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The Million Dollar Mermaid: An Autobiography

3.78  ·  Rating Details  ·  1,087 Ratings  ·  99 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
Paperback, 416 pages
Published September 14th 2000 by Mariner Books (first published September 14th 1999)
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Dec 03, 2014 Vivian rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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
Jun 18, 2011 Scott Fuchs rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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.
Nov 29, 2007 Susan rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
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  ·  review of another edition
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  ·  review of another edition
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
Sep 09, 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 26, 2009 Hillery rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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  ·  review of another edition
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
Michelle (Champ)
Apr 10, 2016 Michelle (Champ) rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Exactly what you expect from a old Hollywood/MGM tell all. Sex, name dropping, multiple marriages, and Clark Gable! The book was entertaining. ..a bit too much on the size of folks and possibly some exaggeration, but I enjoyed the first count telling and the most unique actress on the lot. No one did what Esther did, the way she did it. ...many tried. ...none succeeded.

I knew what she felt about her scripts, knew Fernando was a ladies man, but I thought they had a perfect marriage, after all it
Kris - My Novelesque Life
Review to come
Dec 06, 2014 Sara rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
D.M. Dutcher
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
Shannon Renee
Mar 19, 2011 Shannon Renee rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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 26, 2012 Lesley rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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.
Mar 05, 2014 Melissa rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
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
Apr 02, 2009 Jessica rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
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.
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  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: biography
this is a RIOT. Esther spent as much time on her back as she did in the water and tells!
Jeff Carpenter
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
Oct 14, 2014 Sharon rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: non-fiction
My mom was reading this during her last visit and kept reading excerpts out loud, so I decided to read it for myself. Williams has some fabulous stories of life as an MGM star. She really brings that world to life. The most interesting aspect was how different the press was back then - so many secrets were swept under the carpet! Now I want to brush up on swimming musicals. I haven't actually seen that many of her movies.
Jul 05, 2014 Caite rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Utter tosh. It's a wonder Esther Williams didn't go on to solve world peace given that, according to this book, she was better than everyone at everything ever. Her mostly forgotten films are also far greater works of art than anything else Hollywood has ever produced, thanks to Esther, and her lovers all had far more spectacular genitalia than any other man - although she doesn't claim to actually be responsible for the genitalia itself, just the enormous erections that she repeatedly describes ...more
Amanda Gentry
Great insight into Old Hollywood and all it's dish. Stars today definitely didn't invent sleeping around and backstabbing!

This book made me like Esther Williams a little less - it's hard to understand, even in the context of the 1940's - 1960's, many of the decisions she made with regards to her personal life. But *spoiler alert* I must say she won me back over by the time the book ended.
Rob Smith
Jun 09, 2013 Rob Smith rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
Jan 04, 2015 Renee rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I loved this! I was initially interested in the synchro swimming angle, but I enjoyed the Hollywood stories just as much. Esther comes off very likable throughout her successes and failures, and the detail was just the right level. I learned interesting things like how the paparazzi used to make up fake *positive* stories about movie stars -- the opposite of today. Really good memoir by a strong woman who can also acknowledge her mistakes.
Jul 23, 2010 Geneil rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
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
Apr 15, 2015 Samantha Glasser rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: movies, non-fiction
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 beginnins 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
Jun 24, 2016 Karen marked it as to-read  ·  review of another edition
To read about the choreography and tricks that went into making her movies is fantastic and insightful. She herself is just an interesting and strong willed woman who with no acting abilities became a very well recognized starlet amongst MGM's greats, I adore her and this book.
Kate Mackey
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
Nov 27, 2015 Roxanne rated it really liked it
This is a good book about Ester Williams and her special gift to Hollywood by her swimming talents. It is also the story of MGM behind the scenes. She is another actress who had terrible choices in husbands. I always enjoyed her movies.
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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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