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This was stage and screen superstar Fanny Brice's assessment of Ester Williams,and frankly,I couldn't agree more.Like many other athletes plucked from the sports ranks,Ester had obvious physical appeal and knew her onions underwater.However,up above her acting chops were quite "shallow".MGM built her up around her strong points and surrounded her,out of necessity,with some good talent from their vast lot.The result were films that were pure escapism,with convoluted and hair brained plots,but the public for the most part took to Ester like a duck to water.
This is a 5 DVD set and the first entry is the film that started Ester on her way,Bathing Beauty(released July/44).This one has Red Skelton as a composer and Ester as a school administrator.The two are to be wed,after which Red will retire from writing music.However Basil Rathbone,a musical producer,gets wind of this and kyboshes the ceremony by sending over one of his female assistants to say Red and her are already married.Ester returns to her work and Red follows,enrolling as a student in a bid to get her back.Eventually Rathbone agrees to make Ester the star of his next production,which Red agrees to write.All's well that ends well.The plot is so see through it is almost transparent,and it is a plodding one.The picture is generally clear and crisp and is,like all the others,in colour.Extras include an interview with Ester,a cartoon and a war time short.Highlights are the music of Xavier Cugat and especially trumpet great Harry James.3 stars.
East to Wed(released July/46)has Ester as a spoiled rich girl.Her father Cecil Kallway is suing the local newspaper for libel.The editor Keenan Wyn is about to be married to Lucille Ball,but drops things to get the suit settled.He calls in an ex employee,Van Johnson,to work his old charm on Ester.However Johnson has a tough go of it,until the end when Ester finally gives in and the lawsuit is dropped.The film is a real mix up of a plot.MGM figured the more complicated the better....wrong!Extras include a cartoon and a Pete Smith short.This film is the worst of the set and it needs a good remastering.The highlight includes a totally right on the money performance from Lucille Ball,who manages to upstage and steal the entire movie away from everyone.Not an easy feat. 2 1/2-3 stars.
Next is On an Island with You(released May/48).Ester is a film star making a picture in Hawaii.Jimmy Durante is the producer and he hires Peter Lawford as a technical advisor.There are two people in love with Ester;her co star Ricardo Montalban and Lawford.Ester apparently visited an island Lawford was on during the war to entertain,and Lawford was the one chosen to come up to dance with her.To complicate matters,Esters friend,an almost unrecognizable Cyd Charisse,is in love with Montalban.Lawford,works away at Ester until the film ends and he gets his girl,and Montalban gets Charisse.Not a bad trade off.Extras include a Pete Smith short and a cartoon.The saving grace of this film are some songs by legendary Jimmy Durante.He brought back alot of fond memories.Lawfords performance was completely forgettable;a leading man he wasn't.2 1/2-3 stars.
Neptunes Daughter(released June/49)has Ester as a designer of a swimsuit company,with her partner Keenan Wyn.Esters man crazy sister falls in love with a visiting polo player,but gets the wrong guy in Red Skelton.The real polo player is Ricardo Montalban and he falls for Ester of course.The inevitable mix up leads to lots of trouble,but it all gets straightened out in the end.Another inane plot and with the comedy totally forced.Skelton was not as his best in this one.Extras include a short and a cartoon.Highlights include an appearance by voice man supremo Mel Blanc.Cugat is on hand again to provide the music,but he makes me yearn for the person they SHOULD have had in his stead:Carmen Miranda.2 1/2 stars.
Finally we have Dangerous when Wet(released July/53).Ester is the member of an Arkansas farm family.All are health nuts from her brother and sister,to her mother(Charlotte Greenwood) and father(William Deverest).Along comes miracle in a bottle salesman Jack Carson,who persuades the family to swim the English channel,using his company as a sponsor.While in training Ester meets a Latin Fernando Lamas,who is French(?).The two fall in love,but when the swim committee disqualifies her family,Ester swims the channel alone.Ester barely makes it,but she and Fernando get wed.Extras include an outtake,some rare recordings of composer Mercer singing his own songs for the movie,a cartoon and a short.The big highlight here is stage and screen veteran Charlotte Greenwood doing one of her patented eccentric dance numbers.2 1/2- 3 stars.
Ester Williams fans will enjoy this set immensely.You know my thoughts on Ester's acting,and the film plots are all terribly lacking in originality and in depth.The more/complicated is better concept just does not cut it.The average rating barely makes a three on all five films,but I have added an extra star for the wonderful extras and the special highlights,mostly provided by stage and screen veterans.