skip navigation
Esther Williams

Esther Williams

Up
Down

| VIEW ALL

TCM Messageboards
Post your comments here
ADD YOUR COMMENT>

share:

TCM Archive Materials VIEW ALL ARCHIVES (22)

Recent DVDs

 
 

TCM Spotlight: Esther Williams, Vol. 1... Bathing BeautyA big splash in her first starring role: Williams is a teacher at... more info $45.99was $49.98 Buy Now

Take Me Out To The Ball Game... Frank Sinatra and Gene Kelly play ball in a big way as 1900s vaudevillians who... more info $7.99was $12.98 Buy Now

Also Known As: Esther Jane Williams Died:
Born: August 8, 1921 Cause of Death:
Birth Place: Inglewood, California, USA Profession: actor, swimmer, singer, model, stock clerk, businesswoman

Biography CLOSE THE FULL BIOGRAPHY

Like Johnny Weissmuller and Buster Crabbe before her, Esther Williams achieved the seemingly impossible by transforming her skill at competitive swimming into a popular movie career. A star athlete and Olympic hopeful in her teens, she gained her earliest exposure to show business as the female lead in showman Billy Rose's Aquacade. Executives at MGM who saw her swimming abilities and pin-up worthy looks signed her immediately to a contract with the studio. There she starred in a series of musicals built around Williams' extraordinarily graceful water ballets. Audiences ate up the ultra-lightweight fare, making her one of the most popular movie stars of the 1940s and 1950s, though her career declined whenever she decided to pursue roles on dry land. After retiring in the early sixties, she parlayed her association with all things aquatic into lucrative licensing deals for ladies' swimwear and swimming pools. Due to these savvy decisions, she enjoyed her later decades out of spotlight and lived to be 91, with her physically fit background likely contributing to her longevity.

Like Johnny Weissmuller and Buster Crabbe before her, Esther Williams achieved the seemingly impossible by transforming her skill at competitive swimming into a popular movie career. A star athlete and Olympic hopeful in her teens, she gained her earliest exposure to show business as the female lead in showman Billy Rose's Aquacade. Executives at MGM who saw her swimming abilities and pin-up worthy looks signed her immediately to a contract with the studio. There she starred in a series of musicals built around Williams' extraordinarily graceful water ballets. Audiences ate up the ultra-lightweight fare, making her one of the most popular movie stars of the 1940s and 1950s, though her career declined whenever she decided to pursue roles on dry land. After retiring in the early sixties, she parlayed her association with all things aquatic into lucrative licensing deals for ladies' swimwear and swimming pools. Due to these savvy decisions, she enjoyed her later decades out of spotlight and lived to be 91, with her physically fit background likely contributing to her longevity.

Filmographyclose complete filmography

CAST: (feature film)

1.
2.
 That's Entertainment! III (1994) Host; Song Performer
4.
 The Big Show (1961) Hillary Allen
5.
 Raw Wind in Eden (1958) Laura
6.
 Andy Hardy Comes Home (1958) "Sheila Brooks" from Andy Hardy's Double Life
7.
 The Unguarded Moment (1956) Lois Conway
8.
 Jupiter's Darling (1955) Amytis
9.
 Easy to Love (1953) Julie Hallerton
10.
 Dangerous When Wet (1953) Katy [Higgins]
VIEW THE FULL FILMOGRAPHY

Milestones close milestones

:
Won several local swimming championships; after earning the Pacific Coast Championship was signed for the 1940 Olympics (which were ultimately cancelled when WWII began)
:
Left college and worked as stock clerk and part-time model at I Magin store
:
Impressario Billy Rose co-starred her with Johnny Weissmuller in his San Francisco Aquacade; quit to marry first husband
1941:
Signed MGM contract
1942:
Film acting debut in "Andy Hardy's Double Life"
1942:
First came to attention in her first swimming film, "Bathing Beauty"
1949:
Twice made the annual exhibitors' poll of top ten boxoffice stars; placed eighth both years
1955:
Last major aqua-musical, "Jupiter's Darling"
1955:
Ended MGM contract (date approximate)
1957:
Made TV debut in "Lux Video Theatre's The Armed Venus"
1958:
Last film for three years, "Raw Wind in Eden"
1961:
Made one-shot return to films to play a leading role in "The Big Show"
:
Retired from the industry in the early 1960s
1994:
Was one of the hosts of the musical compilation documentary "That's Entertainment III"
VIEW ALL MILESTONES

Education

Los Angeles City College: Los Angeles , California -

Notes

"Esther Williams was to MGM what Sonja Henie had been to Twentieth Century-Fox--an athletically talented woman who for a virtual decade brought countless filmgoers to theatres. With her ... apple-pie-on-water escapist motion pictures, she racked up some $80 million at the boxoffice between 1944 and 1955."

"Wet she was a star." --Hollywood producer Joe Pasternak

"All they ever did for me at MGM was change my leading men and the water in my swimming pool." --Williams, quoted in "Halliwell's Filmgoer's Companion"

She was named to the Swimming Pool Hall of Fame in Fort Lauderdale, Florida in 1967.

Companions close complete companion listing

husband:
Leonard Kovner. Married in 1940; divorced in 1944; met when he was pre med student at USC.
husband:
Ben Gage. Radio announcer. Married in 1945; divorce became final in 1958.
companion:
Jeff Chandler. Actor. Worked together on "Raw Wind in Eden" (1958).
husband:
Fernando Lamas. Actor. Married in two separate ceremonies: a civil ceremony in Europe (some sources say in 1963, others 1967) and one in a church (Founders' Church of Relgious Science, near Hollywood) on December 31, 1969; born on January 9, 1915; died in 1982.
husband:
Edward Bell. Businessman. Married on October 24, 1994; met during 1984 Summer Olympics.
VIEW COMPLETE COMPANION LISTING

Family close complete family listing

father:
Lou Williams. Artist.
mother:
Bula Williams. Member of Ingelwood Board of Education and helped raise funds for neighborhood school's swimming pool.
sister:
Maureen Williams.
son:
Benjamin Gage. Born in 1949.
son:
Kimbell Gage. Born in 1950.
daughter:
Susan Gage. Born in 1953.
step-daughter:
Alejandre Lamas.
step-son:
Lorenzo Lamas. Actor. Mother, Arlene Dahl; best known for his role as Lance on the long-running primetime soap opera, "Falcon Crest".
VIEW COMPLETE FAMILY LISTING

Bibliography close complete biography

"The Million Dollar Mermaid" Simon & Schuster

Contributions

JWishnia ( 2007-08-03 )

Source: The Movie TAKE ME OUT TO THE BALL GAME

Contrary to what it states in the Biography, Esther DID swim in TAKE ME OUT TO THE BALL GAME although it wasn't one of the spectacular water ballets. She swam in a swimming pool while Frank Sinatra sang.

Magna ( 2007-10-12 )

Source: The documents from Southwest Consulting; My mother; Esthers book.

Problems with this biography: Bula left teaching school to start a business called, SouthWest Consulting, along with Maurine and several other people. Bula had another daughter called June, which she rarely mentioned. Also, Bula's only son died at a young age.

Please support TCMDB by adding to this information.

Click here to contribute