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Actress and swimming star Esther Williams dies at 91

Hollywood has lost another legend in Esther Williams. The actress, who was a prominent fixture during the Golden Era of film, died Thursday morning.

Esther Williams

Esther Williams, a swimming champion turned actress, is dead at the age of 91. Her spokesman confirmed that she’d “been in declining health due to old age” and passed away in her sleep.

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If Fred Astaire and Gene Kelly ruled the dance floor, Williams was queen of the pool. Her combination of acting and swimming talent made her a box office draw in the ’40s and ’50s. According to Reuters, Williams was often called “Hollywood’s Mermaid” and “The Queen of the Surf.”

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Despite her accomplishments, Williams was very humble. She once said, “I can’t act, I can’t sing, I can’t dance. My pictures are put together out of scraps they find in the producer’s wastebasket.” She definitely undersold herself.

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Williams was born Aug. 8, 1921 in Los Angeles, California. She spent her youth as a record-setting swimming champ, while dipping her feet into modeling. She made her film debut in 1942’s Andy Hardy’s Double Life, opposite Mickey Rooney. She moved on to more water-centric roles in 1944’s Bathing Beauty, followed by Ziegfeld Follies and Million Dollar Mermaid.

One of her most notable films is Neptune’s Daughter (1949). It’s a musical and romantic comedy co-starring Red Skelton and Ricardo Montalban. It was there that we first heard the Oscar-winning song, “Baby, It’s Cold Outside.” To this day, it’s become a holiday staple, particularly at Christmas.

Other film credits include Take Me Out to the Ball Game, Jupiter’s Darling and The Big Show. Williams leaves behind a great legacy to her family, friends and fans.

Photo credit: Rachel Worth/WENN

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