Esther Williams, former swimmer and film star, dies aged 91 in Los Angeles

 

Esther Williams, a former champion swimmer and subsequent film star, has died at the age of 91 in Los Angeles.

Harlan Boll, her publicist, announced that Williams died “peacefully in her sleep”.

Williams graced the Technicolor musicals of the 1940s and 50s, becoming known for aquatic adventures such as Dangerous When Wet and Million Dollar Mermaid – the film she named her autobiography after.

In 1939, Williams, age 17, won three gold medals in the national championships and earned herself a place on the United States Olympic team.

In the autobiography, the swimmer’s showbiz career was dubbed “a consolation prize,” to the Olympic gold medal she missed out on having a chance of competing for after the 1940 Olympic Games were cancelled.

The star later signed a contract with American media company MGM who were seeking a sporting champion to star in their films. She went on to make 27 films.

In the early 1950s, Williams attempted to expand her acting horizons to non-swimming roles but was met with resistance from her studio paymasters.

When her autobiography was released in 1999, she told reporters “I guess what MGM found was that my audience wanted that bathing suit.

"And you know, when Cinemascope came in and you've got that water all wrapped around you and they'd do big close-ups of me... I think it had too much pleasure connected with it for them to change it."

She is survived by Edward Bell, a professor of French Literature; a daughter, Susan Beardslee; her son, Benjamin Gage;  three stepsons, actor Lorenzo Lamas, Anthony Bell and Tima Alexander Bell, three grandchildren and eight stepgrandchildren.

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