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TCM Spotlight: Esther Williams, Vol. 2

Thrill of a Romance (1945)       Fiesta (1947)      This Time for Keeps (1947)

Pagan Love Song (1950)     Million Dollar Mermaid (1952)     Easy to Love (1953)

No doubt about it: this TCM boxed set is all wet. As a collection of movies featuring Esther Williams, MGM's swimming superstar, how could it not be? Six titles, in splashy Technicolor, comprise this daffy musical smorgasbord, all drawn from Williams' glory years as an unlikely box-office draw. Thrill of a Romance, from 1945, is the earliest film of the bunch, a top-drawer production with a coy plot and location shooting in Yosemite Park. Esther's newly wedded to drippy businessman Carleton Young, but when hubby is called away from their honeymoon resort, war hero Van Johnson is nearby--and he needs swimming lessons. Tommy Dorsey and his Orchestra breeze through, and (in on of MGM's amusing attempts to add class to the room) Wagnerian tenor Lauritz Melchoir is on hand to play Cupid and sing an aria or two. Or three. (Melchoir has a pleasant screen personality, actually, even if his presence here is absurd.)


Fiesta, a Mexican bullfighting tale, is duller and doesn't give Williams much screen time, but it does introduce the agile young Ricardo Montalban to the screen; he and Esther are twin offspring of a famous matador. Musical highlights include a folk version of "La Bamba" and Aaron Copland's "El Salon de Mexico." In This Time for Keeps, Esther is employed in an Aqua Follies show and backed by Jimmy Durante; Forties crooner Johnnie Johnston is torn between pop singing and the operatic expectations of his father (Melchior again). The collection's low point is Pagan Love Song, a 1950 musical seemingly offered to cash in on the tropical-island appeal of South Pacific. Howard Keel belts out his love for Williams with his usual oak-barrel gusto, and there's one crazy you-gotta-see-this-to-believe-it number with (thanks to trick photography) Esther appearing to swim through a series of different underwater sets as Keel sings the irresistible title tune. Lots of cut songs, included on the DVD, suggest how the movie got down to 77 minutes.

Million Dollar Mermaid purports to be the bio of Australian swimmer Annette Kellerman, though the plot conforms to nostalgic period pieces of the era: Esther really loves brash Victor Mature, but contrivances keep them apart. If the story is tedious, the numbers are fun, especially the big ballet with water slides, trapeze divers, and all those sparklers going into the water with our star. Busby Berkeley worked on the big set-pieces; gee, what a surprise. Berkeley also did duty on Easy to Love, which has a few delirious musical interludes as Esther chooses between Van Johnson and Tony Martin. Much of it was filmed at Cyrpress Gardens, the Florida resort that also served as a watery backdrop to This is Cinerama. Some of the stunts involved prove Williams had as much in common with Jackie Chan as she did with Fred Astaire (she actually did break her neck on a diving stunt in Million Dollar Mermaid), and her fabulous physique remains impressive throughout these zany pictures. Watch a few in a row, and your head will be swimming right along with the star.

 

Excerpt from Amazon.com by Robert Horton located HERE

Titles

 


 

Million Dollar Mermaid (1952)
Esther Williams portrays real-life Australian swimming champ Annette Kellerman. Directed by Mervyn LeRoy and costarring Victor Mature, this film was nominated for Best Color Cinematography. The movie includes a Busby Berkeley choreographed water ballet extravaganza. This is considered to be Esther's signature film.

BONUS FEATURES:
AUDIO ONLY: Lux Radio Theater Presentation of Million Dollar Mermaid starring Esther Williams and Walter Pidgeon
• Classic M-G-M Tom & Jerry Cartoon The Little Wise-Quacker (1952)
• Classic M-G-M Short Subject Reducing (1952)
• Original Theatrical Trailer

Thrill of a Romance (1945)
Van Johnson and Esther Williams star. The film include performances from Tommy Dorsey and his Orchestra and operatic grandeur from famed Wagnerian tenor Lauritz Melchior in his film debut.

Newlywed swimming teacher Cynthia Delbar (Williams) has everything a girl could want for her honeymoon in the mountains. The only thing missing is her tycoon groom, who is in DC closing a deal. A pretty sorrowful situation - until a good-looking war hero staying at the hotel decides he needs swimming lessons.

BONUS FEATURES:
Outtake Musical Numbers:
Gypsy Mattinata (Lauritz Melchior)
I Should Care (Tommy Dorsey and his Orchestra)
Please Don't Say No (The King Sisters)
• Classic M-G-M Short Subject The Great American Mug (1945)
• Classic M-G-M Tex Avery Cartoon Wild and Woolfy (1945)
• Original Theatrical Trailer

Easy to Love (1953)
With the Cole Porter classic as the title tune, Esther Williams and Van Johnson star in their fifth film together. Julie Hallerton (Esther Williams) knows how to win the affection of indifferent Ray Lloyd (Van Johnson): Be his office secretary; be the star of his Florida aquacade and the heart's desire of a Manhattan crooner to make Ray jealous. Tony Martin lends his smooth vocal styling; Busby Berkeley guides Esther's aquatic routines, including a legendary sequence involving Florida's Cypress Gardens, dozens of water skiers, ramps, pyramid formations, gushing geysers, a helicopter, a trapeze and Esther in the air. Also note that this is Carroll Baker's screen debut.

BONUS FEATURES:
• Classic M-G-M Short Romantic Riviera (1953)
• Classic M-G-M Barney Bear Cartoon Cobs and Robbers (1953)
• Original Theatrical Trailer

This Time For Keeps (1947)
This musical is centered on Esther's romance with an ex-GI (Johnnie Johnston). Settings include Michigan's Mackinac Island, with notable supporting stars providing specialty numbers. Famed tenor Lauritz Melchior brings his artistry to La Donna E Mobile, Xavier Cugat is there (with signature tea-cup Chihuahua at hand), and Jimmy Durante dismantles his piano.

BONUS FEATURES:
• Outtake Musical Number: Little Big Shot (Jimmy Durante)
• Classic M-G-M Short Subject Now You See It (1947)
• Classic M-G-M Tom & Jerry Cartoon Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Mouse (1947)
• Original Theatrical Trailer

Fiesta (1947)
Williams portrays Maria, disguising herself as her twin brother Mario (Ricardo Montalban in his first credited U.S. film) and enters the ring in his place after he abandons bullfighting for classical music studies. The score was Oscar-nominated (including a restyling of Aaron Copland's "El Salon Mexico"). Cyd Charisse plays Mario's partner in dance and romance.

BONUS FEATURES:
• Classic M-G-M Short Goodbye, Miss Turlock (1947)
• Classic M-G-M Tex Avery Cartoon Hound Hunters (1947)
• Original Theatrical Trailer

Pagan Love Song (1950)
Esther Williams and Howard Keel star.
Half-Tahitian beauty Mimi Bennett (Williams) is eager to leave the easygoing life of Tahiti for the excitement and bustle of the United States. But when Ohioan Hazard Endicott arrives to manage his late uncle's coconut plantation, her travel plans may be delayed.

BONUS FEATURES:
Seven Deleted Musical Outtakes:
• Why Is Love So Crazy
• Sea of the Moon
• Tahiti Version One
• Tahiti Version Two
• Music on the Water Version One
• Music on the Water Version Two
• The House of the Singing Bamboo

• Classic M-G-M Cartoon The Chump Champ (1950)
• Classic M-G-M Short Subject Curious Contests (1950)
• Original Theatrical Trailer

Posters

Theatrical Releases: 1945 - 1953


DVD Reviews

DVD Review: Warner Home Video (The Esther Williams Collection - Volume ) - Region 1 - NTSC

Big thanks to Gregory Meshman for the Review!

DVD Box Cover

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Distribution

Warner Home Video

Region 1 - NTSC

Runtime 1:44:32
Video

1.33:1 Original Aspect Ratio
Average Bitrate: 6.2 mb/s
NTSC 720x480 29.97 f/s

NOTE: The Vertical axis represents the bits transferred per second. The Horizontal is the time in minutes.

Bitrate

Audio English (Dolby Digital 1.0)
Subtitles English, French, None
Features Release Information:
Studio: Warner Home Video

Aspect Ratio:
Fullscreen - 1.33:1

Edition Details:
• See full list above

DVD Release Date: October 6th, 2009
digi-pak case

Chapters 32

 

Comments

This year starting in May, any classics newly released by Warner Home Video on a pressed DVD is a cause for celebration and in October Esther Williams got an honor with a second volume of her musicals. The first Volume was a raging success with fans. I came to know her from That's Entertainment trilogy, so it was wonderful to finally see some of them put in context of the films they were featured in. Some of the most famous numbers featured in this set are water ballet in This Time for Keeps and Million Dollar Mermaid, and a water-skiing extravaganza in Easy to Love. Warner still controls 5 movies starring Esther Williams, so let's hope they will finish the collection with a third volume.

Each disc is coded for regions 1-4 (except Easy to Love which, for some reason, is only region 1). As usual for Warner the 1.33 image for each film is strong without going through a costly 3-strip Technicolor restoration, so you can see some alignment issues and damages on the prints. Fiesta looks weakest, but it also features almost no swimming numbers by Esther Williams and, in my humble opinion, is the worst movie in this set. It's still worth a look for wonderful actors featured in it. Each film has only one audio option (Dolby Digital Mono), but features English and French subtitles.

Extras include some rare musical outtakes for 3 films (Pagan Love Song, the shortest film in the set, features almost 15 minutes of deleted musical numbers), a LUX audio theater production of Million Dollar Mermaid featuring Esther Williams and Walter Pidgeon, theatrical trailers and 2 shorts per film. Unfortunately, there is no input from Esther Williams herself in this set, so if you want to hear from her you need to pick up the first Volume that features a TCM Private Screenings with Esther Williams hosted by Robert Osborne or That's Entertainment III.

 - Gregory Meshman



Sample DVD Menus
 

 


Thrill of a Romance (1945)

 

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Pagan Love Song (1950)

 

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This Time for Keeps (1947)

 

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Fiesta (1947)

 

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Million Dollar Mermaid (1952)

 

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Easy to Love (1953)

 

Screen Captures


Subtitle sample

 

 


 

 


 

 

 


DVD Box Cover

CLICK to order from:

 

 

Distribution

Warner Home Video

Region 1 - NTSC




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