Watch out! Esther Williams is... Dangerous When Wet (1953)
I'm loving this rush of blogathons I've been able to be a part of! This post will be my contribution to the fun Beach Party Blogathon, and please check out the many other awesome posts! Many of the films are quite new to me, and I'm sure it'll be very enlightening.
From the minute I laid eyes on Dangerous When Wet, I knew it was my favorite Esther Williams flick. It's funny and romantic, with great songs, out-of-this-world chemistry between the leads, and lots of heart. I've made no bones about my love for the marvelous Ms. Williams, but I've yet to write about one of her films. It's certainly time to remedy that, don't you think?
here. Katy sweetly and proudly tells Windy that that's her sister singing, which immediately sends off an alarm in his head. He declares Suzie the winner and tells the Higgins he'll bring her prize by later tonight. Katy is on to him, though. When Suzie tells him they'll leave the porch light on, Katy exclaims "We will not! It attracts bugs!" Ouch.
The crew arrives in England and just as they begin to get excited for the race, they become a little hesitant--and maybe a little afraid--to learn that once the current is taken into account, the race is 30 miles long, 10 miles more than they were expecting. Being the stubborn, go-get-'em family they are, though, they start out the next morning to train in the Channel. Their singing of "I Got Out of Bed" turns into yelps once they hit the icy waters, with everyone running out of the Channel except for Katy, and soon we see that Katy may be the only one really cut out for this. From this point on, the audience never sees the rest of the family training in or out of water.
a hand reaches out and pulls her on to a small rowboat. Katy thinks it's Windy, until she gets a better look and sees the dashing Andre Lanet (Fernando Lamas) clad in a crisp, white tuxedo jacket and impeccably groomed. She's even more confused when he tells her he lives "here." He's equally perplexed at this girl swimming far out into the ocean at
an early hour, wearing weird goggles and shouting "Windy!" Andre rows them to his yacht, the "here" he was referring to. He goes below to change clothes and skeptically look at this stranger he picked up, but he quickly changes his tune (literally) when Katy takes off her goggles and swim cap, revealing the gorgeous Esther Williams. Andre brings her coffee and a suggestively lacy and transparent robe to wear over her bathing suit ("It's my mother's!" he claims in response to her dubious look). They chat, Katy explaining she's a Channel swimmer and Andre revealing that he's a champagne salesman. He had just left a party where he was making sales, hence the tux.
Andre is less than thrilled when Windy's shouts for Katy interrupt them. In an encounter parallel to Katy and Andre's, Windy had thought he had found Katy when he really happened upon the Channel's French competitor, Gigi. She clearly has a thing for Windy, but the guy would rather keep his eye on the race. The fog is still intense, so Katy and Windy continue to shout at each other to figure out where the other is at. I love when Windy asks where she is and she responds uncouthly, "On a yacht! With a Frenchman!" Andre practically spits out his coffee and Windy panics. "With a Frenchman?!" The two men immediately start competing for Katy's attention as Andre invites her to dinner to "show her the layout and tricks of the Channel" and Katy brings Windy along. He is her coach, after all. Andre ditches Windy, though, by driving a two-seater and sending him in a cab to the wrong restaurant. Katy sees through it, but she's willing to play along. She even admits she's flattered, and Andre gives her a gift. She opens it to find a skimpy bikini that looks like it would barely cover her and she embarrasses Andre as she chides him. French girls wear them all the time, he reasons! The waitress makes things worse when she says her sister wore one to Brighton, only to be arrested, proving Katy's point.
here, lucky ducks.
During filming, Williams and Lamas were equally aware of a growing attraction between them, but Williams was trying to work on her marriage to Ben Gage, although Lamas was certainly willing to give an affair a try. He was living up to his image as a Latin lothario, having affairs with the likes of Lana Turner and others. Esther knew he still wanted to fool around, and for her, that just wasn't going to cut it. Their romance wouldn't really kick in until years later after Esther left MGM and basically moviemaking altogether. She was working on a televised special from Cypress Gardens in Florida and needed a partner when she remembered how well she worked with Lamas. They reconnected, Lamas divorced his wife Arlene Dahl, and the two were married from 1969 until his death in 1982. If you'd like to know more about their relationship, or just Esther in general, I highly recommend Esther's autobiography, The Million Dollar Mermaid. You just cannot be disappointed by it.
there's a book out about him. I've always liked the projects he's picked, whether it's Lili, Summer Stock, or High Society, and he never seems to disappoint me. To make it even better, he had a wonderful friendship with Esther. I mean, he called her a "dear dame"--how cute is that? Dangerous When Wet was important for Esther because before then, her directors never took her seriously; they figured that her only talent was swimming, an assumption that drove her crazy because she was anxious to learn how to improve her acting and singing so swimming wouldn't be her only talent. Chuck gave her that chance. He worked with her to try and help her be the best she could be, and she was grateful. They worked together again immediately on 1953's Easy to Love, a film that I think is just as good as Dangerous. They had also done Texas Carnival in 1951, but that material isn't as strong as their other two works'.
|Esther breaking the fourth wall before she puts on her bikini.|
|Jerry, the taskmaster.|
|The cat and mouse tell Gigi's fish incarnation the wrong way to Dover.|
|Andre playfully grabs Katy after she thinks she's outsmarted him.|
I know my pictures aren't the best (blame my TV for that), but this film is just beautiful to look at. All of Esther's films are--she looked stunning in Technicolor, and MGM definitely took advantage of that. With a great score by Johnny Mercer and Arthur Schwartz, perfect direction by Walters, great support from secondary characters, and marvelous performances by Williams and Lamas, you just can't go wrong with Dangerous When Wet. If you don't like it, maybe you got out of bed on the wrong side.