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This Time for Keeps is an American romantic musical film released in 1947 and produced by MGM. It is about a soldier, returning home from war who does not wish to work for his father's opera company or to continue his relationship with his pre-war lover. It stars Esther Williams, Jimmy Durante, Johnnie Johnston and Lauritz Melchior and it was directed by Richard Thorpe. The film was shot in color on location at the Grand Hotelmarker, on Mackinac Islandmarker in Michiganmarker. This Time for Keeps became the second film in which Williams's name was first billed above the title, after Fiesta.


Richard Herald (Lauritz Melchior) is a famous opera singer and father to Richard Herald II, who has recently returned from fighting in the war, and now prefers to be known as Dick Johnson (Johnnie Johnston). Dick has been engaged to socialite Frances Allenbury (Mary Stuart) since before he left for the war, and has been expressing some apprehension about marrying her.

Mr. Herald wants his son to join him at the opera company, but Dick wants to enjoy his life now that he’s out of the army. While speaking to his father backstage after a show, he sees a magazine featuring Leonora Cambaretti, an aquacade star. As it turns out, after Mr. Herald received an injury during the war, he stayed at a hospital where Leonora performed for the patients. Dick, who had yet to have his bandages removed from his eyes and head, though he is healed, couldn’t see Nora, and the men described her beauty to him as her family’s friend, Ferdi Farro (Jimmy Durante) played on the piano. Thinking he is blind, Nora allowed Dick to touch her face and then kissed him, only to then find out that he was able to see, and she swam away.

Now, Nora is performing as the star of the Aqua Capers show. Dick finds Nora, and after giving her another kiss, he gets his nose twisted as punishment. Nora misunderstands why Dick is there to see her, and offers him a job with the show, but Ferdi then convinces his friend Xavier Cugat to give job a position as a baritone at his night club.

After an Aqua Capers performance, Dick and Nora go to dinner together. When Nora arrives back at the hotel, Ferdi reminds her that she barely knows anything about Dick. At rehearsal the next day, Nora tells Dick that before they can fall in love, he has to pass inspection from her family, back on Mackinac Islandmarker. Dick leaves with Nora while Frances's mother, Harriet meets with Richard and agrees to announce their children's engagement.

On the island, Dick meets Nora’s grandmother (May Whitty) and niece, Deborah, (Sharon McManus), who warm up to him after he sings Grandmother’s favorite song, ‘’(I’ll be with You) In Apple Blossom Time’’. Meanwhile, Ferdi and Gordon find that Dick’s engagement has been announced in the newspaper and try to think of a way to let Nora know. When the two return home, they each discover the engagement announcement separately. Nora is heartbroken, and Gordon arranges for her to stay somewhere far away from Dick and her Grandmother, since Dick would know where to find her if she were there. Dick arrives just as she leaves, only to be confronted by Ferdi. Six weeks later, Mr. Herald arrives as an Aqua Capers rehearsal in an attempt to find Nora, in case Dick is with her, but Ferdi will not tell him, though he knows where both of them are. Ferdi goes to see Dick at Xavier Cugat’s club, where he accuses Ferdi of being in love with Nora as well.

Meanwhile, summer has arrived on Mackinac Island, and tourists are flooding the island. Xavier Cugat’s band has a contract to perform at the Grand Hotelmarker, and Dick goes with them. Deborah, knowing that Nora has arrived by boat, hurries to the hotel and notifies Dick. Dick loads Deborah onto her bicycle and rides all the way to the Cambaretti house to speak with Nora. Nora tells him that she couldn’t be with him because she would never know whether or not he was lying to her, and he leaves. Ferdi invites Mr. Herald to the island, where he apologizes to Grandmother Cambaretti for placing the announcement in the newspaper. He also recognizes her from her old days as a performer in the circus. The two decide that the children should be married and come up with a way to push the two together.

While Nora is at the swimming pool of the hotel, teaching Deborah to dive and swim, Dick begins singing "Easy to Love" with Xavier Cugat's female vocalist, which makes Deborah jealous and Gordon leave. That night, Nora decides she is going to go after Gordon, but Ferdi convinces her otherwise. Mr. Herald takes Grandmother to listen to Dick's performance at the hotel, where he convinces Xavier Cugat to fire his son and then begins to sing for the audience when Nora arrives with Ferdi. He stops singing "La donna è mobile" and begins "Easy to Love", during which Nora gets up and sits next to Dick, where they hold hands and snuggle into each other.

Main cast


  • "Easy to Love - Johnny Johnston
  • "I Love to Dance" - Xavier Cugat and His Orchestra
  • "I'm the Man Who Found the Lost Chord" - Jimmy Durante
  • "La donna è mobile" - Lauritz Melchior
  • "A Little Bit This and a Little Bit That" - Jimmy Durante
  • "Inka Dinka Doo" - Jimmy Durante
  • "M'Appari" - Lauritz Melchior
  • "I'll Be with You in Apple Blossom Time" - Johnny Johnston
  • "S'No Wonder They Fell in Love" - Johnny Johnston, Esther Williams and Sharon McManus
  • "Ora è per sempre addio" - Lauritz Melchior


Esther Williams was pregnant during the filming of This Time for Keeps, but later suffered a miscarriage.

This was the third of four films Williams made with director Dick Thorpe. Williams disliked Thorpe from the start, and the feeling was mutual. "Dick didn't like people who were too cheerful, which meant that he took an instant dislike to me," wrote Williams in her autobiography.

To convey the sense of outdoorsy, country small town life in the film, Irene decided to use a lot of plaid in the costumes. She designed a swimsuit for Williams made out of lumberjack plaid flannel. "It absorbed water like crazy. I dove into the pool and tried to swim, but the suit just dragged me to the bottom. It was like trying to swim while wrapped in an old army blanket. I actually had trouble keeping my head above water" wrote Williams in The Million Dollar Mermaid. "Finally, I reached around me, tugged at the zipper, and watched as the suit quickly sank to the bottom of the deep end of the pool." Williams's assistant had to cut holes in a towel to place around her as she exited the pool, as the set was surrounded by tourists.

Johnston, was having a long-term affair with Kathryn Grayson (whom he would later marry) and in her autobiography, Williams wrote that he would read Grayson's intimate letters aloud to the girls in his fan club, including the "all-too-graphic details concerning what she liked about his love-making."


Critical response

A 1947 New York Times review of the film called it a "very dull show, consciously cute and embarrassingly cloying for most of its over-extended length.

Home media

On October 6, 2009, Turner Entertainment released This Time for Keeps on DVD as part of the Esther Williams Spotlight Collection, Volume 2. The 6 disc set was a follow up to the company's Esther Williams Spotlight Collection, Volume 1, and contains digitally remastered versions of several of Williams's films including Thrill of a Romance (1945), Fiesta (1947), Pagan Love Song (1950), Million Dollar Mermaid (1952) and Easy to Love (1953).


  4. The Million Dollar Mermaid: An Autobiography, By Esther Williams, Digby Diehl, Published by Harcourt Trade, 2000, ISBN 0156011352, 9780156011358

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