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The high point of the Esther Williams swim-musical Neptune's Daughter (1949) is her performance with Ricardo Montalban of the delightful Frank Loesser patter song "Baby It's Cold Outside." The number has Latin lover Montalban trying to entice swimsuit designer Williams into a cozy evening of lovemaking. In a comic reprise of the tune, Betty Garrett, as Williams' man-hungry sister, tries the same seductive strategy on Red Skelton, playing a zany masseur from Montalban's polo club.
Neptune's Daughter was a big hit, praised by even The New York Times as "a great big beautiful musical, full of slickness and Technicolor plush, models and Xavier Cugat rhythm and Esther Williams in a water ballet." To no one's surprise, "Baby, It's Cold Outside" won Loesser the Academy Award as Best Song. The award was presented by Cole Porter, no less.
In a film career that spanned 30 years, Loesser (1910-1969) was Oscar®-nominated for four other songs: "Dolores" from Las Vegas Nights (1941), "They're Either Too Young or Too Old" from Thank Your Lucky Stars (1943), "I Wish I Didn't Love You So" from The Perils of Pauline (1947) and "Thumbelina" from Hans Christian Andersen (1952). He also composed the scores for some of Broadway's brightest musicals; among those recreated as films are Where's Charley? (1952), Guys and Dolls (1955) and How To Succeed in Business Without Really Trying (1967).
At the Oscar® ceremonies on March 23, 1950, "Baby, It's Cold Outside" was sung by its original performers in the movie - except that Arlene Dahl subbed for new mom Esther Williams, who had become pregnant during filming of Neptune's Daughter. In her recent autobiography, Million Dollar Mermaid, Williams recalled that because producer Jack Cummings was given to "fits of nervous hysteria," she had kept her condition a secret. "I stayed small," she wrote. "But my shape did give Irene, my costume designer and co-conspirator, some extra headaches in her struggle to keep my swimsuits fitting properly."
Loesser wrote "Baby, It's Cold Outside" at least five years before it was used in the film, and the number was familiar to many in Hollywood because the songwriter and his wife enjoyed performing it at parties. After the Oscar® win, there were suggestions by other songwriters that the song should have been disqualified because it was not written specifically for Neptune's Daughter. The Academy responded that, because the song's professional debut was in the movie, it had been perfectly eligible and the award would stand.
Producer: Jack Cummings
Director: Edward Buzzell
Screenplay: Dorothy Kingsley
Cinematography: Charles Rosher
Art Direction: Edward C. Carfagno, Cedric Gibbons
Costume Design: Irene
Editing: Irvine Warburton
Original Music: Frank Loesser
Principal Cast: Esther Williams (Eve Barrett), Red Skelton (Jack Spratt), Ricardo Montalban (Jose O'Rourke), Betty Garrett (Betty Barrett), Keenan Wynn (Joe Backett), Xavier Cugat (Himself), Ted de Corsia (Lukie Luzette), Mel Blanc (Pancho).
by Roger Fristoe