Her career wasn’t extensive — covering a bit more than 30 movie and TV credits — but her imprint on moviegoers was long lived. If there was a swimming pool at MGM there you’d likely find clean-cut, athletic Esther starring in yet another watery extravaganza during the Forties and Fifties.
By the time died last year at age 91, Williams was a woman of various accomplishment, the wife of four successive husbands at least one of whom is famous (Williams and husband Fernando Lamas are pictured above)
How much do you recall about her? Today we shall find out by publishing the answers to our Esther Williams Quiz. (To review the questions, just scroll down to yesterday’s blog.)
1) Answer: a) True. At the end of her second marriage in 1959, Williams found herself at a low ebb both emotionally and financially. After consulting with Cary Grant, who had experience taking LSD, Esther decided to try it under a controlled circumstance. The result was stark, and is described in the opening portion of the actress’s autobiography The Million Dollar Mermaid.
2) Answer: a) Husband No. 2, Ben Gage, for whom Louis B. Mayer had little use.
3) Answer: d) 1944’s Bathing Beauty in which Williams played Caroline Brooks. MGM built a costly swimming pool set for the picture, and Esther handily justified the expense. She was in her element, and the word “star” was written all over her bathing suit.
4) Answer: b) Fanny Brice. We disagree.
5) Answer: b) Jeff Chandler, with whom Esther was contemplating marriage. One night she discovered the actor in the middle of his bedroom in a red wig, a flowered chiffon dress, expensive high-heeled shoes and lots of makeup. Williams freaked out and called off their romance.
6) Answer: a)1952’s Million Dollar Mermaid. Esther had to wear for the picture a metallic crown, which snapped her head back when she took a swan dive into the pool from a 50-foot platform. The result was a broken back forcing Esther to spend the next several months in a cast.
7) Answer: c) William Powell, who, when he was 54, costarred with a 27-year-old Esther in 1946’s The Hoodlum Saint. She was directed to slap the elder actor hard, and Esther did just that. To her horror, one side of his face collapsed. Makeup staff rushed onto the set and went to work. When the makeup men were finished, it looked as if somebody had pulled all of his face up towards the top of his head. It was an instant face-lift, which is what they did for older actors instead of plastic surgery back then.
8) Answer: c) Gene Kelly, who costarred with Esther in 1949’s Take Me Out To The Ballgame. She found him to be nothing less a tyrant behind the camera — at least with me. Williams suspected Kelly resented the fact that at 5-feet 8-1/2 inches, she was half a head taller that he was.
9) Answer: c) Clark Gable, who screen-tested the young Williams for 1942’s Somewhere I’ll Find You, and in the process worked in two or three passionate kisses. As he left the studio, he turned to his then wife, Carole Lombard: Well, baby, I told you I was gonna kiss a mermaid today.
10) Answer: Husband No. 2, Ben Gage. He and Esther were married for 13 years, and during that time Gage ran through some $10 million on alcohol, gambling and failed business ventures. There was also a $750,000 tax bill. Williams, then 37, took on a number of TV assignments to pay the bills.