Dangerous When Wet

Dangerous When Wet (1953) is a Technicolor Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer musical film starring Esther Williams, Fernando Lamas, and Jack Carson, directed by Charles Walters, and featuring an animated swimming sequence starring Williams with the cat-and-mouse duo, Tom and Jerry.

Dangerous When Wet
Theatrical release poster
Directed byCharles Walters
Produced byGeorge Wells
Written byDorothy Kingsley
StarringEsther Williams
Fernando Lamas
Jack Carson
Music byAlbert Sendrey
George Stoll
CinematographyHarold Rosson
Edited byJohn McSweeney Jr.
Distributed byLoew's Inc.
Release date
July 3, 1953 (1953-07-03)
Running time
95 minutes
CountryUnited States
Box office$3,255,000[1][2]

Plot summary

Katie Higgins (Williams) is the wholesome daughter of a dairy farmer. The entire family (Pa, Ma, Suzie, Katie, and Junior) start the day with a brisk song and morning swim. One day, Katie meets travelling salesman Windy Weebe (Carson) who is instantly smitten. Weebe sells an elixir that purports to turn the user into a peppy, fit-as-a-fiddle specimen, and upon noticing the entire family's strength in the water, suggests that they all attempt to swim the English Channel. The family and Weebe head off to England whereupon they learn that the distance to be conquered is 20 miles "as the seagull flies" but with the currents, can be up to 42 miles. Katie is the only one in the family strong enough to attempt this feat, so she begins training with Weebe as her coach.

On a foggy day, Katie, in the water, is separated from Weebe, in a rowboat, and is rescued by a handsome Frenchman, Andre Lanet (Lamas). Lanet falls for the spunky American and begins trying to woo her. Katie tries to stay focused on her swim, but is being pulled in different directions by the two men. In a dream sequence, Katie does an underwater ballet with cartoon characters Tom and Jerry, as well as animated depictions of the different people in her life. The film ends happily with Katie's attempt to cross the Channel and the resolution of her gentlemen issues.



The film was based on a story by Dorothy Kingsley. MGM liked it, bought it and hired Kingsley to develop it into a screenplay. It was originally called Everybody Swims and was intended as a vehicle for Esther Williams and Debbie Reynolds.[3]

In the underwater sequences in which Williams speaks to Tom and Jerry, Joseph Barbera had pink bubbles drawn coming out of her mouth for a cost of $50,000.[4]

The film's ending was rewritten after an incident that occurred in real life during the shooting of the film when Johnny Weissmuller (Esther's old Aquacade partner) dove into the water to swim alongside Florence Chadwick, whom he was coaching.[4]


Debbie Reynolds was originally slated for the role of Williams's little sister, Suzie.[5]

Though Williams had heard of Lamas before his being cast as her love interest in the film, the two had never been formally introduced. In 1969, the two married, and remained so until Lamas's death in 1982. When asked whether she knew him when the studio suggested his name for a possible co-star, Williams mentioned that "he starred in movies with Jane Powell, Greer Garson, and Lana Turner, and [she] knew he was romantically linked to Lana Turner. And [she] heard he could swim. Yes, Fernando Lamas sounded like good casting." Lamas initially turned down the role, stating he came to MGM to be a "star," and only wanted to act in "important pictures." Williams had to convince him that his part would be rewritten to be larger.[4]


According to MGM records the film earned $2,230,000 in the US and Canada and $1,025,000 elsewhere recording a profit of $386,000.[1]

Critical reception

Bosley Crowther wrote in a 1953 New York Times review the "frolicsome item not only dumps you quite often in the drink, but also gives you some rather pleasant company to clown around with while on dry ground. As we say, there is nothing very special or spectacular about "Dangerous When Wet," but it comes as relaxing entertainment at this torpid time of the year."[6]

A review from Variety called it "a light mixture of tunes, comedy, water ballet and Esther Williams in a bathing suit."[5]

Home media

On July 17, 2007, Warner Home Video and Turner Entertainment released Dangerous When Wet on DVD as part of the Esther Williams Spotlight Collection, Volume 1. The 5-disc set contained digitally remastered versions of several of Williams's films including Bathing Beauty (1944), Easy to Wed (1946), On an Island with You (1948) and Neptune's Daughter (1949)[7]

The Tom and Jerry swim with Esther Williams sequences are also featured in several DVD and Blu-ray releases of Tom and Jerry series by Warner Home Video, including Tom and Jerry Spotlight Collection, Volume 1 (Bonus Features), Tom and Jerry: The Deluxe Anniversary Collection (Disc 2, as a special short), & Tom and Jerry Golden Collection, Volume 2 (Disc 3, Special features).


  1. The Eddie Mannix Ledger, Los Angeles: Margaret Herrick Library, Center for Motion Picture Study.
  2. 'The Top Box Office Hits of 1953', Variety, January 13, 1954
  3. U.-I. COMEDY LEAD TO LINDA DARNELL: She Will Play Opposite Stephen McNally in 'Lady Pays Off,' Story of School Teacher By THOMAS F. BRADY Special to THE NEW YORK TIMES.. New York Times (1923-Current file); New York, N.Y. [New York, N.Y]10 Mar 1951: 7.
  4. The Million Dollar Mermaid: An Autobiography, By Esther Williams, Digby Diehl, Published by Harcourt Trade, 2000, ISBN 0-15-601135-2, ISBN 978-0-15-601135-8
  5. "Dangerous When Wet". Tcm.com. Retrieved 2012-01-10.
  6. Crowther, Bosley (1953-06-19). "Movie Review - Dangerous When Wet - THE SCREEN IN REVIEW; Esther Williams Brings Relief From the Heat in 'Dangerous When Wet' at Music Hall - NYTimes.com". Movies.nytimes.com. Retrieved 2012-01-10.
  7. Archived September 11, 2007, at the Wayback Machine
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