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Arts and Entertainment

'Million Dollar Mermaid' Esther Williams Dies At Age 91

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Esther Williams, the swimming star who headlined a series of colorful Hollywood "aqua-musicals" in the 1940 and 1950s, has died at age 91, Reuters reports.

The swim champ turned actress became a box office sensation which featured her in elaborately designed synchronized swimming and diving sequences, often in a pool full of other swimming beauties. (As later lampooned by Mike Myers in Austin Powers: The Spy Who Shagged Me.) Her films include Million Dollar Mermaid and Dangerous When Wet.

Williams died peacefully in her sleep at her Beverly Hills home, spokesman Harlan Boll said. She had been declining in health and was seen in a wheelchair at the 2008 funeral of fellow classic film star Cyd Charisse.

She dismissed her talent, saying "I can't act, I can't sing, I can't dance. My pictures are put together out of scraps they find in the producer's wastebasket."

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Williams was born in Inglewood on August 8, 1921. Before going to Hollywood, she set what were then world records in the 100-meter freestyle and 880-yard relay and also worked as a model.

She retired from films but did a few 1960s television specials and hosted swimming events for ABC's coverage of the 1984 Olympic Games.