While studying for exams yester-eve, I got note of the death of one of my childhood idols, Esther Williams. I was saddened, to say that. You see, in about third grade I developed this fascination of Hollywood of the 30s to early 60s. The Technicolor dreams conveyed on screen seemed to be such an escape from the gaucho pant-laden days of the early 2000s. But back to Esther, though. When watching her movies, I rarely had considered the greater meaning of Williams, as not only a woman in Hollywood but in athletics to some capacity.Esther Williams was of a humble upbringing, her summer jobs being the only way to support her swims, which later turned into a marketable passion. In 1939, Williams competed at the national championships, set to attend the 1940 Olympics, when World War II broke out, leaving the games cancelled. Like much of the Hollywood folk of the time (and, for the most part, today) Williams was of interest to MGM due largely to her looks, but they also admired her athletic stature, which had garnered much success by way of Sonja Henie in years passed.
Looking back on many of the films she starred in, I begin to realize how outrageous and lacking they were. This isn’t to say they weren’t good (in some sense) or entertaining, but all substantial storyline was seemingly absent, leaving nothing but recorded imagery of a lavish pool to show. I began to acknowledge Williams’ frustration with her roles – or rather, her role. Largely, she was kept underwater, in heavy costumery that once led to a back injury. Not only was she not swimming in the capacity with which she had the threshold for, her acting was corralled to the lightly comedic lines that could be said casually while, say, applying a swim cap or smiling while swimming around a rhinestone coral reef.Quite simply, she was better than that. On screen she was charming, frank and genuine. And I think what struck me most upon my initial introduction to her work was that she was so dedicated to her duty, be it her competitive swimming or her movie roles. She had such composure, enduring much physical risk (she got stuck in a giant clam shell for an extended amount of time), all while retaining that warm smile.
And of one my favorite appearences of her on show, What's My Line?