Esther Williams – Volume One (Bathing
Beauty/Easy To Wed/On An Island With You/Neptune’s Daughter/Dangerous When Wet/Warner Home Video)
Picture: C+ Sound: C+ Extras: B- Films: B-
Classical Hollywood era, the movies wanted to offer everything they could in
variety, even when the scripts were so often formula. This includes a cycle of musical comedies
that were not afraid to be as exotic and outrageously glamorous as possible. This not only included beautiful locales
(even if much of the footage was shot on a soundstage), but was also a rare
showcase for non-whites, who got the chance to somewhat override stereotypes
even when they were not the stars. Among
these films were the lavishly-produced gems of Esther Williams, backed by the wealth
of MGM film after film.
DVD box simply titles Esther Williams –
Volume One features five of her best and most famous films, including Bathing Beauty (1944, with Red
Skelton), Easy To Wed (1946, with
Van Johnson, Keenan Wynn & Lucille Ball), On An Island With You (1948, with Ricardo Montalban, Cyd Charisse
& Jimmy Durante), Neptune’s Daughter
(1949, with Montalban, Skelton & Betty Garrett) and Dangerous When Wet (1953, with Fernando Lamas and the brilliant
live action/animation mix co-starring Tom & Jerry). Unlike the other films of the cycle, of
course, Miss Williams was a great swimmer in a way that added a grace and class
to the activity that brought it a new sense of class and glamour never seen before
and if you really think about it, since.
The group dancing in her films even inspired the Olympic event known as
Synchronized Swimming, which never looks silly in these films.
Baby, It’s Cold Outside is a classic from Neptune’s Daughter that was a hit and
won the Best Song Academy Award, while Easy
To Wed remade the classic film Libeled
Lady, but was not as good despite still being very watchable. The grandest of the “aqua-ballets” have even
been referenced all over the place about as much as Busby Berkeley sequences,
all the way to Miss Piggy taking a dive in The
Great Muppet Caper. These films are
meant to be great entertainment and are the likes of which we’ll never see
again. This set’s arrival is welcome.
X 1 image on each film varies slightly throughout, with most of the films
originally issued in three-strip dye-transfer Technicolor, though some look
more vibrant than others. The transfers
look a bit older, but it is not like they are going to look as good on standard
DVD as The Adventures Of Robin Hood
looked on HD-DVD (or Blu-ray) as reviewed on this site, but the variations are
not wild enough to separate any of them completely from the other. The Dolby Digital 1.0 Mono on each film is
not bad, but has its limits and can sometimes be trying in all cases.
all five discs include trailers (usually including the film on the disc) and
two kinds of short: live action special interest and animated classics. The animated shorts are either MGM or Warner
classics. Beauty also includes the terrific Robert Osborne interview
installment with Williams on the great Private
Screenings series from TCM, Daughter has outtake musical numbers and
promotional radio interview with Williams.
Wet also has an outtake
musical number, more promotional radio interviews with Williams and the great
Johnny Mercer’s demo recordings of three of the film’s songs.
these are all only available on this set, but they hold up very well, are
surprisingly entertaining and have their share of classic moments.
- Nicholas Sheffo