Neptune’s Daughter

Neptune's Daughter

Still shot courtesy of the author

Mistaken Identity

The third film to pair Esther Williams and Ricardo Montalban, and the second film to co-star Red Skelton, Neptune’s Daughter won the 1949 Academy Award for best original song and was an all-around hit. Exceptional when you consider that Esther Williams was pregnant with her first son Benjamin during filming – I can only imagine how exhausting her days must have been! But working through exhaustion wasn’t the only fateful twist to this film…

The song “Baby It’s Cold Outside” almost didn’t win that coveted Academy Award as it wasn’t the original song planned for the scene between Eve and Jose. The song originally chosen was “Slow Boat to China”, but due to MGM’s censors the song was cut and replaced – they felt that the lyrics were too suggestive, so the songwriter Frank Loesser was asked to write something new. In addition to the fantastic music, this film brought even more happiness to the public in the form of beautiful swimwear. Williams played a swimsuit designer in the movie, and in a case of life imitating art, she went on to create her own line of swimwear – copying several designs from the film (for which many of us are grateful!).

“No, I guess it’d be too obvious if I sat on his lap” – Betty

Plot Summary

This film greets us with a beautiful musical score and fun drawings of women in different swimsuits. After the credits we are quickly transported to a swim meet where we meet Joe Backett (Keenan Wynn) a business man, Eve Barrett (Esther Williams) a wonderful swimmer and Eve’s sister Betty Barrett (Betty Garrett). Joe has a plan to get champion swimmer Eve to become his business partner at his swimwear design company, however she has no plan to become a businesswoman and promptly refuses Joe, who remains determined to change her mind.

Neptune's Daughter

Still shot courtesy of the author

After some coaxing Eve accepts his proposal and decides to take on the challenge of designing swimwear. Business is booming, and Joe comes up with an idea to plan a swimming event in honor of the renowned South America polo team (who is in the area for a polo match). Betty finds out about the scheme and decides to visit the captain of the team, Jose O’Rourke (Ricardo Montalban) – a known playboy, in hopes of snagging him for her own.

We are then taken to the polo field where we see Jose get hit in the shoulder with a mallet, sending him to the onsite masseur Jack Spratt (Red Skelton). While Jack is working on Jose’s injured arm, he tells Jose that he is awkward and has had no success with women. Jose gives him some advice and encourages him to speak Spanish to attract women. The two quickly become friends and Jose leaves to get back to his game.

Betty soon shows up looking for Jose and, hearing that he is in the tack room, goes to find him there. Through some hilarious events Betty mistakes Jack for Jose – convinced that she can win him over, she invites him out. Finally getting some attention from a female, Jack decides to play along and not reveal that he is just an ordinary masseur and not a star polo player. The date goes great and when Betty gets home she tells Eve all about it and her new love Jose.

Eve, naturally protective of her sister, tries to dissuade her from dating anyone on the polo team – especially the captain. However, Betty has no interest in listening to her sister’s advice and continues to see Jose (or in this case – Jack who is still pretending to be a suave South American). Meanwhile, Eve invites the real Jose to the swimsuit factory so that she can talk some sense into him and ask him to leave her sister alone. While Eve is giving a tour of the factory the two meet and Jose is instantly taken by her beauty. Though Jose is confused by what Eve is asking him (since he has never met Betty) he plays along telling Eve he will stay away from her sister but that he would like to take her out on a date.

Neptune's Daughter

Still shot courtesy of the author

Eve agrees to said date, but only on grounds that she is doing so to keep him away from her sister. Jose tries to woo Eve but to no avail – their date ending with her deserting him at the stables. Meanwhile Betty and Jack’s relationship continues to grow more serious and when Eve finds out that Betty is still seeing “Jose” she is furious. Eve storms over to Jose’s apartment in hopes of catching the two together, but when she arrives Betty is nowhere to be found. Frustrated that she can’t find Betty, Eve begins to relax a little and Jose attempts to woo her again, this time making a little bit of progress. The two of them end up going out to a night club and dancing, where we are introduced to the crooked club owner Lukie. He learns Jose’s identity and quickly decides to kidnap him and place a winning bet on the polo game. Which Jose will Lukie kidnap? Will Betty and Eve find love? Will the truth come out?

“Can’t you get into enough trouble here without going below the border?” –Eve

Content for concern

Some scenes contain smoking, but it’s not glorified and while Jose is shown surrounded by many women fighting for his attention, nothing is excessive. Lastly, there is an implication that Jose has a hangover from a night of drinking.


Is this film really a fun, colorful, hilarious, musical adventure? Yes!! It is by far my favorite Esther Williams film – there are so many wonderful elements to it. The music is absolutely to die for and with Frank Loesser and Xavier Cugat – it’s not surprising. The dance and swim numbers are also wonderful – making you want to get up and dance or perhaps even go swimming. My vote for this film is an enthusiastic yes! If you are looking to laugh, swoon and cheer this is a film for your Friday night movie date…

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