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Friday, June 1, 2012

DANGEROUS WHEN WET (1953)

Esther Williams only had a couple of pools left to conquer when she made this frustrating chamber-sized musical. Frustrating because it comes so close to being really good. Esther plays the eldest daughter of a health-crazed farming clan who get a shot at swimming the English Channel as a publicity stunt for Jack Carson’s ‘Power Beverage’ company. Along the way, everyone but Esther gets disqualified, Carson ‘settles’ for the charms of sexy French contestant Denise Darcel and Continental smoothie Fernando Lamas successfully puts the moves on Williams. Helmer Charles Walters keeps everyone from pushing too hard, with unusually relaxed playing from natural vaudevillians like Carson, William Demerest & dear Charlotte Greenwood who gets to shine with a moment of eccentric dancing. But not much else is quite as good as it should be. The Arthur Schwartz/Johnny Mercer score is painless, but hit-free; the scenes in France have no atmosphere; Lamas is a handsome devil, but emotionally onanistic; even the much excerpted Tom & Jerry meet Esther animated underwater dream adds little. With its spirit of good, breezy fun; a nail-biting race; and a fast & funny wrap-up; it’s a shame that just as Williams was finding a personality sans water-ballet spectaculars, her studio was getting ready to pull the plug.

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