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The Million Dollar Mermaid: An Autobiography Hardcover – September 14, 1999


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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 416 pages
  • Publisher: Simon & Schuster (September 14, 1999)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0684852845
  • ISBN-13: 978-0684852843
  • Product Dimensions: 9.3 x 6.2 x 1.3 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.3 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 4.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (112 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #66,539 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

Amazon.com Review

Her big movies are hard to find these days, and her name doesn't evoke the fan recognition awarded fellow MGM grads Lana Turner and Ava Gardner, yet for more than a decade during Hollywood's age d'or Esther Williams was one of the studio's most bankable leading ladies. An American beauty and swimming champ, she was hired at MGM in 1941 at age 18, and from then on starred in two or three thinly plotted "swimming musicals" a year--movies with titles like Neptune's Daughter, Million Dollar Mermaid, Easy to Love, and Take Me Out to the Ball Game. Her inevitable role was the pinup you could pin up at home, and it seems to have reflected her offstage personality too. Her long (400 pages) memoir is not always a miracle of narrative, but it includes a wealth of juicy gossip: Louis B. Mayer's rolling-on-the-floor tantrums; Gene Kelly's verbal cruelty on the set of Take Me Out to the Ball Game; her three failed marriages, including a long, draining one to Fernando Lamas; Lana Turner's name for Mayer ("Daddy"); Johnny Weismuller's backstage pursuit of her (naked); her own heat for Victor Mature ("unleashed"); and the LSD she tried in 1959 on Cary Grant's recommendation. Like so many other as-told-to books, the memories often feel self-serving, and there are plywood sentences even Lana Turner would choke on delivering. Disappointingly, Williams rarely shares what went on behind her lowered eyes and those buoyant cheekbones. --Lyall Bush

From Publishers Weekly

MGM swim-femme Williams delighted millions in choreographed aqua-movie-musicals during the 1940s and '50s: her unbuttoned autobiography examines both her splashy, sunny public image and the murky waters of her private life. Williams and Diehl (Tales from the Crypt) backstroke through a flood of memories, giving a fluid treatment to "hundreds of hours of conversations that are the basis for this book." Williams opens by describing the LSD trip she took in 1959 (Cary Grant helped her score the acid), then dives into her traumatic early life: a brother died at 16, and a boy the same age raped the young Williams repeatedly. Competing in swim meets at 15, Williams became a national champion in 1939, costarred in Billy Rose's Aquacade with the drunken, exhibitionistic Johnny Weissmuller and signed with MGM in 1944. Williams's movie years constitute the colorful core of the book, displaying life inside a major studio during Hollywood's Golden Age and showing screen legends with their pants downAsometimes literally. Williams had to deal with disastrous marriages, manipulative moguls and life-threatening water stunts. Her sparkling anecdotes alternate the scandalous, the charming and the ridiculous. When, during the rain-drenched filming of Pagan Love Song, Williams cables from Kauai to tell her studio head she's pregnant, the announcement reaches all the ham radio operators in California. Later chapters cover Williams's work for TV, her swimsuit licensing and her years with jet-setting, tyrannical third husband Fernando Lamas. Williams speaks of her own "zest for life"; she and collaborator Diehl demonstrate it many times over in this tremendously entertaining life story. First serial to Vanity Fair. (Sept.)
Copyright 1999 Reed Business Information, Inc.

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Customer Reviews

The timing, service and condition of the book were perfect.
Profound Simplicity
I thought they were great fun and her autobiography is one of the best "tell all" bios I have read in a very long time.
D. Clancy
I love biographies,so lets get that out of the way right now!
jgretchen

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

34 of 36 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on September 21, 1999
Format: Hardcover
I eagerly anticipated the release of this biography as I am a longstanding fan of the Golden Era of MGM Musicals. For gossip fans, Ms. Williams' book has it all -- juicy tidbits about her sexual history and the habits and flaws of such Hollywood titans as Louis B. Mayer, Joan Crawford, Victor Mature, Johnny Weismuller, etc. Such discussion was particularly enlightening given Ms. Williams' utterly wholesome screen persona. Although the book has a wealth of such star "secrets," it is ultimately disappointing. While Ms. Williams describes her life, she fails to reveal the reasons for her choices. Ultimately, she comes across as a vapid doormat -- used and abused by her parents, her adopted brother, her first agent, her swimming coach, her alcoholic husband Ben Gage. Most amazingly, she provides almost no explanation for her 22 year marriage to Fernando Lamas -- a marriage during which she was a self-proclaimed second class citizen who was forbidden to make her three prior children a part of her life with Lamas. This 22 year marriage, which comes after chapters detailing Ms. Williams' "take-charge moxie" (she details, with glee, her "tough talk" with, among others, her first agent, Louis B. Mayer, Sam Katz, the head of the Navy, etc.), does not make sense and Ms. Williams' self-serving explanations fail to provide any real insight into her personality.
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27 of 28 people found the following review helpful By Sean Orlosky on May 23, 2001
Format: Paperback
Esther Williams, the aptly titled "Million Dollar Mermaid" of the movies of Hollywood's Golden Era, tells the story of her life in the vivid text of her outstanding autobiography. Williams writes the story of a real person, a sparkling icon/ survivor story, and paints a picture of Hollywood bursting with gossip juicy enough to make Hedda and Louella green. Yet, Williams tells her story without sounding malicious, wicked, or saintly. She writes with great candor and honesty about the hardships of her life: a difficult childhood, near-death incidents doing stunts for movie extravanganzas, nightmarish marriages, and her now-happy life with her husband Edward, and reunited with happy relationships with her children.
Williams began swimming as a teen, and eventually swam in the famous Aquacade with Johnny Weissmuller, who, in between shows, would tear his trunks off and chase her in the pool. She was picked up by MGM Studios, and the fun never stops as Williams recounts and remembers some of the most famous names of entertainment with hilarious and shocking stories. She remembers Lucille Ball (who unjustly accused her of trying to steal Desi Arnaz from her), Ricardo Montalban (a cheerful Latin whom she became fast friends with), Gene Kelly (who fumed trying to create dances for a leading lady a head taller than he was), Frank Sinatra (who became a life-long friend who always let her sit with her elbow onstage during his concerts) and Clark Gable (the greatest kisser she'd ever kissed). And the stories don't stop there: She remembers Joan Crawford, hysterically begging an imaginary audience not to forget her in an empty auditorium, reducing paper tiger Louis B.
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15 of 15 people found the following review helpful By D. Clancy on October 3, 1999
Format: Hardcover
I remember the MGM movies of the 50's and going to many Esther Williams films. I thought they were great fun and her autobiography is one of the best "tell all" bios I have read in a very long time.There are a few sketchy things about her life...particularly why she stayed with Fernando Lamas. Outside of that, she dishes up a veritable poutpourri of insight in the running of MGM. She tells of Mayer's tantrums, Joan Crawford's confrontation, Mickey Rooney, Ava Gardner, Lana Turner, Arlene Dahl.The book is written with wit and a wonderful sense of humor. It makes you want to meet her. Highly recommended!!!
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16 of 18 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on January 1, 2000
Format: Hardcover
After a much awaited arrival, I finally was able to get my hands on "The Million Dollar Mermaid", and read this very entertaining book! Ms. Willaims was able to explain in detail, a time in Hollywood that was at it's best. She gave you personal insight to her struggles with MGM, other actors and their srange quirks, along with tempermental directors, and swimming acomplishments. The stunts the studio (MGM) required her to do, should have been out-lawed. They never cared about her safety in any way. As for her husbands and lovers, one was a cheat, the second, a free loader that fathered her three children. Her third husband (Lamas), demanded she choose him over everyone, even her children. I did have a problem understanding her reasoning on that issue. I recommend this book, if you go into it with an open mind. Ms. Williams tells it like it was.
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8 of 8 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on May 18, 2000
Format: Hardcover
As celebrity bios go, this one is, typically, one frenchfry short of a Happy Meal. You have to slog through a lot of goo to get to the good parts about Lana, Ava, Frank, and all the other Tinseltowners you wish you didn't find so fascinating that you would actually stoop to scrolling through bad books to read an anecdote or two...
Esther Williams, for all the vulgarity and downright bad choices and questionable values (cavorting with a Fascist dictator; revealing Jeff Chandler's couturier secrets; dragging us through her tedious marriage to a "difficult" man (read: boorish a-----e) remains, after all these years, a loveable icon. You have to admire a woman who swam for a living. Hey, it's my favorite sport, so I'm a little prejudiced.
Does anybody else agree that the most gorgeous picture of her is the one where she posed for anItalian fashion magazine? Frankly, I think she should have stayed in Italy and modeled. They like older women there, so she probably could have been doing it to this day.
Anyway, at least she made friends with her poor kids. They got the worst part of the deal - absentee mother, alcoholic father, little if nothing financially to compensate, thanks to their father's addictions and their mother's convenient naivete. But then, Esther admits all this. Actually, she really doesn't owe any of us an explanation, though she took the time to do it. She gave, as they say, at the office.
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