News / Arts & Entertainment

Hollywood Star, Swimmer Esther Williams Dies at 91

Actress Esther Williams arrives for 'An Academy Tribute to Olivia de Havilland' at the Academy of Motion Picture Arts & Sciences in Beverly Hills, California, June 15, 2006.
Actress Esther Williams arrives for 'An Academy Tribute to Olivia de Havilland' at the Academy of Motion Picture Arts & Sciences in Beverly Hills, California, June 15, 2006.
Reuters
A June 1944 file photo shows actress and swimmer Esther Williams rehearsing her underwater-ballet for the motion picture musical "Ziegfeld Follies" in Los Angeles, California.A June 1944 file photo shows actress and swimmer Esther Williams rehearsing her underwater-ballet for the motion picture musical "Ziegfeld Follies" in Los Angeles, California.
x
A June 1944 file photo shows actress and swimmer Esther Williams rehearsing her underwater-ballet for the motion picture musical "Ziegfeld Follies" in Los Angeles, California.
A June 1944 file photo shows actress and swimmer Esther Williams rehearsing her underwater-ballet for the motion picture musical "Ziegfeld Follies" in Los Angeles, California.
Esther Williams, whose experiences as a young swimming champion led to a career of Hollywood “aqua-musicals” designed just for her, died on Thursday in Beverly Hills, California, at the age of 91, her spokesman said.
 
Williams, one of the biggest box-office stars of the 1940s and 1950s, died peacefully in her sleep and had been in declining health due to old age, spokesman Harlan Boll said.
 
Williams became known as “Hollywood's Mermaid” and “The Queen of the Surf.” At her peak, the woman with the wide smile and bright eyes was second in earnings only to Betty Grable and often in the top 10 box-office draws.
 
Williams' “aqua-musicals” were escapist comedies in lush color, with lavish song and watery dance numbers and lots of footage of synchronized swimming. They were so popular that some credited her with a jump in the popularity of home swimming pools.
 
A typical finale featured Williams diving into a pool or lagoon and surfacing to a crescendo of music with waterdrops glistening on her smiling face and sleek body.
 
She dismissed her talent, saying “I can't act, I can't sing, I can't dance. My pictures are put together out of scraps they find in the producer's wastebasket.”
 
After watching the films decades later, she softened that self-deprecating assessment, saying: “I look at that girl and I like her. I can see why she became popular with audiences. There was an unassuming quality about her. She was certainly wholesome.”
 
Williams was born in the Los Angeles suburb of Inglewood on Aug. 8, 1921. As a young swimmer, she set what were then world records in the 100-meter freestyle and 880-yard relay. She also worked as a model.
 
In her later career, Williams did a few 1960s television specials and hosted swimming events for ABC-TV's coverage of the 1984 Olympic Games.

You May Like

Ukraine Purges Interior Ministry Leadership With Pro-Russian Ties

Interior Minister Avakov says 91 people 'in positions of leadership' have been fired, including 8 generals found to have links to past pro-Moscow governments More

US Airlines Point to Additional Problems of any Ebola Travel Ban

Airline officials note that even under travel ban, they may not be able to determine where passenger set out from, as there are no direct flights from Liberia, Guinea or Sierra Leone More

Nigerian President to Seek Another Term

Goodluck Jonathan has faced intense criticism for failing to stop Boko Haram militants More

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Talks to Resume on Winter Gas for Ukrainei
X
Al Pessin
October 25, 2014 4:21 PM
Ukrainian and Russian officials will meet again next week in an effort to settle their dispute over natural gas supplies that threatens to leave Ukraine short of heating fuel for the coming winter. VOA’s Al Pessin reports from London the dispute is complex, and has both economic and geopolitical dimensions.
Video

Video Talks to Resume on Winter Gas for Ukraine

Ukrainian and Russian officials will meet again next week in an effort to settle their dispute over natural gas supplies that threatens to leave Ukraine short of heating fuel for the coming winter. VOA’s Al Pessin reports from London the dispute is complex, and has both economic and geopolitical dimensions.
Video

Video Smugglers Offer Cheap Passage From Turkey to Syria

Smugglers in Turkey offer a relatively cheap passage across the border into Syria. Ankara has stepped up efforts to stem the flow of foreign fighters who want to join Islamic State militants fighting for control of the Syrian border city of Kobani. But porous borders and border guards who can be bribed make illegal border crossings quite easy. Zlatica Hoke has more.
Video

Video China Political Meeting Seeks to Improve Rule of Law

China’s communist leaders will host a top level political meeting this week, called the Fourth Plenum, and for the first time in the party’s history, rule of law will be a key item on the agenda. Analysts and Chinese media reports say the meetings could see the approval of long-awaited measures aimed at giving courts more independence and include steps to enhance an already aggressive and high-reaching anti-corruption drive. VOA’s Bill Ide has more from Beijing.
Video

Video After Decades of Pressure, Luxembourg Drops Bank Secrecy Rules

European Union finance ministers have reached a breakthrough agreement that will make it more difficult for tax cheats to hide their money. The new legislation, which had been blocked for years by countries with a reputation as tax havens, was approved last week after Luxembourg and Austria agreed to lift their vetoes. But as Mil Arcega reports, it doesn’t mean tax cheats have run out of places to keep their money hidden.
Video

Video Kobani Refugees Welcome, Turkey Criticizes, US Airdrop

Residents of Kobani in northern Syria have welcomed the airdrop of weapons, ammunition and medicine to Kurdish militia who are resisting the seizure of their city by Islamic State militants. The Turkish government, however, has criticized the operation. VOA’s Scott Bobb reports from southeastern Turkey, across the border from Kobani.
Video

Video US ‘Death Cafes’ Put Focus on the Finale

In contemporary America, death usually is a topic to be avoided. But the growing “death café” movement encourages people to discuss their fears and desires about their final moments. VOA’s Jerome Socolovsky reports.
Video

Video Ebola Orphanage Opens in Sierra Leone

Sierra Leone's first Ebola orphanage has opened in the Kailahun district. Hundreds of children orphaned since the beginning of the Ebola outbreak face stigma and rejection with nobody to care for them. Adam Bailes reports for VOA about a new interim care center that's aimed at helping the growing number of children affected by Ebola.

All About America

AppleAndroid

New in Music Alley

Beyond Category

At Washington’s Blues Alley jazz singer Jane Monheit and her quartet perform songs made famous by Judy Garland. Monheit sits down with "Beyond Category" host Eric Felten to talk about her music, the singers who influence her, and her life traveling with family on tour.