“TCM Spotlight: Esther Williams Volume 2” DVD Box Set

esther williams dvd

When I was a kid, I was often taken to see my Uncle who was a nut for old films. He would play Big Band music and show me old Hollywood Magazines. Occasionally when an old flick was on channel 9 or 11 he would plop me down in front of the TV. One of the movies I remembered watching for the first time on his B&W television set was the Esther Williams classic “Pagan Love Song”. It made me a life long appreciator of her work, so I was thrilled that TCM released a volume of her restored films on DVD, but was bummed when I saw no “Pagan Love Song”. Well I am bummed no more, I just got through watching “TCM Spotlight: Esther Williams Volume 2” and all I can say is “come on in, the waters fine”.

bathing beauties

The set includes six classic William’s films along with various extras. They are:

Million Dollar Mermaid (1952)
Esther Williams portrays real-life Australian swimming champ Annette Kellerman. Directed by Mervyn LeRoy and costarring Victor Mature, this film was nominated for Best Color Cinematography. The movie includes a Busby Berkeley choreographed water ballet extravaganza. This is considered to be Esther’s signature film.

BONUS FEATURES:
AUDIO ONLY: Lux Radio Theater Presentation of Million Dollar Mermaid starring Esther Williams and Walter Pidgeon
Classic M-G-M Tom & Jerry Cartoon The Little Wise-Quacker (1952)
Classic M-G-M Short Subject Reducing (1952)
Original Theatrical Trailer

Thrill of a Romance (1945)
Van Johnson and Esther Williams star. The film include performances from Tommy Dorsey and his Orchestra and operatic grandeur from famed Wagnerian tenor Lauritz Melchior in his film debut.

Newlywed swimming teacher Cynthia Delbar (Williams) has everything a girl could want for her honeymoon in the mountains. The only thing missing is her tycoon groom, who is in DC closing a deal. A pretty sorrowful situation – until a good-looking war hero staying at the hotel decides he needs swimming lessons.

BONUS FEATURES:
Outtake Musical Numbers:
Gypsy Mattinata (Lauritz Melchior)
I Should Care (Tommy Dorsey and his Orchestra)
Please Don’t Say No (The King Sisters)
Classic M-G-M Short Subject The Great American Mug (1945)
Classic M-G-M Tex Avery Cartoon Wild and Woolfy (1945)
Original Theatrical Trailer

Easy to Love (1953)
With the Cole Porter classic as the title tune, Esther Williams and Van Johnson star in their fifth film together. Julie Hallerton (Esther Williams) knows how to win the affection of indifferent Ray Lloyd (Van Johnson): Be his office secretary; be the star of his Florida aquacade and the heart’s desire of a Manhattan crooner to make Ray jealous. Tony Martin lends his smooth vocal styling; Busby Berkeley guides Esther’s aquatic routines, including a legendary sequence involving Florida’s Cypress Gardens, dozens of water skiers, ramps, pyramid formations, gushing geysers, a helicopter, a trapeze and Esther in the air. Also note that this is Carroll Baker’s screen debut.

BONUS FEATURES:
Classic M-G-M Short Romantic Riviera (1953)
Classic M-G-M Barney Bear Cartoon Cobs and Robbers (1953)
Original Theatrical Trailer

This Time For Keeps (1947)
This musical is centered on Esther’s romance with an ex-GI (Johnnie Johnston). Settings include Michigan’s Mackinac Island, with notable supporting stars providing specialty numbers. Famed tenor Lauritz Melchior brings his artistry to La Donna E Mobile, Xavier Cugat is there (with signature tea-cup Chihuahua at hand), and Jimmy Durante dismantles his piano.

BONUS FEATURES:
Outtake Musical Number: Little Big Shot (Jimmy Durante)
Classic M-G-M Short Subject Now You See It (1947)
Classic M-G-M Tom & Jerry Cartoon Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Mouse (1947)
Original Theatrical Trailer

Fiesta (1947)
Williams portrays Maria, disguising herself as her twin brother Mario (Ricardo Montalban in his first credited U.S. film) and enters the ring in his place after he abandons bullfighting for classical music studies. The score was Oscar-nominated (including a restyling of Aaron Copland’s “El Salon Mexico”). Cyd Charisse plays Mario’s partner in dance and romance.

BONUS FEATURES:
Classic M-G-M Short Goodbye, Miss Turlock (1947)
Classic M-G-M Tex Avery Cartoon Hound Hunters (1947)
Original Theatrical Trailer

Pagan Love Song (1950)
Esther Williams and Howard Keel star.
Half-Tahitian beauty Mimi Bennett (Williams) is eager to leave the easygoing life of Tahiti for the excitement and bustle of the United States. But when Ohioan Hazard Endicott arrives to manage his late uncle’s coconut plantation, her travel plans may be delayed.

BONUS FEATURES:
Seven Deleted Musical Outtakes:
Why Is Love So Crazy
Sea of the Moon
Tahiti Version One
Tahiti Version Two
Music on the Water Version One
Music on the Water Version Two
The House of the Singing Bamboo

Classic M-G-M Cartoon The Chump Champ (1950)
Classic M-G-M Short Subject Curious Contests (1950)
Original Theatrical Trailer

That is a lot of content for a box set! I thought it was worth it, just to own the films, but I have found myself exploring all of the extras, I especially enjoy these cartoons, most of which I had never seen before. If you are a fan of musicals or are unfamiliar with Esther William’s water ballets, you really need to check these out. It is a remarkable form of entertainment, that will probably never be repeated, which is a shame. Order TCM Spotlight: Esther Williams Volume 2 on Amazon.

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Garry Vander Voort

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