Neptune's Daughter (1949) - Musical with Esther Williams and Ricardo Montalban

It's the U. S. after World War II. Rationing has lessened, there is an influx of returning veterans,  private enterprise is pushed, the war has brought advancements in technology which are being used in the private sector and businesses are booming.

This is the world in which we find Eve Barrett (Esther Williams) in Neptune's Daughter (1949). Now that people have more leisure time and more money to burn, Eve - a former swimming champion - designs and manufacturers her own high-end swimwear. The film even spends a bit of time on a tour of Eve's well-organized and fastidiously spotless factory.
Esther Williams at the top of swimwear fashion

When Eve isn't running her business, she's keeping watch over her man-hungry sister, Betty (Betty Garrett). Their relationship is mother hen- little chick:

Eve: Fine time to get home.
Betty: Fine time before I got home!

Betty is incorrigible... and insatiable.

Skelton and Garrett

This week, Betty becomes infatuated with a masseuse, Jack Sprat (Red Skelton), whom she mistakes for a polo player, Jose O'Roukre (Ricardo Montalban).  Eve mistakes the polo player for a wolf and must stop the romance. Suddenly the plot is like something out of an Oscar Wilde play.

But the storyline is immaterial. We are there to watch a bathing suit fashion show, the comic stylings of Skelton and Garrett, and the swoon-worthy flirting of Montalban and Williams. All of this is helped along with music by Xavier Cugat and His Orchestra and songs by Frank Loesser.

Betty's wild appetite for the opposite gender is expressed in a crazy Loesser song, "I Love Those Men," in which lyrics become useless, so the singer resorts to recreating the sounds of instruments.

"My Heart Beats Faster"
Jose's soothing voice - like liquid charm - seduces Eve by telling her "My Heart Beats Faster" in another deliciously entertaining song by Loesser. Montalban and Williams sway to the music but never touch for longer than a second in this number... yet it sizzles.

But it's not the ballad which sticks in your brain, it's the quirky contrapuntal duet "Baby, It's Cold Outside":
The Mouse: I really can't stay.
The Wolf: But, Baby, it's cold outside!
The Mouse: I've got to go 'way. 
The Wolf: But, Baby, it's cold outside!
  The Mouse: This evening has been  
The Wolf: Been hoping that you'd drop in!
The Mouse: so very nice.
The Wolf: I'll hold your hands, they're just like ice.
The Mouse: My mother will start to worry.
The Wolf: Beautiful, what's your hurry?
The Mouse:  And father will be pacing the floor!
The Wolf: Listen to the fireplace roar!
The Mouse: So really, I'd better scurry. 
The Wolf:  Beautiful, please don't hurry.
The Mouse: Well, maybe just a half a drink more. 
The Wolf: Put some records on while I pour.

This fun song of mutual flirtation was awarded  the Academy Award for Best Original Song. It has since become a perennial winter favorite around the world.
"Baby, It's Cold Outside"
However, the song has its origins in more intimate settings. Loesser and his wife Lynn would sing "Baby, It's Cold Outside" at parties. It became so popular that the entertainment at parties would be built around this song being the closing act.

According to the Loessers' daughter, Susan Loesser, in a memoir of a her father, A Most Remarkable Fella:

My mother treasured that song. She loved performing it. She loved the fact that it was theirs alone to perform for adoring audiences.

When Loesser sold the song to MGM for Neptune's Daughter, Lynn was less than thrilled:
I felt betrayed as if I'd caught him in bed with another woman. I kept saying "Esther Williams and Ricardo Montalban!!!" He finally sat me down and said, "If I don't let go of 'Baby' I'll begin to think I can never write another song as good as I think this one is." He had to let go of it.

This makes one wonder how many other wonderfully brilliant songs were only sung at parties or have faded away in someone's drawer and are now long gone.

For more Frank Loesser tunes in a film, Guys and Dolls (1955) is packed wall to wall with memorable songs. My favorite is "Adelaide," which was not in the original play, and written exclusively for Frank Sinatra's character in the film.


  1. I love how you describe this film as a "bathing suit fashion show".

  2. Thanks. Neptune's Daughter is a fun little film that's not meant to be any deeper than the pool in which Esther Williams swims. That's why it's just a fashion show. And don't we love it? :)


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