Bathing Beauty

Bathing Beauty

Bathing Beauty is a musical starring Red Skelton, Basil Rathbone and Esther Williams. Although this was not William's screen debut, it was her first Technicolor musical montage. The movie was initially to be titled "The Co-Ed" with Red Skelton having top billing. However, once MGM executives watched the first cut of the film, they realized that Esther Williams' role should be showcased more, and so changed the title to "Bathing Beauty", giving her prominent billing and featuring her bathing-suit clad figure on the posters.


In Los Angeles, popular songwriter Steve Elliott (Red Skelton) prepares to marry Caroline Brooks (Esther Williams), who has pledged to give up her job as a college swimming instructor once she has wed. Likewise, Steve plans to quit his songwriting career, even though New York producer George Adams (Basil Rathbone) has already hired him to write new songs for a water ballet show. When George overhears Steve discussing his "retirement" with Caroline, he vows to prevent the marriage and enlists Maria Dorango, an aspiring actress posing as a Latin-American singer, to help him. Moments after a justice of the peace pronounces the redheaded Steve and Caroline man and wife, Maria rushes in, claiming that Steve is her husband and the father of her three redheaded children, which she has parade in at that moment. Although Steve pleads his innocence, Caroline storms off in a rage and returns to her teaching post at Victoria College in New Jersey. A determined Steve and his friend, Carlos Ramirez, follow her there, but are denied entrance to the all-female school. Later, in a New York nightclub, Steve meets drunken lawyer Chester Klazenfrantz and learns that Klazenfrantz has been hired to change the charter of Victoria College, which has never officially designated itself as all-female. Armed with this information, Steve returns to Victoria and insists on applying for admission. Unaware of Caroline's relationship to Steve, Dean Clinton suggests to the faculty that he be admitted for a two-week probationary period, during which time they would give him 100 demerits, which would qualify him for expulsion before Parents Day.

Once enrolled, Steve tries to speak with Caroline, but she refuses to listen to his explanations and tells him she is seeking an annulment. Later, in music class, stodgy Professor Hendricks attempts to discredit Steve, whose presence on campus has created a furor among the co-eds, by ordering him to write his own version of the Scottish ballad "Loch Lomond" and teach the next day's class. With help from several talented students, Carlos, the music teaching assistant (Ethel Smith), and Steve's friend Harry James and his orchestra, Steve meets Hendricks' challenge and is awarded an "A." That night, Steve visits Caroline at her house, but is turned out after Willis Evans, a conservative botany professor who is in love with Caroline, arrives. When Caroline realizes that Steve is hiding in her closet, spying on her, she commands Willis' Great Dane to guard the closet door, while reminding Steve that unless he is in his room in five minutes, he will be expelled for breaking curfew. With only seconds to spare, Steve manages to trick the dog long enough to escape back to his dingy basement room. Steve is then visited by George, who threatens to vilify him in the press unless he finishes his songs. When Steve swears deadly revenge on the person who hired Maria, however, George backs down and offers to help Steve do his homework. Concerned about the approaching Parents Day, Dean Clinton, meanwhile, commands Steve's professors, who have penalized him with only fifty-five demerits, to bear down on him. To that end, Mme. Zarka, Steve's ruthlessly strict ballet teacher, forces him to wear a tutu and dance with the co-eds, but Steve once again rises to the occasion. A now desperate Dean Clinton asks Caroline to go out with Steve and ensure that he arrives back at Victoria after the curfew. Caroline agrees, but during the evening, Steve convinces her of his innocence, and as they drive back to school, the newlyweds make plans to return to California together. Unknown to Caroline and Steve, Maria is on campus, looking to expose George, who has been trying to get rid of her, to Steve. At the same time, a campus sorority descends on Steve's room, hoping to initiate him, and Jean Allenwood, another co-ed, shows up with news that her parents and Dean Clinton are on their way over to inspect his room. As Steve desperately hides all the women in two closets and keeps Caroline from discovering Maria, George unexpectedly arrives. Although Steve succeeds in hiding George and himself and fooling Dean Clinton and the Allenwoods, Maria soon makes her presence known to Caroline, who once again leaves in a fury. Later, Steve promises to write songs for George's water ballet show on condition he make Caroline the star. George agrees, and after Maria is finally able to tell Caroline the truth, Caroline happily reunites with Steve, who then gives George a thrashing.


With the film's wonderful tunes and extravagant water sequences, Bathing Beauty was a smash at the box office. It marked the studio's third highest grossing film to date, next to Gone with the Wind (1939) and Ben-Hur (1925).


Singer Helen Forrest makes an appearance during a number performed by Harry James and his orchestra.

In one sequence Red Skelton's character appears in a tutu. In a later interview Red said it was uncomfortable because he had to have his chest, back and underarms shaved for this costume.

Janis Paige's film debut.

In one sequence Red Skelton's character is trapped inside a house by a large dog. He escapes by removing the hinge pins from the door, picking up the door and, as the dog comes inside he holds the door between them and goes out. Red said that they had written themselves into a corner and could not come up with a way for him to get out. They were going to scrap the scene when the comedian Buster Keaton visited the set, took one look and told them how to do it.

Famous scene

The grand water ballet finale became iconic and the scene most people associate with Esther Williams. Several moments, such as the swimmers who dive past one another in the pool and the moment where Williams is received as a queen, then dives and reappears above water, surrounded by several other swimmers who form a circle around her, became famous.

The scene has been parodied several times, most famously in The Great Muppet Caper (1981), with Miss Piggy, briefly in the "Be My Guest" sequence in the Disney movie Beauty and the Beast (1991 film) (1992) and in The Simpsons episode Bart of Darkness (1994), with Lisa Simpson.


The soundtrack features many on-screen performances of big band greats of the era: Harry James, Xavier Cugat, Ethel Smith, Helen Forrest, and Lina Romay.

"Magic is the Moonlight (Te quiero juste)" Sung by Carlos Ramírez in Spanish with the Xavier Cugat Orchestra

"I'll Take the High Note" - Played during the opening credits, later sung and danced by Red Skelton, Jean Porter, Janis Paige, Carlos Ramírez, Helen Forrest, Harry James and Buddy Moreno with Harry James and His Music Makers and Ethel Smith on organ

"Bim, Bam, Bum" Sung by Lina Romay with the Xavier Cugat Orchestra

"Trumpet Blues and Cantabile" played by Harry James and His Music Makers with Harry James on trumpet

"By the Waters of Minnetonka: an Indian Love Song" Ethel Smith on organ with the MGM Studio Orchestra

"Tico-tico no Fubá" Played by Ethel Smith on organ with the MGM Studio Orchestra

"Alma llanera" Sung by Lina Romay and chorus with the Xavier Cugat Orchestra

"Hora Staccato" Played by Harry James on trumpet with Harry James and His Music Makers

"I Cried for You" Sung by Helen Forrest with Harry James and His Music Makers

"Boogie Woogie" Played by Harry James and His Music Makers before and during the water ballet sequence

"The Thrill of a New Romance" Played by the Xavier Cugat Orchestra at the start of and during the water ballet sequence


External links

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