Wednesday, June 28, 2017

Movie review - "Million Dollar Mermaid" (1953) ***1/2

Esther Williams is entirely appropriate casting to play Annette Kellerman, little remembered today but in her day a big swimming star.

Australian audiences will get a kick out of this - Kellerman was an Aussie, the early scenes are set in Australia, there's Aussie references through the script (Kellerman makes Australian stew which is like Irish stew "only the beef's down under"; Victor Mature has a boxing kangaroo). It's not that Australian, it has to be admitted... it's really more MGM land than anything else... but something is better than nothing.

It's handsome to look at, and there's some impressive musical numbers. There's some sure fire moments like dad Walter Pigdeon being concerned about his daughter's polio stricken legs and her going off swimming anyway, and Kellerman/Williams being arrested for wearing a one piece. Film buffs will enjoy the appearance of Rin Tin Tin (a character in the film), the making of Neptune's Daughter.

Esther Williams gives her normal Esther Williams performance - but she's pretty and game as usual, and very likeable. Victor Mature is ideal as her love interest - I understand very different from the real guy, but he suits the part as written (a lively showman with a heart of gold). Walter Pidgeon is also well cast as her father. David Brian has a thankless role as the false love interest, who provides the threat in the last act. Jesse White is fun as Mature's sidekick.

It's a solid, entertaining film with extra appeal to Australian viewers. It gets dull in the last act but it's one of Esther Williams' best movies.

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