Cover image for The million dollar mermaid
The million dollar mermaid
Williams, Esther, 1921-2013.
Publication Information:
New York, NY : Simon & Schuster, [1999]

Physical Description:
416 pages, 32 unnumbered pages of plates : illustrations ; 25 cm
General Note:
Includes index.
Personal Subject:
Added Author:
Format :


Call Number
Material Type
Home Location
Item Holds
PN2287.W472 A3 1999 Adult Non-Fiction Non-Fiction Area
PN2287.W472 A3 1999 Adult Non-Fiction Biography
PN2287.W472 A3 1999 Adult Non-Fiction Biography

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Not since David Niven wrote the bestselling THE MOON'S A BALLOON has one of Hollywood's great stars written with real wit and candour about what it was like to work in the movie factories. In this glamorous world actors were pampered and coddled, yet expected to work without complaint for long, hard hours; made into an object of desire for millions of people and live in a world of almost total unreality, while still being expected to go about the business of finding a partner and raising a family, and avoiding personal scandal at all costs.
Now, for the thousands of fans of the Golden Age of Hollywood comes Esther William's wonderfully witty, fresh and frank autobiography, all about an 18 year old girl who reluctantly answers the call of MGM and finds herself launched in a career that will last almost twenty years. During her career, she helped to create a genre of film that seems almost unimaginable today, yet which still holds its original freshness and fascination. Whether speaking of her own marriages, divorces, and love affairs or telling tales about the legends of the studio era, Williams is acutely perceptive and always uncompromisingly honest.

Author Notes

Digby Robert Diehl was born in Boonton, New Jersey on November 14, 1940. He received a bachelor's degree in American studies from Rutgers University in 1962 and a master's degree in theater arts in 1967 from the University of California, Los Angeles. He began writing criticism, features, and celebrity profiles for various publications including The New York Times.

He published his first book, Supertalk, in 1974. In 1975, he was the founding editor of The Los Angeles Times's Sunday Book Review. He left that paper in 1978 to become editor in chief of the publisher Harry N. Abrams in New York. He later became a book editor at The Los Angeles Herald Examiner, a movie critic and entertainment editor for KCBS television in Los Angeles, a Hollywood correspondent for The CBS Morning News, and a literary correspondent for ABC's Good Morning America.

He collaborated on numerous memoirs including A Spy for All Seasons: My Life in the C.I.A. with Duane R. Clarridge, Angel on My Shoulder with Natalie Cole. The Million Dollar Mermaid with Esther Williams, Priceless Memories with Bob Barker, and Alone Together: My Life with J. Paul Getty with Teddy Getty Gaston. He died on September 26, 2017 at the age of 76.

(Bowker Author Biography)

Reviews 3

Booklist Review

Williams' as-told-to autobiography sparkles with snappy wit and showbiz flair from the opening chapter's ringing endorsement of LSD to her concluding realization of what a darned fine life it has been. The sparkle persists even during descriptions of being raped at age 13; the post-MGM years, when parts (sets and costumes, too) became more modest and infrequent; and the ins and outs of four marriages. Williams interacted memorably with Red Skelton, George Burns, Busby Berkeley, Louella Parsons, and King Juan Carlos of Spain. She reports getting on Joan Crawford's "shit list for life" --not a particularly difficult accomplishment--and her thoughts on Carole Landis' suicide and Rex Harrison's involvement with it. Her LSD connection came when, in a sad state after divorce from husband number two and some related financial reverses, Williams read about Cary Grant's successful psychotherapeutic experience with the hallucinogen. Grant was reluctant to refer Williams, though, because LSD was then "only being used on an experimental basis. You'd have to be as desperate as [Grant] was to try it." After he flashed "his glittering `Cary Grant smile,'" however, and she responded with her "own `Esther Williams' smile," the referral was a done deed. Williams' therapy succeeded, but she points out that her acid-dropping was "before [LSD] was declared illegal" and used by "children who had no understanding of the power or potential value and danger of the drug." Movie stars, of course, know more than such "kids" do. This is an exemplary star autobio, especially suitable for readers who remember the days of MGM musicals, when LSD was legal. --Mike Tribby

Publisher's Weekly Review

MGM swim-femme Williams delighted millions in choreographed aqua-movie-musicals during the 1940s and '50s: her unbuttoned autobiography examines both her splashy, sunny public image and the murky waters of her private life. Williams and Diehl (Tales from the Crypt) backstroke through a flood of memories, giving a fluid treatment to "hundreds of hours of conversations that are the basis for this book." Williams opens by describing the LSD trip she took in 1959 (Cary Grant helped her score the acid), then dives into her traumatic early life: a brother died at 16, and a boy the same age raped the young Williams repeatedly. Competing in swim meets at 15, Williams became a national champion in 1939, costarred in Billy Rose's Aquacade with the drunken, exhibitionistic Johnny Weissmuller and signed with MGM in 1944. Williams's movie years constitute the colorful core of the book, displaying life inside a major studio during Hollywood's Golden Age and showing screen legends with their pants downÄsometimes literally. Williams had to deal with disastrous marriages, manipulative moguls and life-threatening water stunts. Her sparkling anecdotes alternate the scandalous, the charming and the ridiculous. When, during the rain-drenched filming of Pagan Love Song, Williams cables from Kauai to tell her studio head she's pregnant, the announcement reaches all the ham radio operators in California. Later chapters cover Williams's work for TV, her swimsuit licensing and her years with jet-setting, tyrannical third husband Fernando Lamas. Williams speaks of her own "zest for life"; she and collaborator Diehl demonstrate it many times over in this tremendously entertaining life story. First serial to Vanity Fair. (Sept.) (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved

Library Journal Review

This tell-all should make a big splash. (c) Copyright 2010. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.