Cast & Crew
On their small dairy farm in Arkansas, the health-conscious Higgins family begins each day with a vigorous swim in the lake. When Windy Webbe, promoter of a health tonic called Liquapep, comes to town with a traveling show, the family attends, and eldest daughter Katy fends off Windy's advances while her sister Suzie sings for the crowd. That night, Windy comes by to deliver a prize for Suzie's performance and resumes his attempts to court the indifferent Katy. When Windy learns that the entire family swam the fourteen-mile Winapoochet River the previous year, he senses a promotional opportunity and tries to convince the family to enter a contest to swim the English Channel, with Liquapep as their sponsor. Hoping to win enough money to buy a prize bull for their farm, Katy consents, and "The Liquapep Family" goes to England. As they look out across the Channel from Dover, the family is dismayed to learn that the actual swimming distance, taking the current into account, is not the twenty miles they expected, but at least thirty miles. One day, while training for the event, Katy is separated from Windy's boat by a thick fog, and instead swims to a rowboat manned by dashing Frenchman Andre Lanet. While Andre rows Katy to his yacht, Windy picks up vivacious French swimmer Gigi Mignon, who is immediately smitten with him. Andre tells Katy that he works for his family's champagne company, and transports their product across the Channel twice a week. Andre persuades Katy to dine with him that night, promising to tell her more about the Channel. The following day, Katy and Windy join Andre on his boat for lunch. While the seasick Windy is below deck, Andre declares his feelings for Katy, and they kiss. Feeling the need to devote more time to her training, however, Katy insists that they stop seeing each other. Several days later, the Higgins family moves on to France. The Channel swim is postponed because of bad weather, and Windy tells the family that only Katy will be allowed to compete. Pa takes the news badly, and when Katy tries to console him, he admits that he has gone heavily into debt to pay for improvements to the farm. That night, the troubled Katy dreams she is swimming the Channel with cartoon characters Tom and Jerry, as well as a French octopus that tries to keep her from completing the swim. In the morning, Ma convinces Katy to take the day off, and she visits Andre at his estate, where she becomes tipsy sampling the Liquapep. That evening, word comes that the Channel swim will begin the following morning. An exhausted Katy begins the swim in the pre-dawn darkness, with her mother and sisters following her in Andre's boat. Fourteen hours into the swim, Gigi grows too weak to continue, despite Katy's encouragement. Bad weather and rough waters plague the remaining swimmers, but Katy perseveres, and Andre jumps in and swims the last agonizing mile with her. Katy finishes the race and marries Andre, and Gigi becomes the new Liquapep girl.
John Mcsweeney Jr.
Jack Martin Smith
Edwin B. Willis
Dangerous When Wet
Williams plays Katie Higgins, a member of an Arkansas farm family determined to swim the English Channel in order to win money for a prize bull. Mom is played by high-kicking actress Charlotte Greenwood, best known as Aunt Eller in Oklahoma!, (1955) and dad is William Demarest, later famous as the second Uncle Charlie on TV's My Three Sons. Jack Carson plays the hustling liquid vitamin promoter and movie buffs can spot future 007 Roger Moore in a small part as a reporter. The role of Katie's teenage sister, played by Barbara Whiting, was originally slated for Debbie Reynolds.
Rounding out the cast is debonair Fernando Lamas in his first and only movie with Williams, playing a champagne mogul who woos Katie while she is in training. Lamas, an infamous Hollywood ladies' man, and Williams were both involved with others at the time of the movie, but would later marry in real life. Initially reluctant to join the movie because it wasn't a true drama, Lamas finally agreed to the part after being convinced by Williams. She recalls in her autobiography, The Million Dollar Mermaid, that he said, "I don't want to play Nelson Eddy to your Jeanette MacDonald in a swimming pool."
Lamas was the first actual swimmer that had starred opposite Williams, a champion swimmer as a teen and one-time Olympic hopeful. That skill was needed for the film's finale as Williams attempts to cross the channel alone after local authorities have forbidden the Higgins family of an attempt. As she wavers near the end, Lamas' character jumps in to the rescue to coach her through to victory and into his arms.
The highlight of the film is a comic live action/animated interlude that includes Williams acting and swimming with MGM cartoon characters Tom and Jerry. The sequence was directed by Fred Quimby, William Hanna and Joe Barbera, the same team who had first brought the idea to the screen in 1945's Anchors Aweigh with a dancing Gene Kelly. In her autobiography, Williams recalled, "I dove in, sat down at the underwater table, put one foot in the cleats, and wrapped the other around the leg of the chair to anchor myself at the bottom. I played the scene with the imaginary octopus that would later be drawn in by Hanna and Barbera (while Fernando sang off camera, "In my wildest dreams, I never thought we'd meet," a gurgling, underwater sound added to his voice.) This was all done in pantomime, as I was alone underwater. I also swam with Tom and Jerry, was chased by a cartoon shark, and was followed by a family of singing seahorses. It looked as if I swam and acted effortlessly. Hardly. It is quite a challenge to swim the crawl and backstroke underwater. For swimmers out there, try to lift your elbows while swimming underwater. You'll find your body is propelled to the top. In order to keep yourself under the surface, your toes must be pointed downward (an unnatural and ungainly position), and your arms must stroke laterally, a technique that demands a powerful upper body. Oh yes, don't forget that while you're doing this, you've got dialogue. And don't forget to smile!" Later, when Dangerous When Wet was test screened for audiences, Williams said, "the response cards indicated that the audience didn't believe I was underwater during the Tom and Jerry sequence...So for the following preview, Joe and Phil [the animators] had drawn $50,000 worth of pink underwater bubbles floating from my mouth whenever I spoke."
At the helm of Dangerous When Wet is Charles Walters, who had worked with Williams previously on 1951's Texas Carnival and would go on to direct another of her features, Easy to Love in 1953. Harold Rosson, Jean Harlow's last husband and cinematographer of movies from 1915 to the 1960s, is the photographer on the film.
On the heels of the previous year's fan favorite Million Dollar Mermaid, Dangerous When Wet again triumphed at the box office, capping a decade of successful Williams films that began with her first swim picture, 1944's Bathing Beauty.
Producer: George Wells
Director: Charles Walters
Screenplay: Dorothy Kingsley
Cinematography: Harold Rosson
Film Editing: John McSweeney, Jr.
Art Direction: Cedric Gibbons, Jack Martin Smith
Music: Scott Bradley, Arthur Schwartz
Cast: Esther Williams (Katie Higgins), Fernando Lamas (Andre Lanet), Jack Carson (Windy Weebe), Charlotte Greenwood (Ma Higgins), Denise Darcel (Gigi Mignon), William Demarest (Pa Higgins).
C-96m. Closed captioning.
by Amy Cox
Dangerous When Wet
The working title of this film was Everybody Swims. A May 2, 1951 Hollywood Reporter news item announced that Debbie Reynolds and Carleton Carpenter would star in the film. According to a August 4, 1952 item in M-G-M News, George Murphy and Una Merkel were originally cast as "Pa and Ma Higgins," and James Whitmore was to portray "Windy Webbe." Hollywood Reporter news items include Tommy Edwards, Rex Dennis, Larry Glass and Olympic shot put champion William Parry O'Brien in the cast, but their appearance in the final film has not been confirmed. Portions of the film were shot on location at Cabrillo Beach, CA.
Dangerous When Wet features an underwater sequence in which Esther Williams appears to swim with cartoon cat and mouse Tom and Jerry, along with a host of other animated characters. The film marked Charlotte Greenwood's first M-G-M screen appearance since Flying High in 1931. Williams and her co-star, Fernando Lamas, were married in Europe in 1967.
Released in United States June 18, 1953
Released in United States June 18, 1953