Esther Williams

Esther Williams, the swimmer who went on to become an actress, died early Thursday morning in her sleep, The Associated Press reports. She was 91.

Born in Inglewood, Calif., Williams displayed an interest in swimming from an early age and went on to compete in swimming competitively in the 1930s. In 1939, she was a member of many champion relay teams and also won the Women's Outdoor Nationals title in the 100-meter freestyle. When World War II forced the cancellation of the 1940 Olympics, Williams decided to pursue a different, more lucrative career, according to the AP.

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She worked in retail briefly before she was tapped to model swimwear at the World's Fair. Beginning in the 1940s, Williams began acting in films and went on to star alongside Frank Sinatra and Gene Kelly in such Technicolor films as Dangerous When Wet, Easy to Wed and Neptune's Daughter, in roles that allowed her to showcase her aquatic abilities.

In 1962, Williams married her Dangerous When Wet co-star Fernando Lamas, her third trip down the aisle, and retired from public life. She re-emerged after Lamas' death in 1982 and co-hosted coverage of synchronized swimming at the 1984 Olympics. She also produced an instructional swimming video for children and sponsored her own line of swimsuits, the AP reports.

She is survived by three children from her marriage to radio announcer Ben Gage, whom she divorced in 1958.

Check out one of Williams' swimming sequences below: