Dangerous When Wet (1953): Charles Waters’ Technicolor Musical, Starring Esther Williams and Fernando Lamas

Charles Waters directed Dangerous When Wet, a Technicolor musical film starring Esther Williams, Fernando Lamas, and Jack Carson.

Dangerous When Wet

Theatrical release poster

The film was based on a story by Dorothy Kingsley, who was hired by MGM to develop it into a screenplay.

The movie features an animated swimming sequence starring Williams with the cat-and-mouse duo, Tom and Jerry.

Williams plays Katie Higgins, the wholesome daughter of a dairy family (Pa, Ma, Suzie, Katie, and Junior)  that start the day with a song and morning swim.

When Katie meets travelling salesman Windy Weebe (Carson), who sells an elixir that purports to turn the user into a peppy, fit-as-a-fiddle specimen.

Upon noticing the family’s strength in the water, he suggests that they attempt to swim the English Channel. The family and Weebe head off to England whereupon they learn that the distance is 20 miles, but with the currents, it can be up to 42 miles.

Since Katie is the only member strong enough to attempt this feat, she begins training with Weebe as her coach.

The ending was rewritten after a real-life incident during the shoot, when Johnny Weissmuller (Esther’s old Aquacade partner) dove into the water to swim alongside Florence Chadwick, whom he was coaching.

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


Esther Williams as Katie Higgins
Fernando Lamas as André Lanet
Jack Carson as Windy Weebe
Charlotte Greenwood as Ma Higgins
Denise Darcel as Gigi Mignon
William Demarest as Pa Higgins
Donna Corcoran as Junior Higgins
Barbara Whiting as Suzie Higgins
Bunny Waters as Greta
Henri Letondal as Joubert
Paul Bryar as Pierre
Jack Raine as Stuart Frye
Richard Alexander as Egyptian Channel swimmer
Tudor Owen as Old Salt
Ann Codee as Mrs. Lanet