcame childhood polio to go on and achieve fame as a professional swimmer and film star in the early decades of the 20th century. At the same time, she scandalized the world by wearing a one-piece bathing suit on public beaches long before the style was accepted in polite company, and made waves in other ways as well. The story was a perfect vehicle decades later to showcase the star quality of Esther Williams in the 1950s, and Kellerman's moniker was picked up by Life Magazine when it named Ms. Williams the "Million Dollar Mermaid" herself. Written by
Esther Williams broke her neck diving off a 50-foot tower during the sequence in which she wears a golden swimming costume. She spent six months in a body cast before recovering to complete the film. See more »
The idea of putting swimming starlet Esther Williams in a biography of champion Australian swimmer Annette Kellerman must have seemed like a can't-miss concept for a splashy matinée item which would pay-off no matter what the outcome. Unfortunately, the concept itself is underused, as Williams performs in a handful of extravagant water routines but does very little dramatic acting. Producer Arthur Hornblow Jr. and the requisite M-G-M brass do not appear to have any inspiration that goes beyond the standard glitz and glamor (the script being somewhat expendable). That's too bad, for Kellerman's life story had aspects of both high drama and nostalgic value (being the first woman to wear a one-piece swimsuit on America's shores!). Mervyn LeRoy's direction is quite capable, and Williams is amiable, however Busby Berkeley's lavish, gaudy production numbers are what most people end up remembering. **1/2 from ****
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