Neptune's Daughter, released in 1949 and directed by Edward Buzzell, was the most popular of all the "aquamusicals" that Esther Williams starred in for Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer.
Eve Barrett (Williams) is a champion swimmer who shares a Los Angeles apartment with her sister Betty (Betty Garrett). She's also a successful businesswoman, running a swimsuit company with Joe Backett (Keenan Wynn), who harbors an unrequited crush on her.
Both sisters perk up at the news that a South American polo team is coming to LA for a big match: Eve because she can stage a swimsuit exhibition alongside the event, Betty because it gives her a chance to hook up with a hunky Latino polo player.
Betty shows up at the country club where the polo team in staying and meets a man who she thinks is Jose O'Rourke, the dashing captain of the South American team. It's actually Jack Spratt (Red Skelton), the club's dorky masseur. Jack, thrilled to get any attention from a woman, plays along. Meanwhile, the real Jose O'Rourke (Ricardo Montalbán) visits the swimsuit company and becomes smitten with Eve. After Betty brags about her romance with "Jose", Eve decides to date him, just to keep him away from her sister. But some gamblers eager to throw the match also have eyes on Jose.
Hilarity Ensues. As does swimming. And polo.
Best remembered today for its song score by Frank Loesser, highlighted by "Baby, It's Cold Outside", which won the Academy Award for Best Original Song. It also features Mel Blanc's most substantial live action film role, as Pancho, the South American polo team's manager.
Baby, there's Tropes outside
- All Women Are Lustful: Betty embodies this trope as much as a woman in a 1949 Hollywood film possibly could. Her big musical number is called "I Love Those Men", then she takes the "wolf" part in the reprise of "Baby, It's Cold Outside".
- Beta Couple: Technically Betty and Jack, but they get about the same amount of screen time as Eve and Jose.
- Breaking the Fourth Wall: It opens and closes with Joe talking to the audience.
- Busby Berkeley Number: Of course, it wouldn't be an Esther Williams movie if it didn't climax with one. This time, it's accompanied by Xavier Cugat and his orchestra, features spotlights and underwater photography, and a bunch of swimmers diving into the pool from a the deck of a mock ship.
- Date Rape: The lyrics of "Baby, It's Cold Outside" have garnered much latter-day controversy because of their seeming undertone of this trope. While Frank Loesser had actually written the song a few years earlier (for him and his wife to sing at parties), this was its first public unveiling, and its presentation in the film gives the song clear context, averting the problem. Eve, who's uptight and serious, agrees to go out with Jose, under the flimsy pretext of keeping him away from Betty, but obviously she's falling for him. Meanwhile, Jose is a Ladykiller in Love. So she sings the "mouse" part trying to deny her own feelings. The song's most notorious line, "Say, what's in this drink?", is actually Deadpan Snark, since she saw him pour the drink. Jose in the "wolf" role is being playful, rather than conniving. But after they're done we cut to Betty and Jack. Here, Betty is the sexually aggressive one, while Jack, as a bit of a clumsy Manchild, is very nervous and doesn't know what to do, so they repeat the song but Gender Flip the roles.
- Did I Mention It's Christmas?: Averted before "Baby, It's Cold Outside", since Jose specifically states that it's summer.
- Dumb Muscle: Mac Mazolla, the thug sent to kidnap Jose, played by one of The Golden Age of Hollywood's top practitioners of the trope, Mike Mazurki.
- The Ditz: Betty pretty well defines "scatterbrained".
- Getting Crap Past the Radar:
- Besides "Baby, It's Cold Outside" (which was quite scandalous in some quarters at the time), there's a lot of innuendo that flirts with violating the Hays Code, like the record that Betty thinks is "Jose" speaking words of love suddenly announcing "and now, please, turn over."
- Some of those pre-bikini two-piece swimsuits are rather revealing.
- Without being bluntly specific, Jose deftly gets Jack to admit he's a virgin.
- Latin Lover: Jose, stereotypical but also self-aware.
- Mistaken Identity: The majority of the plot is based on Jack Spratt being mistaken for Jose O'Rourke, thanks to a series of comedic circumstances.
- Reality Has No Subtitles: There's a surprisingly healthy amount of untranslated Spanish in the film, which provides a few Bilingual Bonuses. One example is the Spanish instruction record that Jack lip syncs to—instead of seductive talk, it's actually about different types of food.
- Really Gets Around: Jose and Betty.
- Romantic Runner-Up: Joe, but he gets to keep the swimsuit company.
- Seduction Lyric: "Baby, It's Cold Outside" is probably the film's most durable legacy.
- Serious Business: Polo, about as specialized a sport as there can be (since it requires trained horses), is treated like a massively popular spectacle, with a foreign team visiting America being a huge, huge deal.
- Slapstick: The whole point of having Red Skelton in the film, but Ricardo Montalbán gets to do a little bit too, with the vial that gets stuck on his finger.
- Unfortunate Names: Jack Spratt really is his name, which gets Lampshaded.