It’s no secret that the Hollywood Comet loves musicals.
In 2010, I revealed I had seen 400 movie musicals over the course of eight years. Now that number is over 500. To celebrate and share this musical love, here is my weekly feature about musicals.
This week’s musical:
Dangerous When Wet (1953)– Musical #79
Esther Williams, Fernando Lamas, Jack Carson, Charlotte Greenwood, Denise Darcel, William Demarest, Donna Corcoran, Barbara Whiting, Ben Gage (uncredited)
Katie Higgins (Williams) is the daughter of dairy farmer Pa Higgins (Demarest). The family is the healthiest in the county, starting their morning with exercise and a swim. However, financially their farm isn’t doing so great. When the family meets traveling salesman Windy Weebe (Carson), he convinces them to swim 30 miles across the English Channel with his product, Liquapep, as their sponsor. Katie meets handsome Frenchman Andre Lanet (Lamas) in the process.
-Fernando Lamas originally didn’t want to star in the film because he didn’t feel the part was good enough, according to Esther Williams’ autobiography The Million Dollar Mermaid: An Autobiography.
-When audiences first saw the film, they didn’t believe Esther Williams really was underwater swimming/talking/acting in scene with Tom and Jerry, the cartoon characters. They added bubbles when Esther Williams talked in the scene, according to Williams’ autobiography.
-Debbie Reynolds was originally supposed to play the Barbara Whiting role.
-Esther Williams’ husband Ben Gage has an uncredited role
-Co-stars Fernando Lamas and Esther Williams were later married in 1969, 16 years after this film was released.
-One of Fernando Lamas’ song, “C’est La Guerre” was cut from the film.
-Esther Williams swims with animated Tom and Jerry
-Cute gag where Esther Williams breaks the fourth wall while changing her clothes. She looks at the audience and pulls down a shade.
-“I Got Out Of Bed on the Right Side” performed by William Demarest, Esther Williams, Charlotte Greenwood and Donna Corcoran
-“I Like Men” performed by Barbara Whiting
-“Ain’t Nature Grand” performed by Esther Williams, Fernando Lamas, Barbara Whiting, Jack Carson, Charlotte Greenwood, William Demarest
While “Dangerous When Wet” (1953) isn’t my favorite of Esther Williams’ films (my favorite is Thrill of Romance), it has one thing most of her other films doesn’t: Williams has a purpose for swimming.
In most of Williams’ films, her character dives into a pool at random or is performing at a night club. While it is always lovely and colorful, there is no real purpose to the swimming. In “Dangerous When Wet,” Williams’ character is donning a swimsuit to compete in a race to swim the English Channel. Anther film where Williams’ swims with purpose is “Million Dollar Mermaid.”
This may also be the only film where Esther Williams plays a farm girl.
“Dangerous When Wet” is wonderfully cast. Jack Carson is as humorous as ever and Fernando Lamas is handsome, though I also can’t say he’s my favorite of her leading men. My only complaint is that we don’t see enough of William Demarest, Charlotte Greenwood and Donna Corcoran, who play her family. Of them all Charlotte Greenwood was really wasted. She hardly has any screen time. We do get to see Greenwood and Demarest sing a refrain to “Ain’t Nature Grand” where they dance, swing from a tree and Greenwood does her signature high kicks and splits.
And remember Barbara Whiting who did a great job of irritating us as Fuffy in Junior Miss? Here she is grown into a lovely young lady and playing Esther Williams’ younger sister Suzie. She is so grown up, she barely looks like the same person!
Of course this film is best known for Esther Williams’ swim with cartoon cat and mouse, Tom and Jerry during a dream sequence. It’s a fun and charming little cartoon scene in the middle of the movie.
Esther Williams also gets do a little bit of singing in this film and she isn’t dubbed. Her voice is pleasant.
New York Times critic Bosley Crowther was even kind to the film in his June 19, 1953, review: “As we say, there is nothing very special or spectacular about “Dangerous When Wet,” but it comes as relaxing entertainment at this torpid time of the year.”
“Dangerous When Wet” is a fun little film and the family aspect is what I like best of it. Though summer is coming to an end, it’s not too late to dive into this film with Esther Williams.