The Swimmer (1968)

94 mins | Drama | 15 May 1968

Director:

Frank Perry

Writer:

Eleanor Perry

Producers:

Frank Perry, Roger Lewis

Cinematographer:

David Quaid

Production Designer:

Peter Dohanos

Production Company:

Horizon Pictures
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HISTORY

A news item in the 18 Mar 1965 DV announced that husband-and-wife filmmaking duo Frank and Eleanor Perry would make a feature film adaptation of John Cheever’s short story, “The Swimmer,” marking the first time Cheever’s work would be made into a theatrical motion picture, as stated in the 14 Aug 1966 NYT. When the story had been first published in the 18 Jul 1964 issue of The New Yorker, Eleanor Perry had immediately envisioned it as a movie, but she had had a hard time convincing her husband of the story’s cinematic potential. Others, including Edward Albee, expressed interest in optioning “The Swimmer,” but Cheever decided to entrust the Perrys with the adaptation after receiving a letter from Eleanor. She went on to write four drafts of the script and only showed Cheever the final version, to which he gave some critiques and made dialogue suggestions.
       An item in the 20 May 1965 DV stated that Robert Q. Lewis had been cast. At the time, shooting was scheduled to begin in mid-Jun 1965. It was delayed, however, due to the casting of Burt Lancaster, who would not be available until Jun 1966, according to articles in the 15 Nov 1965 DV and 14 Aug 1966 NYT. Lancaster, who was skilled in acrobatics, boxing, and horseback riding, was an amateur swimmer, so University of California at Los Angeles’s (UCLA) swimming coach, Bob Horn, was recruited to train him. Over the course of three months, Horn and Lancaster trained at Lancaster’s home pool in Bel Air, CA, and at the UCLA swimming pool. After working with him, Horn ... More Less

A news item in the 18 Mar 1965 DV announced that husband-and-wife filmmaking duo Frank and Eleanor Perry would make a feature film adaptation of John Cheever’s short story, “The Swimmer,” marking the first time Cheever’s work would be made into a theatrical motion picture, as stated in the 14 Aug 1966 NYT. When the story had been first published in the 18 Jul 1964 issue of The New Yorker, Eleanor Perry had immediately envisioned it as a movie, but she had had a hard time convincing her husband of the story’s cinematic potential. Others, including Edward Albee, expressed interest in optioning “The Swimmer,” but Cheever decided to entrust the Perrys with the adaptation after receiving a letter from Eleanor. She went on to write four drafts of the script and only showed Cheever the final version, to which he gave some critiques and made dialogue suggestions.
       An item in the 20 May 1965 DV stated that Robert Q. Lewis had been cast. At the time, shooting was scheduled to begin in mid-Jun 1965. It was delayed, however, due to the casting of Burt Lancaster, who would not be available until Jun 1966, according to articles in the 15 Nov 1965 DV and 14 Aug 1966 NYT. Lancaster, who was skilled in acrobatics, boxing, and horseback riding, was an amateur swimmer, so University of California at Los Angeles’s (UCLA) swimming coach, Bob Horn, was recruited to train him. Over the course of three months, Horn and Lancaster trained at Lancaster’s home pool in Bel Air, CA, and at the UCLA swimming pool. After working with him, Horn asserted that Lancaster had started as “a strong enough swimmer, but terribly uncomfortable in the water. He didn’t put his head in, or breathe properly.” As stated in the 16 Jul 1966 NYT, Lancaster’s wardrobe consisted of seventeen pairs of identical blue nylon swimming trunks.
       Sam Spiegel was credited as executive producer in several contemporary sources, including the 2 Aug 1965 NYT, but only his production company, Horizon Pictures, was credited in the final film. Jim Di Gangi was named as production manager in an 11 Apr 1966 DV brief, and the 14 Jul 1966 DV announced that Sheila MacRae was set to play a small role, to be filmed on 22 Jul 1966. Inclement weather delays resulted in MacRae’s withdrawal from the picture, as she had another commitment to appear on The Jackie Gleason Show (CBS, 20 Sep 1952—12 Sep 1970), the 3 Aug 1966 Var reported.
       Filming was underway as of 24 Jun 1966, according to that day’s DV, which also stated that Barbara Loden had just been cast as “Shirley Abbott.” The entirely outdoor shoot took place on location in Westport, CT, where Frank Perry had attended high school, as stated in a 3 Apr 1966 NYT article. The production budget was described as “modest.” Locations included eleven residential swimming pools spanning Fairfield County, CT, a 16 Jul 1966 NYT article stated. One such pool was at the home of Mrs. Marjorie McL. De Kuyper.
       On 11 Jan 1967, DV announced that added sequences, featuring actress Janice Rule, would be directed by Sydney Pollack, due to Frank Perry’s unavailability. Although the 23 Jan 1967 LAT described Rule’s part as a “guest star role,” she was actually replacing Barbara Loden in the role of Shirley Abbott. An interview with Lancaster published in the 10 Sep 1988 LAT indicated that Loden had quit the project before filming was finished. Lancaster stated that Sam Spiegel had also abandoned the project, which he had agreed to do only as a “last commitment” to Columbia. Lancaster reportedly used his own money to pay for a final shoot day that cost $10,000, since Columbia had cut off funding.
       In a 7 May 1972 LAT article, Frank Perry refuted earlier reports that he had been replaced by Sydney Pollack due to scheduling conflicts. Instead, Perry asserted that Lancaster had fired him. The director was quoted as saying, “Burt was really very sweet, but he had more power than I contractually. He had the right to fire me, and he did.” Perry also recalled that two other replacement directors had been brought in, and one of them had received a photography credit on the final film. Despite tension over her husband’s departure from the project, Eleanor Perry was enlisted to write additional material.
       An item in the 13 Sep 1967 Var listed a scheduled release date of Jan 1968. However, the picture did not open until 15 May 1968, at New York City’s Cinema One. It was met with mixed reviews, and although the 17 May 1968 DV cited a promising $9,800 gross from the film’s first two days at Cinema One, it did not go on to become a commercial success.
       Eleanor Perry and John Cheever were said to appear in small, uncredited roles in which they shook hands with Lancaster, in a scene shot at the De Kuyper residence, as noted in the 16 Jul 1966 NYT and 24 Aug 1966 Var. More Less

BIBLIOGRAPHIC SOURCES
SOURCE
DATE
PAGE
Daily Variety
18 Mar 1965
p. 1.
Daily Variety
20 May 1965
p. 4.
Daily Variety
15 Nov 1965
p. 2.
Daily Variety
11 Apr 1966
p. 4.
Daily Variety
24 Jun 1966
p. 6.
Daily Variety
14 Jul 1966
p. 4.
Daily Variety
11 Jan 1967
p. 3.
Daily Variety
15 May 1968
p. 3.
Daily Variety
16 May 1968
p. 6.
Daily Variety
17 May 1968
p. 3.
Los Angeles Times
19 Mar 1965
Section D, p. 13.
Los Angeles Times
14 Sep 1966
Section D, p. 22.
Los Angeles Times
23 Jan 1967
Section E, p. 18.
Los Angeles Times
12 Jun 1968
Section H, p. 1, 17.
Los Angeles Times
7 May 1972
Section Z, p. 15.
Los Angeles Times
10 Sep 1988
p. 1.
New York Times
2 Aug 1965
p. 18.
New York Times
3 Apr 1966
p. 11, 16.
New York Times
7 Jul 1966
p. 31.
New York Times
16 Jul 1966
p. 14.
New York Times
14 Aug 1966
p. 101.
New York Times
27 Apr 2014
Arts, p. 14.
Variety
3 Aug 1966
p. 18.
Variety
24 Aug 1966
p. 4.
Variety
13 Sep 1967
p. 20.
CAST
PRODUCTION CREDITS
NAME
PARENT COMPANY
PRODUCTION COMPANY
DISTRIBUTION COMPANY
NAME
CREDITED AS
CREDIT
DIRECTORS
Addl dir
PRODUCERS
WRITER
PHOTOGRAPHY
Dir of photog
Addl photog
ART DIRECTOR
Art dir
FILM EDITORS
Film ed
Film ed
Film ed
SET DECORATORS
Scenic artist
Prop master
COSTUMES
MUSIC
Orch
Orch
SOUND
MAKEUP
Makeup
Hairstyles
PRODUCTION MISC
In charge of prod
Prod asst
Scr supv
Dial coach
Key grip
Gaffer
SOURCES
LITERARY
Based on the short story "The Swimmer" by John Cheever in The New Yorker (18 Jul 1964).
AUTHOR
DETAILS
Release Date:
15 May 1968
Premiere Information:
New York opening: 15 May 1968
Los Angeles opening: 12 June 1968
Production Date:
began late June 1966
Copyright Claimant:
Horizon Dover, Inc.
Copyright Date:
1 June 1968
Copyright Number:
LP36051
Physical Properties:
Sound
Color
Technicolor
Duration(in mins):
94
Country:
United States
Language:
English
SYNOPSIS

On a summer afternoon in suburban Connecticut, advertising executive Ned Merrill inexplicably finds himself eight miles from home, dressed only in swimming trunks. Partly to demonstrate his athletic vigor despite the advent of middle age, partly on an impulse, Ned decides to swim across the county, from pool to pool, until he gets home. In his odyssey from one neighbor's pool to another, he gradually confronts the sorry facts of his present existence. At Betty and Howard Graham's pool, he admits to Betty that he once loved her, but her reaction seems muted and unmoved. Mrs. Hammar bears him such a bitter grudge that she will not even allow him to cross her property. At another pool he meets Julie Hooper, a former babysitter who concedes that she had a crush on him several years before. Julie is puzzled by Ned's insistence that she return to his home to babysit, and their encounter is ended by Ned's amorous overtures. As Ned continues on his journey, he is met by hostility and taunted about his failures--his marriage, his unloving daughters, his inability to face reality, his recent financial troubles. As painful and puzzling as these ordeals are, it is Ned's reunion with a former mistress, Shirley Abbott, that cuts most deeply: she claims, in a final outburst, that she never loved him. By the time Ned reaches home, it has begun to rain. Shivering in his swim trunks and shaken by the succession of ego-shattering attacks, Ned pushes past a closed gate and stares at a tattered tennis court where his daughters used to play. He tries to get inside the home, but he is locked out. Desperate for shelter, ... +


On a summer afternoon in suburban Connecticut, advertising executive Ned Merrill inexplicably finds himself eight miles from home, dressed only in swimming trunks. Partly to demonstrate his athletic vigor despite the advent of middle age, partly on an impulse, Ned decides to swim across the county, from pool to pool, until he gets home. In his odyssey from one neighbor's pool to another, he gradually confronts the sorry facts of his present existence. At Betty and Howard Graham's pool, he admits to Betty that he once loved her, but her reaction seems muted and unmoved. Mrs. Hammar bears him such a bitter grudge that she will not even allow him to cross her property. At another pool he meets Julie Hooper, a former babysitter who concedes that she had a crush on him several years before. Julie is puzzled by Ned's insistence that she return to his home to babysit, and their encounter is ended by Ned's amorous overtures. As Ned continues on his journey, he is met by hostility and taunted about his failures--his marriage, his unloving daughters, his inability to face reality, his recent financial troubles. As painful and puzzling as these ordeals are, it is Ned's reunion with a former mistress, Shirley Abbott, that cuts most deeply: she claims, in a final outburst, that she never loved him. By the time Ned reaches home, it has begun to rain. Shivering in his swim trunks and shaken by the succession of ego-shattering attacks, Ned pushes past a closed gate and stares at a tattered tennis court where his daughters used to play. He tries to get inside the home, but he is locked out. Desperate for shelter, he bangs on the door but no one answers. Inside, the house is dark and empty, save for a few abandoned items in the living room. +

Legend
Viewed by AFI
Partially Viewed
Offscreen Credit
Name Occurs Before Title
AFI Life Achievement Award

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