Esther Williams in "Ziegfeld Follies," 1944. (AP) Esther Williams in “Ziegfeld Follies,” 1944. (AP)



“We just made it up as we went along. I ad-libbed all my own underwater movements. . . It appeared as if I had invited the audience into the water with me, and it conveyed the sensation that being in there was absolutely delicious.”




Esther Williams recalling the dawn of her unlikely career. It all started when MGM chief Louis B. Mayer decided to replicate the success of ice skating star Sonja Henie — but, you know, different: “Melt the ice, get a swimmer, make it pretty,” he ordered. She wasn’t much of a singer or actress, but as an athletic goddess, Williams was riveting. She galvanized women’s swimming in the U.S. and set new fashion standards for the swimwear industry. She also burst her eardrums during underwater shoots and spent months in a body cast after her neck snapped while taking a 60-foot dive weighed down in gold sequins and a metal crown. (The scene can be glimpsed at the start of trailer for “Million Dollar Mermaid”) She died this week at 91, and you’ll really want to read her entire obituary: Esther Williams, champion swimmer and movie star, dies at 91

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