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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
Annette Kellerman (Esther Williams) tells the judge that her swimsuit "will cover the entire body except the *forearms* and the head." However, the swimsuit she exhibits in court and which she wears in the following scenes does not cover *any part of her arms*. See more »
Three Cheers for Esther Williams, Busby Berkeley and George Folsey!
In Australia, little Donna Corcoran (as little Annette Kellerman) swims to overcome polio. Supported by father Walter Pidgeon (as Frederick), she becomes a little swimming champion. The cute girl quickly grows up to be attractive trophy-collecting Esther Williams (as the adult Annette Kellerman). She meets manly Victor Mature (as James "Jimmy" Sullivan) and goes to America. Mr. Mature puts her in a shocking one-piece bathing suit and Ms. Williams is accused of "indecent exposure." They are mutually attracted, but Williams must listen to Mature tell her:
"Wet you're terrific, dry you're just a nice girl who ought to settle down and get married."
Understandably, this nervy line puts a cramp in their romance. Williams also attracts "Hippodrome" owner David Brian (as Alfred Harper). While not classically handsome, kangaroo-trainer Jesse White (as Doc Cronnol) gets no action; he's faithful, supportive and funny, but apparently not Williams' type. All this silliness is based on a few facts from the real turn-of-the century celebrity Annette Kellerman's life. The original "Million Dollar Mermaid" was also famous for appearing for the public in only her "birthday suit" - but this biography keeps Williams' Kellerman modestly covered.
Stick around for the sensational aquatic scenes. This is where Williams, choreographer Busby Berkeley, and cinematographer George J. Folsey really shine. They didn't do it alone, of course, as the MGM production team employed hundreds of hard-working helpers. Ballet dancer Maria Tallchief (as Anna Pavlova) and one of the seemingly endless cute Corcoran kids are additionally noteworthy. Young Donna won a "Film Daily" acting nomination in their juvenile category, Mr. Folsey's color photography received "Academy Award" consideration, and Williams drew in the crowds.
****** Million Dollar Mermaid (12/4/52) Mervyn LeRoy ~ Esther Williams, Victor Mature, Walter Pidgeon, David Brian
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