BEVERLY HILLS ( — Former American competitive swimmer and MGM movie star Esther Williams died Thursday at the age of 91.

Williams, who had been declining in health, died in her sleep in Beverly Hills, according to her publicist, Harlan Boll.

The Inglewood native became one of Hollywood’s biggest moneymakers in the 1940s and ’50s, appearing in spectacular “Aqua Musicals” that capitalized on her wholesome beauty and perfect figure, film critic and historian Leonard Maltin told KNX 1070.

American movie star Esther Williams in 1947. (credit: CORR/AFP/Getty Images)

American movie star Esther Williams poses with a board as she is going to compete the “Ironing board derby” between Catalina island and the Californian coast 25 August 1947. (credit: CORR/AFP/Getty Images)

Such films as “Easy to Wed,” ”Neptune’s Daughter” and “Dangerous When Wet” followed the same formula: romance, music, a bit of comedy and a flimsy plot that provided excuses to get Esther into the water.

The extravaganzas dazzled a second generation via television and the compilation films “That’s Entertainment.” Williams’ co-stars included the pick of the MGM contract list, including Gene Kelly, Frank Sinatra, Red Skelton, Ricardo Montalban and Howard Keel.

She retired from the film industry in the 1960s.

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(TM and © Copyright 2013 CBS Local Media, a division of CBS Radio Inc. and its relevant subsidiaries. CBS RADIO and EYE Logo TM and Copyright 2013 CBS Broadcasting Inc. Used under license. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed. The Associated Press contributed to this report.)


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