Esther Williams publicity photograph c. 1952. Unknown photographer

Esther Williams Exhibition Lands September Debut At The Catalina Island Museum

Esther Williams was known as “America’s Mermaid” during Hollywood’s Golden Era of filmmaking, and the late actress will be front and center with the national debut of “Esther Williams: The Swimming Queen of the Silver Screen” at the Catalina Island Museum on September 6.

The exhibition which chronicles Esther Williams’ transition from an athlete swimmer to a movie star, will feature over 70 items from private lenders and family members’ personal collections.

Catalina Island has been a desired filming location for over 100 years, and it also served as the site for Williams’ aqua-musical films. The actress’ film credits include Bathing Beauty, Skirts Ahoy!, Million Dollar Mermaid and Andy Hardy’s Double Life (her debut film).

“Esther Williams was a woman of vim, vigor and undeniable talent. We are so proud to honor her legacy with our Swimming Queen of the Silver Screen exhibition,” said Julie Perlin Lee, Executive Director of the Catalina Island Museum. “The exhibition allows audiences the opportunity to reconnect and learn about the iconic life of Esther Williams as a champion swimmer, a major box office star, a pioneer of synchronized swimming, an entrepreneur, and of course, about her connection to Catalina.”

Items featured include the gown worn by Williams in Jupiter’s Darling (on loan from Los Angeles’ Fashion Institute of Design and Merchandising Museum) and a “Yes, I Still Swim” pillow gifted to Williams by Barbara Walters. This is the first exhibition that is focused exclusive on Williams, and the exhibition will run through March 8, 2020.

Tickets for “Esther Williams: The Swimming Queen of the Silver Screen” are $17 (for adults), $15 for seniors, students (with valid ID), and military members (active and veterans). Children 15 years and younger receive free admission with a paid adult admission. Museum members receive free admission.

Catalina Island Museum invites patrons to attend the opening reception on September 6 for a celebration worthy of a movie star. In conjunction with the museum’s First Fridays at the Museum program, the official opening reception includes a fashion show launching the arrival of the Esther Williams Swimsuit Collection run by her daughter and son-in-law that can be found in the Catalina Island Museum Store throughout this exhibition. 

Esther Williams: The Swimming Queen of the Silver Screen will be on view in the Catalina Island Museum’s Artists’ Plaza Gallery through March 8, 2020, and is accessible with general admission museum tickets. Tickets are $17 for adults, $15 for seniors (60+), students (with valid ID), and members of the military (active and veterans). Children 15 years old and younger receive free admission with a paid adult admission. Members of the museum receive free admission.


Greg Srisavasdi

I've been a movie reviewer/interview since 1991 (as a UCLA Daily Bruin scribe), worked at Westwood One, Deepest Dream owner, co-editor of Hollywood Outbreak, podcast co-host of "CinemAddicts" and "Matt and Greg Used To Interview Movie Stars." I can be reached at for inquiries or whatever the case may be!

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