I have a confession to make: I’ve been cheating on Doris Day with Esther Williams. I never thought I would find an actress as charming, classy, and strong as Doris, but then Esther swam into my life. I loved her in Million Dollar Mermaid, but thought the film as a whole could have used more cocktails. THEN, I caught this week’s flick Dangerous When Wet (Disc/Download), which features roughly the same plot as her most iconic role, with the essential additions of alcohol and Fernando Lamas. Dear reader, I’m in cinema heaven.
I don’t know why it’s taken me so long to dive into (pun intended) the Esther Williams filmography. After all, I am long-obsessed with swimming pools, and I happen to own an Esther Williams-brand bathing suit. I admired her as an innovator and symbol of athletic grace long before I saw any of her movies, but now that I’ve watched a few, I can’t get enough. In Dangerous When Wet, Esther plays a wholesome farmer’s daughter from Arkansas who gets hired by phony vitamin company Liquipep to swim the English Channel with her entire family. While across the pond, she meets cute with a French champagne maker (I know, I KNOW!!) who shows her there’s more to life than swimming. Fernando Lamas is decidedly dreamy as her romantic lead, and let’s just say there is a very risqué scene set in a bathhouse changing room that has some major Pillow Talk vibes. The two lovers follow it up with a moonlight swim in his family’s pool, synchronizing their movements in the water. Busby Berkeley really was not needed in this picture, with so much chemistry heating up the screen.
Romance aside, what I enjoy most about Esther Williams films is their interpretation of what it means to be a women. Esther is allowed to be vulnerable in regards to her personal relationships, but also brave enough to take on incredible physical challenges. She’s graceful in her underwater sequences, and strong while proving her endurance in long-distance swimming. She can do back-flips with Tom & Jerry and swim twenty miles across the English Channel, all while nursing a wicked Liquipep hangover. While watching Dangerous When Wet, toast Esther and the other fierce women in your life with this English Channel cocktail.
2 oz Earl Grey Tea, cooled
¾ oz Galliano
¾ oz Cointreau
Dried Bergamot (or lemon) slice
Brew tea and allow to cool. Combine with Galliano and Cointreau in a shaker with ice, and shake until chilled. Strain into a coupe glass, and garnish with Bergamot or lemon.
There’s a moment toward the end of the movie when Esther’s French lover jumps into the Channel to help coach her across the finish line. I literally rubbed my arms with glee when this happened, not because Fernando Lamas stripped down to his boxer briefs (though, that didn’t hurt), but because he didn’t try to stop her from continuing. He knew she could make it all the way; she just needed a cheerleader. And now, in the year 2020, she’s got another one in me. Cheers!