Esther Williams was the undisputed queen bee of one of the most baffling Hollywood sub-genres: the Aqua Musicals of the 40s and 50s. No one rose out of the pool depths—with a smile, no less—quite like Williams. But who was she really? Competitive athlete? Pretty pin-up? Feisty feminist? Kept woman? Williams somehow managed to be, at different times in her life, all of these things and more. Let’s dive a little deeper into these facts about Esther Williams, Hollywood’s mermaid.

1. She Was Born In The Right Place

Before Esther Williams’ birth, her family had relocated to Los Angeles because of her big brother’s burgeoning film career. Esther was born soon after the move, and dad hadn’t had a chance to build any bedrooms in their new home. So, in 1921, the living room became the delivery room for baby Esther. But even that inauspicious beginning almost never happened.

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