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  Dangerous When Wet She Can't Change The Channel
Year: 1953
Director: Charles Walters
Stars: Esther Williams, Fernando Lamas, Jack Carson, Charlotte Greenwood, Denise Darcel, William Demarest, Donna Corcoran, Barbara Whiting, Bunny Waters, Henri Letondal, Paul Bryar, Jack Raine, Richard Alexander, Tudor Owen, Ann Codee
Genre: Musical, Comedy, RomanceBuy from Amazon
Rating:  6 (from 1 vote)
Review: The five-strong Higgins family are keep fit fanatics out on their dairy farm, and make sure to go for a daily swim at the local creek every morning to ensure they are healthy for the duties around their property. But eldest daughter Katie (Esther Williams) is more interested in the cows than the fitness at the moment, reading extensively on agriculture and wishing to buy a new bull, though the money is not there to supply it. However, that day Windy Weebe (Jack Carson), the representative of Liquapep tonic, is in the local town and as well as putting on a show for the residents he allows the middle daughter Suzie (Barbara Whiting) to perform a song on the stage. This introduces him to the Higginses, and they impress him when he realises he could capitalise on them for his product...

Esther Williams was at the height of her fame when she made this little musical item, once again allowing her to show off her stylings in the water, for she had made her name as a swimming star in a way that you simply would not get nowadays. In turn, her movies have become relics rather than classics for the ages, a symbol of a bygone age which has its definite charm, and thus she has enjoyed a subsequent cult following among fans of vintage films who appreciate what could be regarded as campy from this perspective. Any excuse to get her in the water was implemented, but this was a little different in that she was participating in a sporting event of a sort.

Swimming the English Channel has been an achievement to be much-admired for a long time now ever since Captain Webb managed it first in 1875, and in 1925 Gertrude Ederle was the first woman to do so, so Esther had a precedent in this contest her character is encouraged to enter, sponsored by a popular British newspaper. Windy actually wants the whole Higgins family to complete the seafaring trip, so the lot of them travel to Southampton, including dad William Demarest and mom Charlotte Greenwood, to make the most of their time in the international limelight, for there are participants ranging from all over the planet vying to, er, beat some record or other. Probably.

Anyway, none of that really mattered until we reached the last ten minutes where the competition took place, as the for most part this was a little light musical nonsense with everyone getting to do their piece for the cameras. It was a very solid cast, too, not only Williams doing what her audiences wanted from her (parading round in a swimsuit, essentially), but Carson perfectly cast as what amounted to a snake oil salesman (a running joke is that no matter how successful the brand is, nobody particularly likes it), Greenwood exhibiting her trademark high kicking dance (in her sixties!), Demarest doing his irascible act (and proving he may be able to dance, but he certainly couldn’t sing), Whiting getting a number that proved she could have carried her own movies if she'd ever been given the chance, and one Fernando Lamas.

Lamas obviously impressed Williams in his typical Latin lover role, for they would be married - almost two decades later, as they were both already married at the time. For a man who was a legendary lothario, it was nice that Esther was the woman he finally settled down with for the rest of his life, and they assuredly had an easygoing chemistry here. Williams' persona was an engaging mix of all-American pep with an elegance and sophistication once she entered the water, and here there was the kid-friendly appeal of seeing her dream about swimming with cartoon characters Tom and Jerry. Though they were supposed to be swimming The Channel too, there couldn't be many swordfish or turtles in that part of the world, but as it was a dream you could excuse their showing up for the requisite japery, and it was a fairly substantial segment too. While the last endeavour added some exertion and tension, this was largely easy-to-watch entertainment of a kind that they don't make anymore, reminiscent of what Disney would soon be presenting in live action.
Reviewer: Graeme Clark

 

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