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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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A documentary about the making of the cult film The Swimmer (1968).

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Forced to trade his valuable furs for a well-educated escaped slave, a rugged trapper vows to recover the pelts from the Indians and later the renegades that killed them.

Director: Sydney Pollack
Stars: Burt Lancaster, Shelley Winters, Telly Savalas


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


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:

Westport, Connecticut, USA See more »

Company Credits

Production Co:

Horizon Pictures See more »
Show more on IMDbPro »

Technical Specs


Sound Mix:




Aspect Ratio:

1.85 : 1
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Did You Know?


Lyricist Charles Burr wrote lyrics to the main theme, titling the song "Send For Me In Summer". No vocal version was ever recorded and the lyrics were never made public, although the instrumental theme has also become known by that title. See more »


At the Biswangers, a man climbs to the top of the cover over the pool and falls in, yet is not in the pool in the next shot where Ned is looking in the direction of the pool. 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 Ulysse & Mona (2018) See more »

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User Reviews

One of Two Morality Tales of the Era That Hit a Nerve
22 October 2015 | by kckidjoseph-1See all my reviews

EVERYONE has films that for some strange reason, seemingly completely out of sync with one's age and place and station in life at the time, resonate and then some, impacting that person for years to come.

For me, the two that stand out in that regard are 1968's "The Swimmer" and 1973's "Save the Tiger," both dark character studies dealing with morality, amorality and the twists and turns of complex lives not always so well lived by their middle-aged characters.

Why I identified with these characters at such an early age myself I have no idea, only that their serpentine screen dilemmas provided a kind of moral road map in the real world, at least for me, and did their jobs as cinematic storytellers in staying with me all these years, still.

"The Swimmer," taken from a short story by John Cheever, stars Burt Lancaster as Neddy, an upper-class Connecticut man whom we find lounging poolside with friends in an affluent suburb.

It occurs to him that he can "swim home" by visiting pools of friends and acquaintances, a route that he sees as a kind of "river."

As the man swims, we begin to understand more and more about his life, or think we do, and he evolves through conversations, confrontations and offhand comments, until he winds up ingloriously at a public pool and, finally, standing shivering in the pouring rain before the gates of his mansion in one of filmdom's most surprising endings.

Many fascinating characters people the film, played by many a recognizable face, including Joan Rivers (yes, that Joan Rivers), John Garfield Jr. (son of the great noir star), Janice Rule, Marge Champion (dancer-choreographer Gower Champion's better half), Kim Hunter and Janet Landgard.

The film was directed by Frank Perry (with some scenes overseen by Robert Redford's frequent collaborator, Sydney Pollack, who is uncredited), with a screenplay by Perry's wife, Eleanor.

"Save the Tiger" stars Jack Lemmon as Harry Stoner, a clothing manufacturer who is undergoing the loss of youthful idealism as he weighs whether or not to pay an arsonist to torch his factory so he can survive financially through the insurance settlement. His friend and business partner is played by an extraordinarily effective Jack Gilford, a rubber-faced actor with the saddest eyes you'll ever see best known to a generation as the Cracker Jack man.

Like Lancaster's Neddy in "The Swimmer," Lemmon's Stoner in "Tiger" is undergoing more than an evolution, but a breakdown, not only emotionally, but spiritually as well. Each story is a type of first-person morality play as seen through the eyes of these central characters.

Lemmon won the best actor Oscar for his performance (beating out, among others, Redford, for his turn in "The Sting"), and the film was voted best drama by the Writers Guild of America.

Both films seem to have evaporated into the mists of time, little remembered or considered by generations that came after.

But they've stayed with me, I like to think because they were both beautifully rendered and had something worthwhile to say, expressing it uniquely and well.

If you're in the mood for thought-provoking character studies that will stay with you long after viewing, and for all the right reasons, I recommend giving them a look.

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