Like Johnny Weissmuller and Buster Crabbe before her, Esther Williams achieved the seemingly impossible by transforming her skill at competitive swimming into a popular movie career. A star athlete and Olympic hopeful in her teens, she gained her earliest exposure to show business as the female lead in showman Billy Rose's Aquacade. Executives at MGM who saw her swimming abilities and pin-up worthy looks signed her immediately to a contract with the studio. There she starred in a series of musicals built around Williams' extraordinarily graceful water ballets. Audiences ate up the ultra-lightweight fare, making her one of the most popular movie stars of the 1940s and 1950s, though her career declined whenever she decided to pursue roles on dry land. After retiring in the early sixties, she parlayed her association with all things aquatic into lucrative licensing deals for ladies' swimwear and swimming pools. Due to these savvy decisions, she enjoyed her later decades out of spotlight and lived to be 91, with her physically fit background likely contributing to her longevity.