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Swimming movie star Esther Williams dies in her sleep at 91

Williams in 1950.

AP

Williams in 1950.

From the AP:

Esther Williams, the swimming champion turned actress who starred in glittering and aquatic Technicolor musicals of the 1940s and 1950s, has died. She was 91.

Williams died early Thursday in her sleep, according to her longtime publicist Harlan Boll.

Following in the footsteps of Sonja Henie, who went from skating champion to movie star, Williams became one of Hollywood's biggest moneymakers, appearing in spectacular swimsuit numbers that capitalized on her wholesome beauty and perfect figure.

Such films as Easy to Wed, Neptune's Daughter and Dangerous When Wet followed the same formula: romance, music, a bit of comedy and a flimsy plot that provided excuses to get Esther into the water.

The extravaganzas dazzled a second generation via television and the compilation films That's Entertainment. Williams' co-stars included the pick of the MGM contract list, including Gene Kelly, Frank Sinatra, Red Skelton, Ricardo Montalban and Howard Keel.

When hard times signaled the end of big studios and costly musicals in the mid-'50s, Williams tried non-swimming roles with little success. After her 1962 marriage to Fernando Lamas, her co-star in Dangerous When Wet, she retired from public life.

Lamas was Williams' third husband. Before her fame she was married briefly to a medical student. In 1945 she wed Ben Gage, a radio announcer, and they had three children, Benjamin, Kimball and Susan. They divorced in 1958.

After Lamas' death in 1982, Williams regained the spotlight. Having popularized synchronized swimming with her movies, she was co-host of the event on television at the 1984 Olympic Games in Los Angeles. She issued a video teaching children how to swim and sponsored her own line of swimsuits.



[Last modified: Thursday, June 6, 2013 3:57pm]

    

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