What struck me most was that she retained the mindset of a champion athlete. She started swimming seriously when she was 8. “We didn’t have any money to go to swimming pools,” she told me, “and the Pacific Ocean was my pool. That’s where my sister taught me how to ride waves and how to swim. I had such fun with that the rest of my life. I’d go swimming way far out in the ocean, and boys would follow me when I was a teenager in high school. I said, ‘You’d better not follow me, ‘cause I can get back and you may not be able to.’ Even at 12 and 13 and 14 I knew what boys were all about.”
She credited producer Joe Pasternak with making her a star in the frothy musical Thrill of a Romance, of which she later wisecracked, “Just the title could give you diabetes. But it was Van Johnson and he was the fifth most popular actor in the [top] ten, and we were just cute as a button together—two rosy-faced, wholesome people. That made me the Girl Next Door and it gave me 26 movies instead of just one.” She even introduced a song standard, “Baby, It’s Cold Outside,” in the 1949 movie Neptune’s Daughter, with Ricardo Montalban.
Esther’s movies were sheer escapism and didn’t pretend to be anything more. She never disparaged her years at MGM, but I think she was prouder of her achievements as a swimmer. She regretted missing out on the 1940 Olympic Games—which were canceled because of the war in Europe—but she never lacked for confidence. As she explained, “the champion spirit isn’t anything that goes away.” It held her in good stead to the very end of her life.
RT @leonardmaltin: 'Inside Llewyn Davis' has an incredible cast--but is difficult to recommend to anyone but a Coen camp follower http://t.…Posted 18 hours ago
@leonardmaltin I heard "The Wolf of Wall Street" recently screened for critics in Los Angeles. Have you seen it? Thoughts?Posted 19 hours ago
I always enjoy talking movies w/@LeonardMaltin. Here's the podcast of my conversation with him @AmericaWeekend today. http://t.co/ZIX7265HD3Posted 20 hours ago
@leonardmaltin I aired our conversation this morning, and it's up now as a podcast (http://t.co/iU7duphO86). Thanks again for doing it!Posted 20 hours ago