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The Million Dollar Mermaid

3.79  ·  Rating Details ·  1,177 Ratings  ·  107 Reviews
During Hollywood's heyday, big studios battled over the next box-office attraction. While Gene Kelly danced and Judy Garland sang, Esther Williams swam into the heart of America with her dazzling smile, stunning aquabatics, and whole-some appeal. Hand-picked for stardom by movie mogul Louis B. Mayer, Esther shed her wide-eyed innocence at what she affectionately calls Univ ...more
Hardcover, 416 pages
Published September 14th 1999 by Simon & Schuster
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Dec 22, 2009 Vivian rated it it was amazing
Upon watching "That's Entertainment" my then-nine-year-old daughter excitedly called me at my work asking that I check out every book and movie featuring Esther Williams that the library owned. I assured her that I would, wondering if our small town library would have ANYTHING about Esther Williams. To my surprise I found a movie or two and this autobiography. Later that night I asked my daughter how the book was going. She had plowed through the forward and gave me a fairly complete narration o ...more
Scott Fuchs
May 15, 2011 Scott Fuchs rated it really liked it
Recommends it for: Hollywood-o-philes
Esther Williams aside, this book deals extensively with behind the camera M-G-M, and the horrors of the studio system,including an amazing story of Joan Crawford on an empty soundstage.
A different kind of fun is in sharing what two of her husbands had in common.
Brooklyn Tayla
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Sep 07, 2007 Susan rated it liked it
Recommends it for: Film buffs, fans of Hollywood insider bios
Shelves: nonfiction-adult
This book reminds me why I don't read many autobiographies, which isn't to say that it's bad. It's actually fairly likeable. I'm a sucker for anything having to do with Old Hollywood (and you really have to use the caps, I'm sorry) and the insider scoop is interesting. Still, sometimes you get a little weary of the running litany of everything that she knew better than everyone else, all the snap-on judgment calls, all the shrewd business moves, the cads she sidestepped on the way to fame...all ...more
Jul 09, 2013 Peggy rated it liked it
Esther just died this June, and I always wondered what her backstory was. It was interesting. I enjoy old classic movies, and I know some of the stories of the stars during the old studio days. What I found most interesting was that she didn't get the chance to participate in the Olympics because of Hitler and the war. I'm glad her talent was captured on film as she pineered water choreograpy and underwater staging. Like so many other actors, she was continually surrounded by people that siphone ...more
Nov 03, 2007 Kathy rated it it was amazing
Shelves: biography-memoir
I bought this to read later but the day it came in the mail I started skimming and had a hard time putting it down.
She tried LSD therapy after reading Cary Grant’s praises of it in Life magazine. She saw her body as half hers and half her dead brother’s and realized she was trying to take his place with her parents.
She was a young swimmer who couldn’t go to the Olympics because they weren’t held in 1940 due to W.W.II.
She started in water shows with Johnnie Weismiller that would be considered
Aug 16, 2009 Renay rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: 2009
interesting - ish.... i didnt finish it
although i was terribly interested to read it when i picked it up - i got less interested the further into the book i read.
unfortunately i dont think esther williams was much of a writer - she was obviously a way better swimmer than author and perhaps should have stuck to swimming.
the book is written in a very jump - around, informal speaking fashion, almost like an uneducated person's writings... which annoys me asi read it - i want it to be worded preop
Jan 24, 2009 Hillery rated it really liked it
Read this book if you have any interest at all in Esther Williams. She is a down-to-earth, funny, and slightly bawdy lady. She tells of stumbling into movies almost by accident after her Olympic dreams for 1940 were derailed by World War II. There are lots of funny stories about her movies and co-stars, including some racy details about some of her sexual exploits. She is definitely not the completely innocent person our parents thought she was when they were watching her movies. She is in her 8 ...more
May 06, 2012 Diane rated it it was amazing
Shelves: biographies, owned
I loved this book. I loved the fact that Esther was honest and real and didn't care that she might be put in a bad light-she put it out there and lets the reader be the judge. Fernando doesn't come off too well, but when you're blinded by love, you do strange things. She was a bit of a contradiction, storng on the one hand and then allowing herself to be controlled by men on the other hand. But when you look at the times she lived in, that was the norm. I think she tried to be an independent wom ...more
Shannon Renee
Mar 19, 2011 Shannon Renee rated it really liked it
Shelves: bio
I have to confess something: I didn't have a clue who Esther Williams is. I'm 26, so I think I deserve a pass, or at least some slack. I can't say for sure why I picked this one up, (although I can tell you for once it was not the cover that drew me in. Not impressed here.) Maybe it was the title? WHo knows? But I loved learning about Esther. I wasn't as hard of a read, but I never really got bored with it. A good solid read. I can't wait to watch some of her movies.
Jan 21, 2012 Lesley rated it it was amazing
This woman is my favorite person in the world. With everything she's been through and pushed her way through, she always remained humble and polite, yet still managed to be one of the best entertainers in movie history. She's quite the girl next door, but she ended up creating a large business for herself and has inspired me to never give up and never regret.
Feb 21, 2009 Jessica rated it it was ok
Do I REALLY think that almost every male who met Esther Williams had the hots for her and tried to rape her? No. Do I really think that MGM BEGGED her to be in their movies? No.

She sure does have a high opinion of herself.
Aug 24, 2012 Rebecca rated it liked it
I still get her mother's saying "What part of the problem are you?" in my head. I no nonscence down to earth gal, with a fun streak, who you would enjoy having over for dinner.
Jul 30, 2007 Jono rated it really liked it
Shelves: biography
this is a RIOT. Esther spent as much time on her back as she did in the water and tells!
Kris - My Novelesque Life
Review to come
Nov 18, 2016 Camille rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
This book is great, but i actually would not recommend it as you would probably not understand if you were not a synchronized swimmer. It is meant for more mature reading, not a fun isnt written like any other book and it's detailed moment by moment on her life, not just the important moments, which makes it kind of boring.
Dec 06, 2014 Sara rated it really liked it
Shelves: biographies
I like to think that I share some connection with Esther Williams since we have the same birthday... how mystical. So some time ago, I bought her biography, not sure what to expect. I love Old Hollywood and am well aware that underneath its pristine image lurked seriously messed up things, all the more shocking than today because of the wholesome image stars would present to the public. And for the most part, Esther, it seems, did not fall prey to that duality - though don't get me wrong, she ce ...more
Nov 29, 2016 Laura rated it it was ok
Shelves: book-club, library
What kept me reading were the details about Williams's competitive swimming, the logistics of her underwater choreography, and the gossip (of which I believe about 64%).

What irritated me as I kept reading were many: Williams's constant contradictions about herself, MGM, and the world around her (she was constantly painting herself as both the victim and the hero of this story, but I didn't feel she had any real self-awareness to be either, it was only what suited the anecdote); the self-importa
D.M. Dutcher
Dec 05, 2014 D.M. Dutcher rated it it was ok
Shelves: biography
I wouldn't read this if you have any fondness or nostalgia for the golden age of Hollywood, because this book destroys it and pours salt over the ruins. Johnny Weissmuller, of Tarzan fame? Liked to show off his genitalia and try to repeatedly molest a young Esther when the two of them starred together. Her husbands? All fine at the first, all uniformly terrible at the end. Marlene Dietrech? Shocked a young Esther by showing up in the nude. Lana Turner? Liked to hit herself with a knotted roped a ...more
Diane C.
Nov 21, 2016 Diane C. rated it really liked it
Like more than a few actresses in the golden years of Hollywood, Esther Williams was the financial cornerstone for her family, both nuclear and extended. This brave, practical woman candidly yet with class, tells of her own experiences and journey in film and tv, marriage and motherhood.

She grew up during the depression. She trained to be an Olympic swimmer, she basically invented synchronized swimming, made all kinds of films about stunt swimmers in circuses, show business, etc. The feats she w
Mar 05, 2014 Melissa rated it did not like it
Ms. Williams refers to the fact that people are often guilty of expecting actors & actresses to live out the fairy tale characters they portray on screen and this simply is not the case. While I was not expecting a perfect story, I suppose I am guilty of hoping (anyway) that any actor/actress I admire does find that American dream & fairy tale ending. Sadly, I have more often than not been disappointed with these expectations & this story is no different. From foul language to drug u ...more
Rob Smith
Jun 09, 2013 Rob Smith rated it really liked it
Shelves: read-2007
Esther Williams biography is a very good guide as to what can happen in a celebrity's life. From tragic moments in her youth to the ease she entered show business to the difficulties staying there and an adult life with troubles from men, Williams lays out her life. It is all well written and better than most autobiographies.

Though, I did wonder at times if Williams was letting us know the whole story. She admits to mistakes, but also seems to take a too innocent stance involving other instances
Jun 27, 2010 Geneil rated it it was ok
Shelves: 2010
I read Julie Andrews' autobiography Home last year, and now this one, and I have decided not to read celebrities' autobiographies anymore. I hoped that stardom fifty years ago wasn't as harsh, indecent, and sad as it generally seems to be now, but I guess that was foolish of me. I started skipping parts about halfway through this book, because I just don't want to know... I have enjoyed the movies these women made for years, and reading their autobiographies only makes me feel so very sad for th ...more
Samantha Glasser
Mar 19, 2012 Samantha Glasser rated it really liked it
Esther Williams was Hollywood's one and only movie mermaid, a swimming star who made relatively few movies considering her lasting fame. This is the story of her life, from humble beginnings with parents who struggled during the Depression to career ambitions to be a buyer at I. Magnin and her subsequent movie stardom and marriages. Williams is refreshingly candid about it all and does not hesitate to complain about people she worked with. This is not to say she is snarky about it, but when a co ...more
Kate Mackey
Aug 25, 2013 Kate Mackey rated it it was ok
I found her book confusing as things were not always written in sequence of her life. I also found out that a story she added in the book of Jeff Chandler being a cross dresser to create more interest in the book. The book felt a lot more like gossip then fact. I also didn't care for the way I felt she portrayed herself as others were villians. Esther seemed at the beginning of her life as someone with high morals but yet didn't hesitate to sleep with married men later. I am also confused why sh ...more
Jeff Carpenter
Jan 27, 2014 Jeff Carpenter rated it really liked it
The life story of Esther Williams; swimming champion, godmother of the sport of synchronized swimming, and a movie star that created her own genre of movies. In her own words she tells of the triumphs and difficulties of being a celebrity in Hollywood's golden age and the tumultuous relationships of her life. The aqua-musical as a genre was developed exclusively for Esther in the early 1940's and no one since has done anything like that. I really enjoyed this book, I am a casual fan of Esther's ...more
Apr 07, 2008 Christine rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: Extreme Narcissists
I started reading this book after seeing Easy to Wed (because I'm a big Lucy fan). I thought Esther Williams was gorgeous and thought I'd read a book about her since I didn't know anything about her except that she'd been married to Fernando Lamas.

After reading the first chapter about her LSD trip and how it cleared so many childhood isses up, I thought - this woman is a WHACK JOB!! The last paragraph of the chapter especially was beyond bizarre.

That opinion didn't change as I read further. Only
Mar 29, 2012 Sandy added it
Shelves: biography, women
Since she was a movie star during my lifetime, I found her comments about her contemporaries to be enlightening. During this era, stars' personal lives were protected; so the news items we read about them were never anything but complimentary. Looking at her life, tho, I struck me that no matter how important you are, if you are a "pleaser" woman, you can continue to make bad choices in relationships. As an outsider, I kept saying to myself "why didn't you just leave/dump him?" As someone who we ...more
May 31, 2012 Lulu rated it really liked it
This is a great, honest review of Williams' time in Hollywood. She pretty much explains what most people now know, Hollywood is full of self-servicing money hungry ars**oles who don't give a crap about the "talent". Like the time they made her shoot on location over a reef with poisonous coral or failed to notice she was slowly asphyxiating underwater but lucky the wardrobe woman noticed only because she wanted to get Williams' expensive outfit out of the water - yes they employed a person to ta ...more
Jun 17, 2013 Coleen rated it it was amazing
Williams was a resourceful woman - full of strength and weakness - and success and failure. She did a great job creating that Esther Williams persona - and sad to read that she realized that she was willing to give up the spotlight and her identity to be Mrs. Fernando Lamas

Lots of interesting insider stories about the workings of MGM. Sad little story about an aging Joan Crawford- as well as other anecdotes about the head of MGM throwing temper tantrums.

I had heard of Esther Williams and knew s
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Esther Jane Williams was a competitive swimmer and actress. As a teenager, Williams set multiple national and regional swimming records, and had planned to compete in the 1940 Summer Olympics but it was cancelled because of the outbreak of WWII. While performing in an aquacade (a swimming and diving show set to music), she caught the eye of Hollywood. She made several "aquamusical" films in the 19 ...more
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