Sometimes luminaries in popular culture are called 'legends'. A legend is a story that has been handed down and is popularly regarded as historical but not authenticated. The legend of Annette Kellerman goes like this -- born in Marrickville, she recovered from polio as a child, invented the one-piece swimsuit, was arrested in Boston for wearing it and became a Hollywood movie star.
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I am still looking for my chest of gold in a cool dripping sea cave -- though a professional mermaid for the movies, I still wait to see my first real one sitting on a damp grey rock combing her long green hair.1 The exhibition Million Dollar Mermaid: Annette Kellerman features a visual installation projected onto a set, creating an immersive, sensory environment.
Annette Kellerman's successes in a number of fields are extraordinary. Born in Sydney in 1886, she became an international celebrity as an endurance swimmer, a highly paid entertainer of the vaudeville stage and a star of American silent films. She played a key role in popularising the modern one-piece swimsuit for women, became a successful businesswoman and wrote self-help books about health, beauty and exercise.
Despite being a huge star for MGM in the 1940s and 50s, Esther Williams’ most famous connection to Australia is arguably her role in the film Million Dollar Mermaid where she portrayed the early life of Annette Kellerman.
Part 3 in a series (click here for part one, and part two) I have been pretty inspired by recent research done by Einar Docker on Annette Kellerman here at the Museum and I was amazed to find that we have this casket in our collection.
Earlier in the year, I took a break from Registration duties to complete an internship in the Curatorial department under the guidance and supervision of Peter Cox, Curator of Australian Social History, as part of a Graduate Diploma in Museum Studies.