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Original Million Dollar Mermaid

The Annette Kellerman story

Original Million Dollar Mermaid by Emily Gibson
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In the early twentieth century, a young Australian woman became one of the highest paid and most adored Hollywood and vaudeville stars of the day. Her name was Annette Kellerman.

Born into a musical family in suburban Sydney in 1886, Annette's first love was performing. Yet when she took up swimming to overcome a childhood illness, she quickly found herself breaking records and beating the boys—and loving it.

When the Depression hit, Annette and her father headed for England to seek their fortune. It was to be the start of a dazzling international career. After winning over Londoners with her death-defying swims in the Thames and the English Channel, she was soon wowing them at the Palladium with her trademark vaudeville act: a performance that included diving into a giant glass tank where she captivated the crowds with her graceful and athletic underwater ballet.

Hollywood beckoned and Annette quickly became the darling of the silent film era, starring in the first-ever million-dollar film, Daughter of the Gods. She was soon a household name; dubbed ‘The Perfect Woman', crowds queued for blocks to see her on the screen, men flocked to catch a glimpse her provocative costumes—or lack thereof-and women thronged to hear her views on health and fitness.

Annette's life was often controversial but always exhilarating, and was immortalised in the 1950s Esther Williams classic The Million Dollar Mermaid. Yet she was to end her days alone and penniless on Queensland's Gold Coast, selling her old fur coat to pay the bills.

Strong minded and fiercely brave, Annette Kellerman high-dived onto the international stage, challenging preconceptions of how women should look, act and think, and capturing the hearts of a generation. Here, for the first time ever, is her extraordinary story.

Allen & Unwin; April 2005
240 pages; ISBN 9781741152616
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Title: Original Million Dollar Mermaid
Author: Emily Gibson; Barbara Firth