Take Me Out to the Ball Game (1949, Busby Berkeley)
I finally watched some Esther Williams movie with Katy the night we heard she’d died (Esther, not Katy), but I have to say she didn’t make a huge impression (again, Esther, not Katy, who always makes an impression). She plays the inheritor of a baseball team, led by superstar trio Ryan (Frank Sinatra), O’Brien (wildly mugging Gene Kelly) and Goldberg (Jules Munshin, fifth-billed in a short run of late-1940’s musicals). Esther was at least noticeable better than Gene’s love interest Betty Garrett, who I was always afraid would try to catch up with Gene’s frantic comedy act, a la Shirley Maclaine in Artists & Models.
The best baseball-related song, “O’Brien to Ryan to Goldberg,” was based on a poem which I remember from that Ken Burns thing. Overall, kind of a lame finale to Busby Berkeley’s shining career, passing the reins to cowriters/choreographers Gene and Stanley Donen, who’d make On The Town and Singin’ in the Rain over the next few years.
Thrill of a Romance (1945, Richard Thorpe)
Oh this one was much better, and with a ton more water (Esther plays a swim instructor). She marries a neglectful rich guy who immediately runs away on business errands while she spends her unconsummated honeymoon with a colorful opera star and hunky war hero Van Johnson, with whom she swims and hikes and talks and laughs. Will she stay with the coldly absent husband who bought her attention with gifts, or the rugged handsome new man who she repeatedly admits that she loves? I’m not spoiling it.
An early starring role for Esther. Thorpe was a Tarzan movie vet, also in charge of the latest Thin Man picture. Esther’s meddling friend Frances Gifford had appeared in an unrelated Tarzan movie. Musicals are generally improved when they costar an opera singer – Lauritz Melchior would return in Esther’s This Time For Keeps.