Million Dollar Mermaid

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Million Dollar Mermaid
Million dollar mermaid poster.jpg
Theatrical release poster
Directed by Mervyn LeRoy
Produced by Arthur Hornblow, Jr.
Written by Everett Freeman
Starring Esther Williams
Victor Mature
Walter Pidgeon
Music by Alexander Courage (orchestrator)
Adolph Deutsch (conductor & music score)
Cinematography George J. Folsey
Edited by John McSweeney, Jr.
Distributed by Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer
Release dates
December 4, 1952 (1952-12-04)
Running time
115 minutes
Country United States
Language English
Budget $2,642,000[1]
Box office $4,947,000[1]

Million Dollar Mermaid (also known as The One Piece Bathing Suit in the UK) is a 1952 Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer biographical musical film of the life of Australian swimming star Annette Kellerman. It was directed by Mervyn LeRoy and produced by Arthur Hornblow Jr. from a screenplay by Everett Freeman. The music score was by Adolph Deutsch, the cinematography by George J. Folsey and the choreography by Busby Berkeley.

George J. Folsey received a 1953 Oscar nomination for Best Cinematography, Color.

The film stars Esther Williams, Victor Mature, and Walter Pidgeon, with David Brian and Donna Corcoran.


In the late 19th Century, a polio-stricken Australian girl, Annette Kellerman (Esther Williams), swims as a means to improve her health. Her father, Frederick (Walter Pidgeon), who owns a music conservatory, accepts a teaching position in England.

Aboard ship, Annette encounters the American promoter James Sullivan (Victor Mature) and his associate Doc Cronnol (Jesse White), who are taking a boxing kangaroo called Sydney with them to London.

The teaching position falls through and Jimmy suggests promoting Annette in a six-mile swim to Greenwich. She volunteers to make it 26 miles instead. Word spreads of the swim and Annette's feat makes news.

Jimmy suggests they can make a fortune by going to New York and appearing in a water ballet at the Hippodrome. Manager Alfred Harper (David Brian) does not offer them a job in the show, so Annette goes to Boston for a highly publicized swim and gets in hot water for wearing a one-piece suit too revealing for its time.

She and Jimmy have a misunderstanding and part ways. Harper has a change of heart and makes Annette headliner of his New York show. After the death of her father, she travels to Montauk at the behest of Doc to try to dissuade Jimmy from flying in an air race with a $50,000 prize. It does not go well.

As time passes, Harper falls in love with Annette while she travels to Hollywood to make a film. Jimmy and Doc turn up, this time promoting a dog called Rin Tin Tin that they hope to star in the movies.

A water tank bursts during the making of Annette's film, causing her serious injury, Spinal Hematoma. With her future in doubt, Harper steps aside when he sees for himself how much Annette and Jimmy are in love.



MGM signed a deal with Kellerman to make a film based on her life in 1951. It was originally called The One Piece Suit.[2]

The title[edit]

"Million Dollar Mermaid" not only became Esther Williams' nickname around Hollywood, but it became the title of her autobiography (New York: Simon and Schuster, 1999), co-written with Digby Diehl. Williams has often called this her favorite film. [3]


According to MGM records the film earned $2,851,000 in the US and Canada and $2,096,000 elsewhere resulting in a profit of $243,000.[1]

Home media[edit]

On October 6, 2009, Turner Entertainment released Million Dollar Mermaid on DVD as part of the Esther Williams Spotlight Collection, Volume 2. The 6 disc set was a follow up to the company's Esther Williams Spotlight Collection, Volume 1, and contains digitally remastered versions of several of Williams's films including Thrill of a Romance (1945), Fiesta (1947), This Time for Keeps (1947), Pagan Love Song (1950) and Easy to Love (1953). [4]


  1. ^ a b c The Eddie Mannix Ledger, Los Angeles: Margaret Herrick Library, Center for Motion Picture Study .
  2. ^ By THOMAS F BRADY Special to THE NEW,YORK TIMES. (1951, Feb 05). AUTHOR TO APPEAR IN ROMMEL MOVIE. New York Times (1923-Current File) Retrieved from
  3. ^ The Million Dollar Mermaid: An Autobiography, By Esther Williams, Digby Diehl, Published by Harcourt Trade, 2000, ISBN 0-15-601135-2, ISBN 978-0-15-601135-8
  4. ^ TCM Spotlight: Esther Williams, Vol. 2 DVD

External links[edit]