Actress Esther Williams passes at 91

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America's Mermaid, the beautiful Esther Williams, has passed away at the age of 91. According to a family spokesman, she died peacefully in her sleep on Thursday, June 6 in Beverly Hills.

View attachment 2402 As a teenager, the brunette was representing the Los Angeles Athletic Club as a swimmer. She was the nation's champion three times for freestyle and breaststroke. She had planned on representing America in the 1940 Olympic Games, only they were canceled due to the outbreak of World War II.

Instead, the colorful Billy Rose hired Williams to star opposite Johnny Weismuller in his San Francisco Aquacade Review. This led to a screen test with MGM and an eventual contract with the film giant. She became one of the leading movie stars in the 1950s, though she herself admitted she really could not act, but she could swim. MGM actually built a 90-foot pool just for Williams' movies.

Along with films such as Million Dollar Mermaid, Neptune's Daughter, and Jupiter's Darling, the swimming actress appeared on several television shows, including The Donna Reed Show, Zane Grey Theater, and The Bob Hope Show. In the late sixties, she essentially retired from show business and appeared only on a handful of TV talk shows and specials afterward. She was on Parkinson in 2000, The Rosie O'Donnell Show in 1999, Private Screenings in 1996, Burt Reynolds' In Conversation With in 1991.

With a keen business mind, Williams endorsed swimming pools and swimming suits after her retirement (she was key in getting women's suits made of stretchier latex versus other more cumbersome materials of the day). She is credited with bringing more pretty girls into swimming by her example and success. She also advised the 1984 U.S. Olympic team in synchronized swimming and appeared as an expert commentator on the Olympic broadcast.

Married four times, perhaps most famously to Fernando Lamas (making her Lorenzo Lamas' stepmother), Williams is survived by fourth husband, Edward Bell. Two of her children are also still living as are several other stepchildren and grandchildren.

Donations in Williams' memory are asked to be given to the International Swimming Hall of Fame in Fort Lauderdale. She was inducted into its halls in 1966.
 
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