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