Esther Williams (born August 8, 1921) is a United States swimmer and movie star famous for her musical films that featured elaborate performances with swimming and diving.
Esther Williams was born in Inglewood, California, and was enthusistic about swimming from her youth. She qualified to be in the United States swim team in the 1940 Olympics, but the games were canceled due to World War II. Williams instead went to Hollywood, and quickly became a popular star of the 1940s and 1950s.
Many of her films, such as Million Dollar Mermaid and Jupiter's Darling, contained elaborately staged swimming scenes, obtained not without physical cost to the performer. She broke her neck filming a 50-foot dive off a tower during a climactic musical number for the 1952 release Million Dollar Mermaid which landed her in a body cast for six months (she subsequently recovered though she still suffers headaches as a result of the accident). Her many hours spent submerged resulted in her rupturing her eardrums numerous times. In her autobiography, Williams details several other occasions in which she nearly drowned shooting her oxygen-defying stunts but she often used a stunt double.
Her love life was a source of media interest. From 1945 to 1958 she was married to singer/actor Ben Gage, with whom she had three children. Shewould later, in her autobiography, portray him as an alcoholic parasite who had squandered her earnings. She was romantically linked with Jeff Chandler, and has been married four times. Her third husband was actor Fernando Lamas. Her brother, Stanton Williams, also had a brief acting career during the 1920s before his death while still a teenager.
Esther Williams retired from acting in the early 1960s and lives with her current husband, Edward Bell, in Beverly Hills. She lends her name to a stylish line of women's swimwear.