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Esther Williams

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In her next few movies, Williams played roles as varied as a rich young lady suing a newspaper for libel (Easy to Wed), a woman who breaks into bullfighting by pretending to be her brother (Fiesta), a movie star (On an Island with You), and a swimsuit designer (Neptune's Daughter), but all of them were variations on the same romantic theme. The films were not all critical successes, but by this time Williams's reputation was firm enough that the occasional uneven film did not hurt it: she was one of the top ten box office stars in the nation. Her personal life was looking up as well. Williams had married another show business figure, Ben Gage, in 1945. Although she had a traumatic miscarriage in 1946, by 1949 she had finally achieved her long-time wish to be a mother: Benjamin Stanton Gage was born on August 6 of that year.

Less than a year later, while shooting the film Pagan Love Song in Hawaii, Williams discovered that she was pregnant again. At that time, on the island of Kauai, calling the mainland was very difficult, but Williams needed to let someone back at MGM headquarters know her situation. Gage had met a ham radio operator while playing golf, and he convinced the man to let Williams use his radio to contact California. However, no one told Williams that anyone could be listening in on that conversation, so news of her pregnancy was broadcast to the entire West Coast.

In 1952, Williams made what is probably her bestknown movie, Million Dollar Mermaid, for which she won a Golden Globe award. This film is a biography of Australian swimming pioneer Annette Kellerman, and like most of Williams's films, it contains plenty of aquatic extravaganzas. One scene called for Williams, dressed in a gold bodysuit covered in gold sequins, a turban, and a crown, to do a swan dive from 50 feet above the water. The crown, made of aluminum, caused Williams's head to snap back when she hit the water, fracturing three vertebrae in her neck. She was in a cast from her neck to her knees for six months, but she made a nearly full recovery. The only lasting effect was that the three vertebrae fused as they healed, which sometimes causes Williams to get headaches.

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Famous Sports StarsSwimmingEsther Williams Biography - Learning To Swim, A Career Change, Chronology, Becomes A Movie Star, Awards And Accomplishments - CONTACT INFORMATION, SELECTED WRITINGS BY WILLIAMS: