Where Are they Now? Swimmer Movie Star Esther Williams Part 2

About the movie star swimmer Esther Williams, history and biography of her then and now.


Headline--1949: ESTHER WILLIAMS

But wet was what counted; people wanted to see Esther and a chorus of swimmers backstroke in patterns on the water's surface, dive beneath it, and swing on trapezes above it. The finale in Million Dollar Mermaid was one of her finest moments. On a ring tied to a rope, she was lowered from a cloud of orange smoke while music and pastel waters gushed in the background. Hanging from the ring by one hand and blowing kisses to the audience with the other, she gradually sank into a sparkling pool.

Esther left MGM in 1955. She made some television appearances, and there was talk of a series. For a while she promoted Esther Williams Swimming Pools. Then she played in four nonswimming, dramatic films. Not one of them was a success. The last of these, The Magic Fountain, made in Spain in 1961, was never released in the U.S. The picture's director, Fernando Lamas, is now Esther's third husband.

And Today: The television series remained talk, and the swimming pool company went down the drain long ago. The last time Esther Williams's name was in the news was in 1976. Alleging unwarranted exploitation and invasion of privacy, she sued MGM for inserting clips from her films in That's Entertainment!

For more than 15 years she avoided reporters and photographers. Then, surprisingly, in 1977 she agreed--provided no pictures were taken--to talk with a reporter from the Los Angeles Times. She wanted to clear the air of rumors. "They say I weigh 350 pounds. They say I went blind from the chlorine. They say I'm crazy, drunk, hospitalized. Or that I'm like Mary Pickford and never come downstairs," she explained.

One gathered from this interview that her film career had not been pleasant. "I did whatever I was asked," she said. "Sometimes you were told what to wear. I once went onstage in Chicago in a gold lame swimsuit and bow. I thought, 'What the hell am I doing here?' But I always felt protected in the water. What I hated was the singing and dancing."

Now that's behind her. "I buried Esther Williams," she told the reporter. "People want me to get out of the kitchen. They want me to go for causes, but I did all that. I'm not needed for benefits. Nobody loses if I keep my privacy. It's me and my husband, tennis and gardening."

She is, however, occasionally seen in Beverly Hills. If a stranger recognizes her and gawks, she hands the person a card. On it is printed the answer to the question she is sure everyone longs to ask. The card reads, "Yes, I still swim."

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