Million Dollar Mermaid (Harvest Book)

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9780156011358: Million Dollar Mermaid (Harvest Book)

During Hollywood's heyday, big studios battled over the next box-office attraction. While Gene Kelly danced and Judy Garland sang, Esther Williams swam into the heart of America with her dazzling smile, stunning aquabatics, and whole-some appeal. Hand-picked for stardom by movie mogul Louis B. Mayer, Esther shed her wide-eyed innocence at what she affectionately calls University MGM, a unique educational institution where sex appeal and glamour were taught, a school where idols were born. Once a national swimming champion and struggling salesgirl, overnight she became one of the most bankable stars in Hollywood. And though fame came quickly, Esther's personal life was often less than joyous. Through troubled marriages, cross-dressing lovers, financial bankruptcy, she shares the ups and downs of her extraordinary career in The Million Dollar Mermaid, a wildly entertaining behind-the-scenes account of one of Tinseltown's classic dream factories.

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Review:

Her big movies are hard to find these days, and her name doesn't evoke the fan recognition awarded fellow MGM graduates Lana Turner and Ava Gardner, yet for more than a decade during Hollywood's age d'or Esther Williams was one of the studio's most bankable leading ladies. An American beauty and swimming champ, she was hired at MGM in 1941 at age 18, and from then on starred in two or three thinly plotted "swimming musicals" a year--films with titles like Neptune's Daughter, Million Dollar Mermaid, Easy to Love, and Take Me Out to the Ball Game. Her inevitable role was the pin-up you could pin up at home, and it seems to have reflected her offstage personality too. Her long (400 pages) memoir is not always a miracle of narrative, but it includes a wealth of juicy gossip: Louis B.Mayer's rolling-on-the-floor tantrums; Gene Kelly's verbal cruelty on the set of Take Me Out to the Ball Game; her three failed marriages, including a long, draining one to Fernando Lamas; Lana Turner's name for Mayer ("Daddy"); Johnny Weismuller's backstage pursuit of her (naked); her own heat for Victor Mature ("unleashed"); and the LSD she tried in 1959 on Cary Grant's recommendation.

Like so many other as-told-to books, the memories often feel self-serving, and there are plywood sentences even Lana Turner would choke on delivering. Disappointingly, Williams rarely shares what went on behind her lowered eyes and those buoyant cheekbones. --Lyall Bush

Review:

"Forthright and affably ribald.-Entertainment Weekly "Her sparkling anecdotes alternate the scandalous, the charming and the ridiculous....Tremendously entertaining life story."-Publishers Weekly (starred review) "Williams is capable and down-to-earth, but the movie star has just enough ego-and the requisite bad taste in men-to make her story interesting."-Chicago Tribune "Williams, always sassy, proves herself to be a daring memoirist."-Time "One of the most engaging and involving movie-star bios ever; her Million Dollar Mermaid is really something special."-Liz Smith, The New York Post

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Esther Williams
Published by Harvest Books (2000)
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