I want to sit shivah for Esther Williams, Hollywood’s “Million Dollar Mermaid,” who died earlier this month.
In the 1952 movie bio, “Million Dollar Mermaid,” she portrays Annette Kellerman, who overcame polio to swim again – a perfect metaphor for the Jewish philosophy underlying the movie industry of the golden studio years.
We rise again, we dive once more into our divine destiny; there is something Hasidic about that.
Williams “Americanized” the world of myth and legend, like Miriam and like Aphrodite, beauty comes from the sea, from the element of water.
But this Queen Esther was also tough and determined. She divorced her third husband, Fernando Lamas, because he curbed her freedom and her career. She writes about it, with good humor, in her memoir. The film was mostly a post-World War II celebration of liberation and the restoration of color.
Esther Williams will remain in my mind as I swim in the pool, Narragansett Bay or the Narrow River.
Fink, a columnist for this paper, had a similar letter published recently in the Providence Journal.