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The Swimmer (1968)

Approved | | Drama | 9 August 1968 (Finland)
A man spends a summer day swimming as many pools as he can all over a quiet suburban town.


Frank Perry, Sydney Pollack (uncredited)


Eleanor Perry (screenplay), John Cheever (story)

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Cast overview, first billed only:
Burt Lancaster ... Ned Merrill
Janet Landgard ... Julie Hooper
Janice Rule ... Shirley Abbott
Tony Bickley Tony Bickley ... Donald Westerhazy
Marge Champion ... Peggy Forsburgh
Nancy Cushman Nancy Cushman ... Mrs. Halloran
Bill Fiore Bill Fiore ... Howie Hunsacker
David Garfield David Garfield ... Ticket Seller (as John Garfield Jr.)
Kim Hunter ... Betty Graham
Rose Gregorio Rose Gregorio ... Sylvia Finney
Charles Drake ... Howard Graham
Bernie Hamilton ... Chauffeur
House Jameson ... Mr. Halloran
Jimmy Joyce Jimmy Joyce ... Jack Finney
Michael Kearney Michael Kearney ... Kevin Gilmartin


Neddy Merrill has been away for most of the Summer. He reappears at a friend's pool. As they talk, someone notices that there are pools spanning the entire valley. He decided to jog from pool to pool to swim across the whole valley. As he stops in each pool his interactions tell his life story. Written by John Vogel <jlvogel@comcast.net>

Plot Summary | Add Synopsis


The famed John Cheever short story appeared in the New Yorker and people talked. Now there will be talk again. When you sense this man's vibrations and share his colossal hang-up . . . will you see someone you know, or love? When you feel the body-blow power of his broken dreams, will it reach you deep inside, where it hurts? When you talk about "The Swimmer" will you talk about yourself? See more »




Approved | See all certifications »

Parents Guide:

View content advisory »






Release Date:

9 August 1968 (Finland) See more »

Also Known As:

Der Schwimmer See more »

Filming Locations:

California, USA See more »

Company Credits

Show more on IMDbPro »

Technical Specs


Sound Mix:




Aspect Ratio:

1.85 : 1
See full technical specs »

Did You Know?


Producer Sam Spiegel recruited composer Marvin Hamlisch to compose the film's score after seeing him play the piano at a party. See more »


In the second shot of Ned pounding on the door of the empty house, the film is being run backwards - it's the same shot as before the interior of the house is seen through the broken window. See more »


[first lines]
Donald Westerhazy: Where have you been keeping yourself?
Ned Merrill: Oh, here and there. Here and there.
See more »


Referenced in Charade (1984) See more »

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User Reviews

Cleansing of the Soul
4 November 2003 | by sol1218See all my reviews

"The Swimmer" was a critical and financial disappointment back in 1968 when it was released because it was a subject matter that was never covered before in the movies, as far as I know. The film was so ahead of it's time that the viewers back then couldn't quite understand just what it was trying to tell them.

The movie starts off with Ned Merrill, Burt Lancaster, coming out of the woods in rural Connecticut wearing nothing more then bathing trunks to his neighbors Donald and Helen Westerhazy, Tony Bickley and Diana Vander Vils, home. After impulsively taking a dive into the Westerhazy's swimming pool Ned gets the idea of going home by swimming in all of his neighbors pools, that ring the neighborhood, until he reaches his home on the other side of the woods.

The Westerhazy's seem happy and at the same time surprised to see Ned who seems, by their conversation with him, to have been away for some time. From what we can gather from the talk between Ned and the Westerhazy's Ned's, or Naddy as they call him, a very successful person in both his work and his marriage to his lovely wife Lucinda with whom he has two beautiful daughters; in short Ned is a success in everything that he ever did.

We first begin to notice that there's something wrong with what Ned's talking about himself and his wife and daughters when his neighbors seem startled and taken back a bit by Ned's boasting, that's the only word I can come up with in regards to the way Ned is talking about himself. The Westerhazy's want to say something but settle not to and seem to play along with Ned's story telling. It's like you would do with a youngster who's making up things in order not to hurt his or her feelings.

As Ned starts to swim from swimming pool to swimming pool every one of his neighbors who's pool he swims through begin to put a piece of the puzzle of Ned's life into place. Even the swimming pools that Ned swims through begin to take a different look like the insight that the audience gets about Ned's past.

Going from swimming pools in private homes and mansions to the public pool at the local recreation center where Ned has to borrow .50 cents, which came as a great shock and embarrassment to him and his ego, to swim in. We also begin to see during his swimming adventures in the movie Ned slowly being worn down. Vigorous and athletic looking in the beginning of the film, for a 50 or so year-old, Ned turns into a broken down and pathetic looking old man toward the end.

Even though the movie doesn't come right out and say it the audience comes to see just what Ned is really all about through the people that he meets, who reveal bit's and piece's of his past, in his quest to swim home through their swimming pools; And at the same time so does Ned by the time he makes it home.

Ned's the type of person that everyone watching the movie can either relate to or identify with as someone that everyone's come across in their life. Ned's a person who lives in a dream world that he built around himself and doesn't want to see reality until it hits him right between the eyes. You have to see the movie a number of times to realize what it's trying to tell you about Ned: What he's all about? Where does he come from? What's the story with his wife and daughters? What did he have to do with those neighbors that he comes in contact with in the movie and most of all what state of mind is Ned in?

You somehow begin to realize that there's something wrong with Ned almost as soon as you see him but you just can't put your finger on it. "The Swimmer" makes you think, as soon as the credits start to roll down the screen, where you know that something isn't quite right with the picture and the person in it but it takes some ninety five minutes to see it for what it is. The movie does it by putting together all the swimming pools that Ned swims through like some kind of cleansing of Ned's soul that conditions him for the hard reality that's about to strike him at the conclusion of the film.

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