Bathing Beauty Film Details
Overview: A contrived misunderstanding leads to the breakup of a songwriter and his fiancée. She returns to work as a gym teacher at an all-girls school, but a legal loophole allows the man to enroll as one of her students.
Tagline: M.G.M’s Mammoth Technicolor Musical Spectacle!
Review: Esther Williams, as the numero uno bathing beauty of the times, in her first, of many, Technicolor ‘swimusicals’, has much supporting talent in this extravaganza, which was a smash hit for wartime audiences. Originally conceived as featuring most prominently Red Skelton, in a film titled ‘Mr. Co-ed”, it was decided to make Esther the headliner name of a retitled “Bathing Beauty”. There are two swimming sections, the early one not of much interest, while the finale one is a very elaborate spectacle, featuring many participants in colorful outfits, in and out of the water, with Esther sometimes the focus of attention. Intervening these visual and musical spectaculars is a zany screenplay, with romantic and professional complications, and often featuring Red in various embarrassing situations. In 1936,Fox had initiated a series of films featuring ice-skating shows, usually including musical and romantic comedy features, as well, headed by ice skating sensation Sonja Henie. But, the last notable film of this series was released the year before the present film. Audiences had become bored with ice skating shows and Ms. Henie. MGM decided to imitate this general format, substituting water shows for ice skating shows, with Esther, a champion swimmer, the perennial female star. It worked surprisingly well, given Esther’s comparatively bland screen persona. As many superior musicals have done, this one starts out with a musical highlight, to dazzle audiences. Xavier Cugat’s Latin-themed band, initially featuring the singing and samba wiggling of Lina Romay, and later, the singing of Columbian Carlos Ramirez, as he seemingly pursues a disinterested Esther around the pool. Not long afterward, Harry James and his band is featured, although they can’t equal Cugat’s show for interest. Later, Helen Forest sings, Unfortunately, she never came across as an exciting singer. Both bands had already been featured in the B&W musical “Two Girls and a Sailor”, released earlier that year. In contrast to most of his roles for MGM as a one song man, Ramirez has several singing assignments here, and plays a small role in the screenplay. However, perhaps his most memorable film moment was when he sang “Begin the Beguine”, in the Cole Porter biopic: “Night and Day”. While it’s often thought that films featuring water ballets were introduced in this film, in fact the first film to do so was “Footlight Parade”, back in 1933, with Busby Berkeley as the innovative choreographer. Although Berkeley did choreograph the water ballet in a few of Esther’s films, he was not present here. Nonetheless, much of the water ballet featured typical Berkeley-inspired features. Poor Steve Elliot(Red), an important song writer, is fraudulently accused of being a bigamist, just after his wedding to Caroline(Esther). Seems producer George(Basil Rathbone) overheard that Steve planned to retire from songwriting upon his marriage, and is afraid that his future shows won’t sell without Steve’s song writing. Thus, he arranged for a woman(Jacqueline Dalya, as Maria) to claim she already had 3 sons fathered by Steve, all presented just after the wedding ceremony. Caroline believes this fraud, and leaves Steve to return to her job as swimming instructor at an all girl college. Steve tries to worm his way back into her life, finding a loophole in the college charter, allowing him to register as a student. This, of course, sets the stage for a series of comedic episodes through most of the remainder of the film. Although today, Red mostly comes across as a corny sort of slapstick clown, the episode where he is forced to take a ballet class is still truly hilarious. Another highlight is the vaudeville-like song and dance, to “I’ll Take the high Note”, mostly featuring the tall Red and petite , vivacious, Jean Porter, looking a bit like Lisa Minnelli. The upbeat organ music of Ethel Smith, often jazzy or Latin-themed, is also featured several times, she also playing the music teacher at this college. Ethel’s organ playing would again be featured in the Esther film “Easy to Wed”, in which Ramirez would also return for a song. Basil Rathbone, of fame in playing Sherlock Holmes, and fighting losing rapier duels with Errol Flynn, is surprisingly present, as the play and water ballet producer George. Playing a song writer, Red actually did compose many songs and even symphonies, although few are remembered today. In “Three Little Words”(’50), he would play the historic song lyricist Harry Ruby”. 5 years later, in “Neptune’s Daughter”, MGM would reteam Esther with Red, and with Cugat’s band again providing most of the musical numbers, hoping to recapture the magic of the present film. Although it too was a major box office success, in some ways, I see it as an inferior total experience. Red would be included in several other Esther films, as well, the last being the ’51 “Texas Carnival”. In contrast to the present film, Esther was not paired romantically with Red’s character in these other films, being provided with a conventionally handsome leading man.
Country: United States
Language: English, Spanish, French
Duration: 101 min
Genre: Comedy, Musical
Also known as: Bal na vodi,Μοντέρνα Αφροδίτη (1944),Bathing Beauty,Escola de Sereias,Moderna afroditi,Läpi tulen ja veden,Прекрасная купальщица,Ślicznotki w kąpieli,Die badende Venus,Escuela de sirenas,Ples na vodi,Badende Venus,Bellezze al bagno,世紀の女王,Le bal des sirènes,Genom eld och vatten,Gennem ild og vand,The Co-Ed,Su perileri