Bermuda Postcards sometimes tell rather amazing stories of Bermuda’s past. One such as of Annette Kellermann and the first movie to gross $1,000.000.

Produced by Universal Studios at the then huge cost of $35,000, the 1914 ‘Neptune’s Daughter’ was filmed in Bermuda – largely at Crystal Cave and the Hamilton Princess Hotel where the company stayed. Underwater scenes were filmed at the Bermuda Biological Station, then located on Agar’s Island.

In ‘Neptune’s Daughter’ the daughter of King Neptune, starring Annette Kellermann, determine to avenge the death of her sister who was caught in a fishing net, however, she falls in love with the king upon whom she planned to take her revenge. ‘Neptune’s daughter’ was based on Annette Kellermann’s idea of “a water fantasy movie with beautiful mermaids in King Neptune’s garden together with a good love story.”

Fortunately for Universal Studios ‘Neptune’s Daughter’ proved a huge success and grossed $1,000,000, largely due to the popularity of Annette Kellermann, an Australian swimmer with many records to her credit. In 1906 she performed her vaudeville aquatic act in Chicago, Boston and New York where she earned $1,250 a week! Unfortunately the Boston police was not amused by her one piece, skirtless bathing suit, and promptly arrested her. This did not diminish her popularity and established her as a fighter for women’s rights.

In ‘Neptune’s Daughter’ Annette Kellermann performed her own stunts, including an 18-meter dive into a pool containing five crocodiles. Her sister recalled that although “she was in and out almost before her back was wet … for months after she would wake up screaming”. Unfortunately while filming a fight scene on Agar’s Island, the glass front of the tank gave way, slightly injuring Miss Kellermann and seriously cutting the villain. Technically a mermaid, her outfit as Neptune’s Daughter consisted of nothing but a body stocking and a flowing wig, giving the impression of total nudity!

Judged the ‘perfect woman’ from 10,000 contestants in the USA – though she quipped “from the neck down” – Annette Kellermann was a strong advocate of swimming for physical health, fitness and beauty and in 1918 published “Physical Beauty and how to Keep It” and the autobiographical “How to Swim”. She died in 1975 at the age of 89 in Australia. A film of her life, “Million Dollar Mermaid”, starring Esther Williams, appeared in 1952.

Rambling Notes of a Bermuda Philatelist published in December 2023 and is available at bookstores island-wide.