Friday, November 21, 2014

what I've been reading

I like to dig around in the "DISCARD" shelves at the library.  For a small donation you can pick up a few books that were going to be thrown out and read them at your leisure...rather than worrying about returning them on such and such date.

That's where I picked up the book I've just finished reading..."The Million Dollar Mermaid" an autobiography by Esther Williams with Digby Diehl.

I didn't really know very much about Esther Williams before reading this book. I somehow had her mixed up with Ethel Merman and in my mind she was a swimmer who sang with a nasally voice.
Nope! That's all wrong.

Ms Williams discovered at an early age that when she was in the water she was in her element. She learned to swim when her mother helped convince the local parks department to add a swimming pool to a local park where they were building ball diamonds. Her mother's reasoning was, that since girls didn't play baseball (in the 1930's) that a pool would serve all the children in the neighborhood.

As a teenager Esther started swimming in competitions... which led to a job with "Aquacade" , a synchronized swimming production at the San Francisco World's Fair, where she swam with Johnny Weismueller (Tarzan).
All this and her first marriage before her 18th birthday!

Her beauty and swimming skills were noticed by Hollywood talent scouts and that's how she started her career as a swimming actress with MGM.

This book is interesting reading, as Ms Williams recounts her dealings with producers and studio executives and her stint at entertaining service men and visiting hospitals during WWII.

She describes each of her movies with anecdotes about her leading men, co-stars, and directors.  Meanwhile, she divorces her husband, remarries and has children. Years pass, she divorces again then hooks up with Fernando Lamas ( this is the guy that Billy Crystal was spoofing of when he did the "You look mahvelous, dahling!" routine).
Fernando doesn't want her children living with them so she divides her time between two homes. Later when they marry, Fernando tells her she must also give up acting to be his wife.
Esther agrees, realizing that the days of swimming movies had run their course anyway.

Overall, I liked this book..especially the early Hollywood part.  Perhaps, Ms Williams  is a bit boastful and egotistical when telling her story, but that's to be expected from a successful movie star.

Some parts of the book were sort of weird and really out of place. Like descriptions of a few of  her male friend'"attributes".  What the heck?  I wonder if someone else convinced her to add some steamy parts to the book.
Also tiresome, was the way she blamed so many of her problems on her second husband. Apparently he frittered away millions of dollars without her knowing about it...and continued even after she found out. Meanwhile she is having affairs with her leading men but doesn't express any shame or regret about her own misconduct.
Really, she blamed all misfortunes on others...but , aside from that, she was interesting and likable.
The book has a photo section too.

After reading the book I wanted to see an Esther Williams movie. There aren't any on Netflix, but I will probably find one online somewhere.
Esther Williams died in June 2013 at the age of  91.

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