Bil’s rating (out of 5): BB.5.
USA, 1949. Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer. Screenplay by Dorothy Kingsley, additional dialogue by Ray Singer, Dick Chevillat. Cinematography by Charles Rosher. Produced by Jack Cummings. Music by Leo Arnaud, George Stoll. Production Design by Edward C. Carfagno, Cedric Gibbons. Costume Design by Irene. Film Editing by Cotton Warburton.
That an Esther Williams movie’s flimsy plot is merely an excuse to get her into a bathing suit is not a problem for anyone who knows how to watch an Esther Williams movie, but what of a movie that forgets to actually fulfill the purpose of having her swim? There’s hardly any dips into the water in this forgettable comedy of errors that features Williams as a former champion swimmer who has risen to the top of the business world with her swimsuit designs. Her boy-crazy sister (Betty Garrett) is thrilled when an upcoming sales conference coincides with a visit from a South American polo team, but Garrett ends up being romanced by a goofy masseur (Red Skelton) who is pretending to be the team’s lothario captain (Ricardo Montalban). Montalban, meanwhile, falls madly in love with Williams and pursues her while she believes he is two-timing her with her sister. Skelton’s scenes are all an excuse for him to do the kind of vaudeville schtick that our grandparents inexplicably found charming (there’s a manic desperation to his timing that is very painful to watch), while Williams, lovely and poised as she is, barely reads on screen without the opportunity to show off her Olympian skills except for a couple of undercooked scenes (likely because she was pregnant during filming). The Oscar-winning number “Baby It’s Cold Outside” is probably the most enduring aspect of this movie, a song that became an oft-recorded standard for decades before then being declared unwelcome in the modern era for its suggestion of sexual harassment; ironically it was used in a place of another song that the studio found too sexually suggestive and ordered removed. The best numbers involve the presence of Xavier Cugat and his orchestra, the only reason to watch this otherwise dull film.
Academy Award: Best Original Song (“Baby It’s Cold Outside”)