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Million Dollar Mermaid (1952)

Biopic of Australian swimming champ and entertainer Annette Kellerman. After overcoming polio, Kellerman achieves fame and creates a scandal when her one-piece bathing suit is considered indecent.


Mervyn LeRoy


Everett Freeman (screenplay)
Nominated for 1 Oscar. Another 1 nomination. See more awards »


Complete credited cast:
Esther Williams ... Annette Kellerman
Victor Mature ... James Sullivan
Walter Pidgeon ... Frederick Kellerman
David Brian ... Alfred Harper
Donna Corcoran ... Annette - 10 years old
Jesse White ... Doc Cronnol
Maria Tallchief ... Pavlova
Howard Freeman ... Aldrich
Charles Watts Charles Watts ... Policeman
Wilton Graff ... Garvey
Frank Ferguson ... Prosecutor
James Bell ... Judge
James Flavin ... Conductor
Willis Bouchey ... Director
Learn more

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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 Tedosan

Plot Summary | Add Synopsis


Inspired by the true story of bathing beauties! (Million Dollar Mermaid) See more »


Approved | See all certifications »

Parents Guide:

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Did You Know?


This film is considered the crown jewel of Esther Williams' career largely because, for once, MGM's writers were not called upon to find novel, far-fetched ways to get their star wet. Being the biography of a famous swimming star, the plot allowed Williams to organically spend nearly the entire running time in the water. See more »


Australian swimmer Annette is in London for a publicity stunt of swimming from Putney Bridge to Greenwich but no reporters turn up for the start.. By the time she reaches Parliament there are newspaper headlines and placards. An impossibility. See more »


James Sullivan: Baby, somewhere along the line, we got our signals crossed. You've got it into your head that you're Joan of Arc. Well, get it out fast. You're a swimmer doing a tank act in Sullivan's water carnival, and not a bad show either.
Annette Kellerman: And how long can it last? After all, all we're doing is capitalizing on a lot of cheap bathing suit publicity.
James Sullivan: Well, what do you think this Aldrich thing is anyway? All he's trying to do is cash in on the same dodge, a ballyhoo that I arranged.
Annette Kellerman: That you arranged?
James Sullivan: Sure. ...
See more »


Spoofed in Films That Suck (1999) See more »


Music by François-Joseph Gossec
Played while Young Annette watches the girls dance on the lawn
See more »

User Reviews

Has the best of all Esther's water shows
26 February 2016 | by richspencSee all my reviews

I've heard that this movie was not a completely accurate story of the life of Annette Kellerman. Since I don't really know her story, I cannot say, but I did enjoy this film, as I've enjoyed all of Esther Williams' films. Esther Williams is the most wonderful, beautiful, sweetheart of a girl to watch. Even when she gets upset (which is never that often cause she always has such good spirits), she still seems so nice and innocent. And her swimming is always a joy to watch. In "Million dollar mermaid", Esther starts off as a little girl who is overcoming polio. She still can't walk straight, but she tries to swim. And she does it pretty well for the first time. Her father is concerned at first, but then really admires her determination and decides he will be right there with her.

As she's grown up, we see Esther as a terrific swimmer and diver. One scene in particular, Esther gets in trouble on a NY beach for indecent exposure. She is wearing a one piece bathing suit that shows all of her arms and about 75% of her legs, but nothing else. I know that this film takes place at the turn of the 1900s, but it's still jarring to see a woman making such a scene and getting arrested for that when today you've got topless women all over the beaches of Europe (and the Caribbean and Miami) wearing absolutely nothing but the tiniest g string bikini bottoms.

As the film continues, we see her achievements, first as Esther swims all the way down the Thames in London to Greenwich, and then her performing at the Hippodrome in New York. She does some dazzling numbers there such as flipping around underwater, sitting in a giant clamshell with a pearl, jumping off a 50 foot high platform ( the platform itself is so beautiful, it's like a tall thin vertical waterfall). I heard somewhere that she badly injured herself one time rehearsing that scene when she jumped from that platform. And they had to stall film production while she recovered. Esther's father was the maestro of the orchestra playing during her water shows. One night, there's a tragedy with her father during one of her shows just while she was getting in the clam. Another time, a tragedy happened with Esther while in a water tank and the glass of the tank cracked and broke. Thank God, she recovered. There's also a subplot in this film of a friend of Esther's who's trying to fly his plane around the world, and there's also a part with a kangaroo. And the very best of all of Esther's water ballets is here. Starting with a lot of her crew and herself jumping from these high flying trapeze bars just swinging out of these pretty colorful clouds, some brilliant overhead patterns of Esther and the girls in the water, along with other terrific plays such as Esther and the girls wearing dazzling, sparkling crowns as they're slowly coming out of the water. This was a great film. There has never been anyone else quite like Esther Williams. She was amazing and wonderful. And like Mickey Rooney, she only left us a few years ago (both in 2013), both living into their 90s. There were sadly, the last of the wonderful surviving Golden age celebrities. Esther Williams and Judy Garland were both the most wonderful women ever to grace this earth. They were both angels. Judy, sadly hasn't been with us since 1969, and Esther, now sadly has left us too. Dear God, please take the best care of these two wonderful angels in heaven. Someday when it is my time for God to take me, perhaps I will see both Judy and Esther up there.

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Release Date:

13 March 1953 (Australia) See more »

Also Known As:

One Piece Suit See more »

Company Credits

Show more on IMDbPro »

Technical Specs


Sound Mix:

Mono (Western Electric Recording)


Color (Technicolor)

Aspect Ratio:

1.37 : 1
See full technical specs »

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