The legendary film star Esther Williams has died in California aged 91, reports AP.
Here’s what you need to know about this legend who will be sorely missed…
1. She First Gained Fame in California as a Competitive Swimmer
Born in 1921, Williams started swimming at an early age and quickly distinguished herself for her speed. By 16 she was winning national championships, and by 19 she had shattered records for breast stroke and freestyle. Williams planned on competing in the 1940 Tokyo Olympics, but the event was canceled due to the outbreak of World War II.
2. she Got Signed to MGM studios, with who she began starring in “Aqua-musicals”
In her memoir, Williams said that just a year after the end of her swim racing career she, “walks through the gates of MGM a year later and swims her way to movie stardom.” Her first films helped to show off her swimming abilities by prominently featuring her in pools and bathing suits.
3. She appeared in some of the highest-grossing movies of the 1940s and 1950s
The 1940s and 50s catapulted her to stardom. During this movie she started in movies with Mickey Rooney, Lucille Ball, Gene Kelly, and Frank Sinatra. Many of her films, like Thrill of Romance and Neptune’s Daughter were some of the highest grossing films in the years they were made.
4. Her nickname was the “Million Dollar Mermaid”
The name of one of her most popular films, Million Dollar Mermaid would stick with her as a nickname for the rest of her life. The 1952 film was a major hit and earned an Academy Award Nomination for Best Cinematography. The nickname also stuck because as her fame grew in the 1940s and 1950s, so too did her income.
5. She left MGM in 1959 and retired from movies in the 1960s
Her memoir explains that the time period around 1959 was a dark time for her.She had recently gotten a divorce, she suffered from alcoholism and exhaustion, and she found herself in an increasingly fragile mental state. She eventually retired from film.
6. She created a line of swimwear and lent her name to a brand of swimming pools
Later in her life, Williams helped to create a line of retro-style swimwear like the kind she wore in her hit films. This business, as well as the pool company named after her, helped to keep her busy until her death.
7. She served as a commentator during the 1984 Olympics in Los Angeles
In 1984 she served as a commentator for swimming events, specifically synchronized swimming, in the Los Angeles olympics. According to a New York Times interview, she had a face lift before the event to look her best.
8. She Had A Stressful Personal Life
Williams was married four times, the first one being at the age of 19. Her first marriage lasted from 1940-1944. Her second marriage, to actor Ben Gage lasted from 1945 until they were separated in 1952, and divorced in 1959. Her third marriage was to the director Fernando Lamas and it lasted from 1969 until his death in 1982. She married the actor Edward Bell in 1994, and they were together until her death. Throughout her long life she has numerous hot Hollywood affairs.
9. In 1959, Cary Grant claims he used LSD with Williams
In her Memoir Williams confirms that she did LSD as an attempt to get her mental state more balanced. Cary Grant talked her into it and it supposedly really helped. She wrote:
LSD seemed like an instant psychoanalysis. With my eyes closed, I felt my tension and resistance ease away as the hallucinogen swept through me. Then, without warning, I went right to the place where the pain lay in my psyche.
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10. She suffered a stroke in 2007
Esther Williams admitted recently that she had a stroke in 2007. Later, she was seen in public in a wheelchair. Her health continued to decline until her death this afternoon.