Bathing Beauty
(1944) 102 minutes, color

 

"Bathing Beauty" is pure escapism; it's all about the music, the swimming and the comedy. The plot is incidental. Wonderful musical numbers performed by Xavier Cugat and his orchestra, and Harry James and his Music Makers open and close this film, and can be enjoyed in between as well. Baritone Carlos Ramfont>rez is a delight to listen to.

Steve Elliott (Red Skelton) is a songwriter who has fallen in love with beautiful Caroline (Esther Williams). Steve wants to marry Caroline and write symphonies instead of the popular "boogie-woogie" songs he is currently employed to write. When Steve's boss George Adams (Rathbone) hears this, he panics. Adams desperately needs Steve's songs for a water pageant he is producing, so he sabotages Steve's romance with Caroline. Adams hires a woman to pretend to be Steve's wife; she shows up at Steve's wedding with three small red-headed boys in tow. Caroline believes the lie and leaves.


Rathbone and Jacqueline Dalya

 Esther Williams, Red Skelton, Basil Rathbone, and Jacqueline Dalya

Adams advises Steve to bury himself in his music: "In times of stress, work is the only solution." But Steve is a man in love. He finds out that Caroline has gone back to her job at Victoria College, a women's college, in New Jersey. Steve goes to see her, but isn't allowed in. He's told that the only men allowed in are parents and teachers.

Not one to give up, Steve learns of a charter for Victoria College allows male students, so he applies to be a student. Red Skelton as the only male student at a women's college is a situation that allows Red to show off his comedic skills. He performs a classic pantomime skit showing the girls how a girl wakes up, gets dressed and puts on make-up. In another hilarious skit, Steve dons a pink tutu and joins the girls in their ballet class. There are also musical numbers disguised as "Music Class." Harry James and his Music Makers even play in one music class at this women's college! (No one is claiming that this is a realistic scenario. Just enjoy it.) Hit Parade organist and "Empress of the Hammond" Ethel Smith also plays a couple of lively numbers.

While Steve is at the women's college, Caroline continues to spurn him, and George Adams presses him to finish the score for the water ballet. Steve says that he hasn't been able to write anything since he met Caroline. He threatens to strangle whoever put the woman with the three boys up to lying at his wedding. Steve is determined to stay at the college until he wins back the love of his life.

The Dean of Victoria College involves Caroline in a plot to keep Steve Elliott out after hours, so that  she'll have an excuse to expel him. Caroline doesn't want to deceive Steve, but reluctantly agrees. They go to a club where Harry James is playing. While Steve talks and dances with Caroline, she warms up to him again.

Driving back to the college, Caroline tells Steve about the plot to expel him for being out after hours.  "I didn't know I was going to fall in love with you all over again," she confesses.  They plan to pack their bags and leave. Caroline agrees to come to his room later and help him pack. 

A zany comedy scene plays out in Steve's room, which involves him hiding women from Caroline, and trying to hide himself from a student's parents. George Adams and Carlos are there, too. One of the women hiding in Steve's closet is Maria, the woman who pretended to be Steve's wife. Caroline discovers her and screams. The student's parents watch, appalled, as Caroline breaks a picture frame over Steve's head, and several girls ride out of a closet on a multi-seat tandem bicycle. Carlos is on the last seat, playing his guitar and singing.

Back in George Adam's office Steve says, "I've ruined everything. I've embarrassed the Dean, disgraced Victoria College, and caused Caroline to lose her job." Adams still needs Steve to write songs for the water pageant. Steve agrees to write the songs if Adams will star Caroline in the pageant. 


Red Skelton and Rathbone

Red Skelton, Esther Williams, and Rathbone

The final scene is the much-discussed water pageant. Just before it starts, Caroline learns the truth about the wedding sabotage, and forgives Steve. The water pageant is a splendid swimming extravaganza in a pool replete with fountains and flames. Caroline and a bevy of bathing beauties swim to a montage of Straus waltzes. (I wonder what happened to the songs Steve was supposed to write?) The film ends with George Adams jumping into the pool to escape Steve Elliott, who has learned that Adams ruined Steve's wedding with Caroline.

The original working title of the film was "Mr. Coed," a title that focused on Red Skelton. After the film was finished, it was previewed in theaters, and the audiences loved the swimming numbers. The studio changed the title to "Bathing Beauty" to shift the focus to Esther Williams. Esther shared top billing with Red Skelton.

Esther Williams wrote in her book The Million Dollar Mermaid that the 90 by 90 foot pool built on Sound Stage 30 for the final swim number cost $250,000.  The 25-foot deep pool "had all kinds of special effects equipment for underwater fountains and geysers and fireworks, not to mention a central pedestal on a hydraulic lift." (p. 110*)

 "Te Quiero Juste" ("Magic is the Moonlight"), sung by baritone Carlos Ramfont>rez, became Esther's signature song. Esther Williams was lovely both in and out of the water in this, her first swimming film. "Bathing Beauty" was a success at the box office, and launched a series of swimming musicals starring Esther Williams.

It may be interesting to note that synchronized swimming did not exist as a sport until after Bathing Beauty appeared in theaters. The amazing finale showed synchronized swimming as it had never been seen before. Esther Williams wrote, "When Bathing Beauty came out in 1944, moviegoers saw the possibilities of beautifully choreographed dancing in the water with a corps de ballet swimming in unison. About a year later, the first synchronized swimming meet was held in Chicago. Unwittingly, I was godmother to a sport!" (The Million Dollar Mermaid*, p. 394)

And what about Basil Rathbone? His part was fairly small, and not terribly interesting. He did a competent job, as usual, but this film really belonged to Red Skelton.

 

* The Million Dollar Mermaid by Esther Williams, (New York: Simon & Schuster), 1999.

Musical Numbers in "Bathing Beauty"

  "Te Quiero Juste" ("Magic is the Moonlight")
Music: Marfont>a Grever
Performed by Xavier Cugat's orchestra, sung by Carlos Ramfont>rez
  "Alma Llanera"
Music and Lyrics: Pedro Elfont>as Gutifont>rrez
Sung by Lina Romay and chorus, with the Xavier Cugat Orchestra
  "I'll Take the High Note"
Music: Johnny Green
Lyrics: Harold Adamson
Sung by Red Skelton, Jean Porter, Janis Paige, Carlos Ramfont>rez, Helen Forrest, Harry James, and Buddy Moreno
Performed by Harry James and his Music Makers, with Ethel Smith on organ
  "Waltz of the Flowers," from The Nutcracker Suite
Music: Peter Ilyich Tchaikovsky
Danced to by Red Skelton and classmates
  "Bim, Bam, Bum"
Music and Lyrics: Johnny Comacho, Noro Morales, Harold Adamson
Sung by Lina Romay with the Xavier Cugat Orchestra
  "Hora Staccato"
Music: Grigoras Dinicu and Jascha Heifetz
Performed by Harry James and his Music Makers
  "Trumpet Blues and Cantabile"
Music by Harry James and Jack Matthias
Performed by Harry James and his Music Makers
  "I Cried for You"
Music and Lyrics: Arthur Freed, Gus Arnheim, and Abe Lyman
Sung by Helen Forrest with Harry James and his Music Makers
  "By the Waters of Minnetonka: An Indian Love Song"
Music: Thorlow Lieurance
Lyrics: J.M. Cavanass
Performed by Ethel Smith on organ, with MGM Studio Orchestra
  "Boogie Woogie"
Music: Carlos Ramfont>rez and Harry James
Performed by Harry James and his Music Makers
  "Tico-tico no Fubfont>"
Music: Zequinha de Abreu
Lyrics: Ervin Drake
Performed by Ethel Smith on organ, with MGM Studio Orchestra
  "The Thrill of a New Romance"
Music: Xavier Cugat
Performed by the Xavier Cugat Orchestra
  "Loch Lomand"
Traditional Scottish folk song
Performed by Ethel Smith on organ
Sung by college students
(This song was sung by Nigel Bruce in "Pursuit to Algiers")
  "Die Fledermaus" Overture
Music: Johann Strau/font>
Performed by the MGM Studio Orchestra
       


Red Skelton, Esther Williams, Jacqueline Dalya, Basil Rathbone

       

Cast

 

Credits

 
Basil Rathbone ............. George Adams Production Co. .............. MGM, Loew's Inc.
Red Skelton .................. Steve Elliott   Producer ........................ Jack Cummings
Esther Williams ............ Caroline Brooks   Director ......................... George Sidney
Bill Goodwin ................. Professor Willis Evans   Screenplay ....................
.......... Allen Boretz, and
Dorothy Kingsley,
Frank Waldman
Jean Porter .................... .Jean Allenwood   Story ...............................
. . . .  M.M. Musselman,
 . . and  Joseph Schrank
Kenneth Earl,
Curtis Kenyon,
(adaptation)
Nana Bryant ................. Dean Clinton   Director of Water Ballet Sequence ....................... John Murray Anderson
Carlos Ramirez .............. Himself   Cinematographer .......... Harry Stradling
Ethel Smith  ................... Music Teacher   Director of Photography for Water Ballet Sequence ....................... Ted Weisbarth
Xavier Cugat  ................ Himself   Film Editor ..................... Blanche Sewell
Lina Romay ................... Herself   Art Directors.................. Cedric Gibbons,
Harry James .................. Himself   ....... Stephen Goosson, Merrill Pye
Helen Forrest ................ Herself (singer)   Set Decorator ............... Edwin B. Willis
Donald Meek  ............... Chester Klazenfrantz   Assoc. Set Decorator .. McLean Nisbet
Jacqueline Dalya .......... Maria Dorango   Costume Designer ....... Irene Sharaff
Francis Pierlot  .............. Professor Hendricks Recording Director ...... Douglas Shearer
Ann Codee .................... Mme. Zarka   Production Sound Mixer William Edmondson
Margaret Dumont ......... Mrs. Allenwood   Sound Effects Editor ... Frank McKenzie
Bunny Waters .............. Bunny   Sound Re-recording mixer .......... Ralph Shugart
Janis Paige .................... Janis   Makeup Designer ........ Jack Dawn
Dorothy Adams ........... Miss Hanney   Makeup Artist .............. Ben Libizer
Margaret Adams .......... Co-ed   Stunts ........................... Gil Perkins
Margaret Adden .......... Co-ed   Dance Directors ........... Robert Alton,
Jack Donohue
Douglas Berle ............... Pedro   Costume Supervisor .... Irene
Karin Booth .................. Co-ed   Assoc. Costume Supervisor ......... Kay Dean
Lucille Casey ................ Co-ed   Assistant Technical Director ................ Merwin Daynes
Jesnt>s Castillont>n ............. Guadalajara Trio member   Color Director (Technicolor)  ............... Natalie Kalmus
Aina Constant ............. Showgirl   Assoc. Color Director Henri Jaffa
Donald Davis ............... Pablo   Camera Operator .... Sam Leavitt
Linda Deane ................. Co-ed   Orchestrators ......... Johnny Thompson,
Ted Duncan
Pat Dean ........................ Swimmer      
Dolores Dey .................. Co-ed      
Elspeth Dudgeon ......... Miss Travers      
Bonnie Edwards ........... Co-ed      
Sarah Edwards ............. Faculty member      
Herbert Evans .............. Backstage Manager      
Alice Eyland ................. Co-ed      
Dorothy Ford ............... Dorothy (co-ed)      
Mary Ganley ................ Mary (co-ed)      
Jane Green .................... wife of Justice of the Peace      
Betty Lou Hanson ....... Swimmer      
Charmienne Harker ...... Co-ed      
Mary Ann Hawkins ..... Specialty Swimmer      
Harry Hayden ............... Jonathan (Gateman)      
Russell Hicks ................ Mr. Allenwood      
Frank Holiday Jr. .......... Musician in "Alma llanera" number      
Jane Isbell ..................... Western Union girl      
Betty Jaynes ................ Co-ed      
Eddie Kane ................... Captain of Waiters      
Eleanor Keaton ............ Swimmer      
Gloria Lake .................... Co-ed      
Vicky Lane .................... Co-ed      
Lamberto Leyva ........... Guadalajara Trio member      
John Lopez ................... Bellhop      
Ann Lundeen ............... Co-ed      
Peggy Maley ................ Co-ed      
Alphonse Martell ........ Doorman      
Beryl McCutcheon ...... Co-ed      
Buddy Moreno ............ Singer ("I'll Take the High Note")      
Muriel Morris ............... Co-ed      
Douglas Morrow ........ Stage manager      
Edmund Mortimer ........ Faculty member      
Helen O'Hara ................. Helen (Co-ed)      
Shelby Payne ................ Cigarette girl      
Mary Perine ................... Co-ed      
George Pitman ............... Musician      
Bob Priester .................. Musician      
Bertha Priestley ............ Fat girl      
Eloise Rawitzer ............. Singer ("I'll Take the High Note")      
Danny Reilley .............. Pancho      
Mildred Riley ................ Showgirl      
Noreen Roth ................. Noreen (Co-ed)      
Mario Santos ................ Guadalajara Trio member      
Earl Schenck ................. Professor Nichols      
Naomi Scher ................. Co-ed      
Erin Selwyn .................. Co-ed      
Almira Sessions .......... Miss Phillips      
Mary C. Taylor ............ Water Ballet performer      
Ray Teal ....................... Maitre d' at Adams Club      
Andrew Tombes ......... Justice of the Peace      
Celia Travers ................ Chorus girl      
Beverly Tyler ................ Co-ed      
Harry von Schloeten .... Musician      
Sarah Wallace ............... Showgirl      
Allan Watson ............... Musician      
Constance Weiler ........ Co-ed      
Joe Yule ......................... Bartender      
         

More pictures on Page 2. Click here to see them.

Images on this page and page 2 are from the film "Bathing Beauty," copyright Metro Goldwyn Mayer.

 

 

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All original content is Marcia Jessen, 2007