Friday, August 7, 2020

THE ESTHER WILLIAMS BLOGATHON: Dangerous When Wet, 1953



Michaela at Love Letters to Old Hollywood is hosting a blogathon tribute to her adored Esther Williams. The Esther Williams Blogathon is running from August 7th to 9th. My contribution is this look at Dangerous When Wet, 1953. You can access the entries HERE.


The 1953 MGM release Dangerous When Wet falls is a "little" movie in the pantheon of Esther Williams' splashy and entertaining moneymakers for the studio during her unprecedented success.  Dorothy Kingsley's (Angels in the Outfield, Seven Brides for Seven Brothers) screenplay was the 6th of 7 she contributed to Esther's career, including Easy to Wed, the 1946 remake of Libeled Lady. Dangerous When Wet was directed by Esther's most felicitous director, talented Charles Walters.

Donna Corcoran, Barbara Whiting, William Demarest
Esther Williams, Charlotte Greenwood, Jack Carson

The focus on the family in the movie gives it a cozy and comfortable feeling. You want to revisit the clan. The Higgins family of Arkansas is led by physical fitness buff "Pa" played by William Demarest. Happily falling in line with daily calisthenics and swimming is "Ma" played by Charlotte Greenwood and the three girls. "Junior" is Donna Corcoran, who played young Esther as Annette Kellerman in Million Dollar Mermaid the previous year. Barbara Whiting, as is fitting for the sister of Margaret and daughter of composer Richard, is the singing sister Suzie. 

Esther is the first-born, Katie Higgins. Katie is the best swimmer in the family. Katie is also obsessed with making their dairy farm the best in the state. However, prize stud bulls cost money they do not possess. Enter Jack Carson as traveling salesman Windy Weebe. He promotes something called Liquapep, a vitamin concoction with a healthy percentage of alcohol. He promotes the idea of having the Higgins family enter a contest to cross the English Channel sponsored by the awful tasting Liquapep. Aha! A way to get money for a prize stud bull has just presented itself, and the Higgins are on their way to England.

Denise Darcel, Jack Carson

Windy, it must be told, has a thing for Katie that doesn't get in the way of product promotion, and isn't returned by the recipient. Romantic entanglements make themselves known overseas in the presence of French swimmer Gigi played by Denise Darcel who casts her flirty eyes upon Windy.

Fernando Lamas

Katie gets mixed up, despite her best intentions, with a French champagne magnate played by Fernando Lamas. (We've gotten used to Hollywood's idea of an accent is an accent. No?) Not only does Andre have a yacht and look like Fernando Lamas, but he also sings like him as well. What's a girl to do?

All of this plays out in a light-hearted manner with music by Arthur Schwartz and Johnny Mercer. I Got Out of Bed on the Right Side is memorable and used copiously throughout. Ain't Nature Grand is a cute number shared by all the characters. I Like Men showcases Barbara Whiting. In My Wildest Dreams is the love ballad given to Fernando Lamas as an amorous octopus. Yes, an octopus.


Dangerous When Wet contains an animated dream sequence from William Hanna and Joseph Barbera in place of one of the fantastical water ballets. In her dreams, Katie swims, confronts her concerns with Tom and Jerry, and an octopus with champagne and a long reach. Billy Daniels and Charles Walters contributed the choreography to this gloriously fun movie magic.

Trouble comes with poor weather delaying the competition and Katie learning that Pa has bet the farm so to speak, on their winning only to find out that he has been disqualified in all likelihood due to his age. Katie must go on alone and she must win. Here, with Jack Raine as the British radio announcer calling the race and the weather turning against the swimmers and some excellent cinematography from Harold Rosson (The Asphalt Jungle), the dramatic nature of the challenging race makes for an exciting and emotional sequence. There is one very cute laugh left for the end.

Lovely costumes from Helen Rose and attractive people to wear them,  pleasant songs and dances, romance, and laughs. Our Esther, appropriately suited and swimming the studio's idea of the old Arkansas swimming hole, a glamorous swimming pool, the English Channel, and an animated world under the sea. You couldn't ask for more when filling the time slot for a charming Sunday matinee.


Of note:

Esther Williams and Fernando Lamas were married from December 31, 1969 to his passing on October 8, 1982.














16 comments:

  1. I’ve seen the Tom & Jerry bit, of course, but not the rest of the movie. With a title like “Dangerous When Wet,” it almost sounds like Williams doing film noir. What would that have been like?

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I'm thinking you should let your imagination go with that noir idea and see where it leads. I don't believe you can copyright a title.

      Delete
  2. ESTHER WILLIAMS was in THE UNGUARDED MOMENT. JOHN SAXON was also in it. Later Esther became the stepmother of LORENZO LAMAS. Much later John was the onscreen dad to Lorenzo on FALCON CREST. Lorenzo played LANCE and John played TONY. Sadly, John died last month at the age of 83. I am a fan of John Saxon. I remember him from THE UNFORGIVEN with BURT LANCASTER. AUDREY HEPBURN, and AUDIE MURPHY. He guest starred on GUNSMOKE several times. He also worked with the adorable SANDRA DEE. John was a very talented actor.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. The Unforgiven is one of my favourite John Saxon roles as well. His character should have been given more to do in that sprawling movie. The Reluctant Debutante is a very cute movie.

      Delete
  3. Has been a long time since I have seen this, now I must give another look. Pure escapism in glorious Technicolor peopled with good looking and talented performers! It’s what I need right now! Thanks, Miss Paddy Lee!
    - Chris

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. We're lucky. When we know what we need, we know where to find it!

      Delete
  4. Great post! This is one of her movies I haven't seen, but I'm adding it to my list now!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. A thoroughly enjoyable movie with a terrific cast.

      Delete
  5. This is my favorite Esther movie for all of the reasons you mention. It's adorable, romantic, and surprisingly emotional. I can't help but tear up every time an exhausted Katie looks at Pa's pleading face and pushes herself to complete the race.

    Thanks for bringing this wonderful review to my blogathon!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Thank you for hosting, and for the kind words.

      I get totally caught up in that race and how Katie pushes herself. And only a couple of scenes earlier I was forgetting all care while Charlotte Greenwood danced.

      Delete
  6. Did anybody else notice that in both this movie and "Take Me Out To The Ball Game," she plays a character named "Higgins?"

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I didn't. But I haven't seen "Ball Game" in quite a while. A little googling reveals that the name's origin is from Old Norse for "sea rover." I wonder if that influenced Dorothy Kingsley or any of the writers at the MGM.

      Delete
  7. This is SUCH a cute film, and I love the physical fitness theme in it and how the whole family participates. You have to wonder: Why weren't William Demarest and Charlotte Greenwood ever paired before in a movie? They seemed so perfect for each other!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. It's true. Greenwood and Demarest made a great pair with the comedy and with the music. MGM didn't know what they had found!

      Delete
  8. This movie is so much fun, and it's a totally natural part for Esther. I like the part where she gets drunk on that Liquipep stuff.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Such a cute movie and Esther handled everything they threw at her with such apparent ease.

      Delete

RAY MILLAND ON THE RUN, 1944: Ministry of Fear and Till We Meet Again

Ray Milland stars as Stephen Neale, a man who thinks his long personal nightmare may be over. On the night he is released from a sanitori...