7.7/10
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146 user 84 critic

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.

Directors:

Frank Perry, Sydney Pollack (uncredited)

Writers:

Eleanor Perry (screenplay), John Cheever (story)
Reviews
1 win. See more awards »

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Cast

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
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Storyline

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

Taglines:

Burt Lancaster hits the screen with a bolt of personal drama as "The Swimmer" See more »

Genres:

Drama

Certificate:

Approved | See all certifications »

Parents Guide:

View content advisory »
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Details

Country:

USA

Language:

English

Release Date:

9 August 1968 (Finland) See more »

Also Known As:

The Swimmer See more »

Filming Locations:

Westport, Connecticut, USA See more »

Company Credits

Production Co:

Horizon Pictures See more »
Show more on IMDbPro »

Technical Specs

Runtime:

Sound Mix:

Mono

Color:

Color

Aspect Ratio:

1.85 : 1
See full technical specs »
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Did You Know?

Trivia

Kim Hunter: As Betty Graham. See more »

Goofs

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 »

Quotes

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

Connections

Referenced in The Story of the Swimmer (2014) See more »

Frequently Asked Questions

See more »

User Reviews

 
Swimming for Eden
21 September 2005 | by judsonknSee all my reviews

Judging by the comments here, apparently I'm not the only one who was incredibly moved by this masterpiece--a masterpiece of storytelling on Cheever's part, that is, and a more than passable film portrayal of what one might call "the perfect short story." If HBO had existed in the 1960s, and Rod Serling had written for it, this is what "Twilight Zone" might have looked like: a tangled, twisted terrain of the human psyche that leads to the deepest of our fears--and the most profound of our hopes. The stakes for Ned Merrill, as we come to discover, are about as high as they can be for any character not caught in a literal life and death struggle. But he might as well be, judging by the size and fearsomeness of the phantoms that haunt his way. For this reason I think I'd say that other than *Glengarry Glen Ross,* this is the most terrifying film ever made.

In contrast to many others, however, I don't think Ned is delusional: I think he's spent so long believing his own publicity, as it were, that he hasn't fully accepted what has happened to him. (And of course, "what has happened to him" is almost entirely of his own making, which makes his predicament all the more painful because it seems to offer no hope of redemption.) And he's clearly one of those hail-fellow-well-met types who, when he promises he's going to do something for someone--as he continually does in the movie, right up to the point where he promises to pay his bill to a local proprietor--he truly means it, at least in the moment.

Additionally, "The Swimmer" seems like far too profound a work to tie it to themes as dreary and shopworn as the emptiness of suburban life or the dark side of the American dream. Granted, a great deal of powerful literature, dating back at least to Nathanael West's *Day of the Locust*, has been written around the second of these ideas, but "The Swimmer" seems to speak to something much deeper, a haunted place in the human soul. In the ads for the movie--which, in sharp contrast to the brilliant development of the story itself, attempted to lay out all the details in a way at once pedantic and almost pandering (as previews in those days tended to be), a voice-over asks if the viewer might see Ned in him- or herself.

*The Swimmer* is an epic, but an unusual one. Not because of the small scale and the deceptively trivial-seeming stakes involved it the epic journey--that's an idea Joyce introduced years earlier in *Ulysses*--but because of that journey's destination. Ned isn't going toward a new land, but back--back to nothing short of Eden. And if it's an epic, then he's a hero of sorts, and not entirely an antihero either. After all, even with all the things you learn about him along the way, it's hard not to root for Ned Merrill.


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