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Our holdings include hundreds of glass and film negatives/transparencies that we've scanned ourselves; in addition, many other photos on this site were extracted from reference images (high-resolution tiffs) in the Library of Congress research archive. (To query the database click here.) They are adjusted, restored and reworked by your webmaster in accordance with his aesthetic sensibilities before being downsized and turned into the jpegs you see here. All of these images (including "derivative works") are protected by copyright laws of the United States and other jurisdictions and may not be sold, reproduced or otherwise used for commercial purposes without permission.

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[REV 25-NOV-2014]

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Mermaid on Skis: 1953

Mermaid on Skis: 1953

February 1953. "Actress Esther Williams and cast of the film Easy to Love rehearsing and filming water skiing sequences at Cypress Gardens, Winter Haven, Florida." Ektachrome transparency by Phillip Harrington for the Look magazine assignment "Esther Williams: Mermaid on Skis." View full size.

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A major attraction at the time

Cypress Gardens was THE premiere tourist attraction in Central Florida up until Walt Disney World opened. There was a short Indian Summer after that for the park but even after they built a straight shot 4 lane highway from US 27 to the park's front gate it suffered mightily after all the other attractions opened around Orlando and went through several different owners before giving up the ghost. With it now being a Legoland it should recover I hope. I wonder if the electric boat ride through the botanical gardens is still there. Of course, the pool shaped like Florida built for this movie was big in 60's when I lived around there.


After struggling for years and then closing, Cypress Gardens has been recycled as Florida's Legoland.

Beautiful Lady, Good Sport

Ms. Williams often found herself performing hazardous physical stunts that many of today's actresses might categorically refuse to do, such as being carried aloft on rickety platforms or clinging to a trapeze for precision dives into obstacle-strewn water.

Nobody ever accused Esther Williams of not earning her paycheck.

I've been there!!

My parents and I were at Cypress Gardens in July or early August of 1953, when I was 7, and I can remember the wonder I felt at watching the girls skim over the water. I learned to water ski when I was about 13 or 14 and always wanted to be one of those girls. Never made it! But it sure was fun to watch them.

Look out!

Have seen many a clip of these Esther Williams scenes, but seeing this one static and close makes me think: My God, this is a watery train wreck waiting to happen! Over on the left, two guys have their lines crossed, skis are pointed in all directions, and everybody is pretty darn close together. How they filmed these things without ending up towing a tangled mass of ropes, bodies, and skis I cannot imagine.

Busby Berkeley

The spectacular skiing sequence was choreographed by Berkeley.

My Dad was there

Dad was a performer and water ski instructor there at that time. It is hard to tell if he is in this image, but I will send him a link, and see what he thinks.

SHORPY OLD PHOTO ARCHIVE | History in HD is a vintage photo archive featuring thousands of high-definition images from the 1850s to 1960s. (Available as fine-art prints from the Shorpy Archive.) The site is named after Shorpy Higginbotham, a teenage coal miner who lived 100 years ago.

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