Ricardo Montalban, Xavier Cugat, Betty Garrett, Red Skelton, Esther Williams, and Keenan Wynn in Neptune's Daughter (1949)


(director: Edward Buzzell; screenwriter: Dorothy Kingsley; cinematographer: Charles Rosher; editor: Irvine Warburton; music: Frank Loesser; cast: Esther Williams (Eve Barrett), Red Skelton (Jack Spratt), Ricardo Montalban (Jose O’Rourke), Betty Garrett (Betty Barrett), Keenan Wynn (Joe Backett), Xavier Cugat (Himself), Ted de Corsia (Lukie Luzette), Mel Blanc (Pancho), Mike Mazurki (Mac Mozolla); Runtime: 92; MPAA Rating: NR; producer: Jack Cummings; Warner Home Videos; 1949)
The best of the Esther Williams swim-musicals is just bubbly.

Reviewed by Dennis Schwartz

The best of the Esther Williams swim-musicals is just bubbly. Director Edward Buzzell (“At The Circus”/”Go West”/”Best Foot Forward”) keeps it fast-paced, breezy and with easy on the eye plush Technicolor. Frank Loesser’s song “Baby, It’s Cold Outside,” won the Oscar for best song. Writer Dorothy Kingsley keeps it briskly moving along with slapstick setpieces that include awild polo horse riding routine and a quarrel between a zany masseur (Red Skelton) and a dumb kidnapper (Mike Mazurki) trying to fix a polo match. Esther Williams kept it a secret that she was pregnant during the shoot, who would comment later that she had trouble getting into her bathing suits.

Aquatic ballet dancer Eve Barrett (Esther Williams) accepts the offer to become a business partner of Joe Backett (Keenan Wynn) at the Neptune swimming suit design company, hoping to cash in on the publicity. Man-hungry Betty Barrett (Betty Garrett) talks sis into taking her along for a business trip to meet a visiting polo team from South America, and vows to score a polo player. Meanwhile Jose O’Rourke (Ricardo Montalban), the playboy captain of the polo team, requests that the team’s inept masseur Jack Spratt (Red Skelton) treat his injured arm. When Jack asks the star advice on how to score women, the suave lover tells the bumbler to speak Spanish–which he calls the “language of love.” When Betty enters the locker-room she accidentally mistakes Jack for Jose, and Jack does not correct the error and accepts her house invitation. When Betty tells Eve about the date with the Spanish speaking captain of the polo team, sis is alarmed that she will be taken advantage of.

The following day, while giving a tour of the Neptune bathing suit factory, Eve meets the real Jose and warns him to stay away from sis. When she refuses to believe him that he doesn’t know her sis, she agrees to go out with him when he agrees to no longer date Betty on that condition. On their date, Jose charms her despite Eve’s reluctance to fall for him.

When crooked nightclub owner Lukie Luzette (Ted de Corsia) learns of the polo team being in town, he schemes to bet on the other team and to ensure he wins the wager decides to kidnap the team’s star Jose. But his henchmen mistakenly take Jack instead.

The real Jose becomes engaged to Eve, and more mix-ups continue when sis insists she’s engaged to Jose. Later the thugs snatch the real Jose and hold him captive. Meanwhile Jack escapes from his captors and arrives at the polo match just as the game starts. Betty gets him a horse, a jumper, and accidentally Jack scores the winning goal for the South American team. It ends with a double wedding planned for both couples.

If you’re not an Esther Williams fan and are looking for at least one of her aquatic films to watch, this lighthearted one, despite its limits, is probably your best bet.