For Reel

Million Dollar Mermaid (1952)
June 25, 2011, 11:59 pm
Filed under: Reviews | Tags: , ,

Director: Mervyn LeRoy

Esther Williams is among the most fascinating of Hollywood stars if only because she appeared in a genre that remains uniquely her own. Million Dollar Mermaid, a melodrama about the rise of a celebrity swimmer, is a fine example of the familiar A Star is Born narrative refit to highlight Williams’ unique talents. Victor Mature is well-cast as the sleazy but affable promoter, and Walter Pidgeon also stars as Williams’ father in a typically dignified performance. Though Williams’ on-screen persona doesn’t have the edge to get across her character’s hunger for rebellion against the era’s controlling patriarchy – the real-life Annette Kellerman famously caused an uproar by wearing a one-piece swimsuit to a public beach in the early 1900s – she has a fine chemistry with Mature. Most memorable about the picture is a Busby Berkeley choreographed swimming sequence, deliciously over-the-top with vibrant red and yellow hues of water accompanying swimmers perched high above the pool on trapezes.

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