1968 Cult Film Titled “The Swimmer” Takes Root With UCLA Water Polo Legend (Video)

The Swimmer

FORT LAUDERDALE – International Swimming Hall of Fame (ISHOF) CEO Bruce Wigo talks with the legendary swimming and water polo coach of UCLA, Bob Horn, about his role in teaching Burt Lancaster to swim for the cult classic film version of John Cheever’s short story, The Swimmer

This is the first in a series of interviews conducted by Bruce Wigo that keeps swimming history alive. Learn more about the International Swimming Hall of Fame

MOVIE PLOT From Wikipedia
On a sunny day in an affluent suburb in Connecticut, a fit and tanned middle-aged man in a bathing suit, Ned Merrill (Burt Lancaster), drops by a pool party being held by friends. They offer him a cocktail while nursing hangovers from the night before. As they share stories, Ned realizes that there is a series of swimming pools that form a “river” to his house, making it possible for him to “swim” his way home. Ned dives into the pool, emerging at the other end and beginning his journey. Ned’s behavior perplexes his friends, who know things about his recent past he seems to have forgotten.

As Ned travels he encounters other neighbors. He meets 20-year-old Julie (Janet Landgard), who used to babysit his daughter, and reveals his idea to her; she joins him. Together, they have several experiences, including crashing another pool party and sipping champagne. While chatting in the forest, Julie reveals that she had a schoolgirl crush on Ned, who begins talking about how he will protect her, making plans for the two of them. Discomfited, Julie runs away.

The neighborhood is full of judgmental, well-heeled people intent on one-upsmanship, and Ned continues to be confronted by reminders that his past was not always as he remembers it.

Ned meets a wealthy older couple, unbothered by his eccentric behavior but also unimpressed by his posturing, and a lonely young boy with whom Ned spends a short time. He fails to make any real connection with the people he meets, being obsessed with his journey, and becoming increasingly out of touch with reality.

Ned carries on with his plan. He walks into another party where the hostess, who seems to have had a past encounter with him, playfully calls him a “party crasher”. He encounters there a bubbly girl, Joan (Joan Rivers), who does not know him. Ned asks her to join him, and Joan is intrigued until she is warned off by a friend. Ned jumps into the pool, grabbing the attention of the guests. When he gets out of the water, he notices a cart that used to be his, being used to serve hot dogs. Ned gets into a spat with the homeowner, who claims to have bought it at a white elephant sale.

Ned then shows up at the backyard pool of Shirley Abbott (Janice Rule), a stage actress with whom he had an affair several years earlier. His warm memories of their time together are not in agreement with her own experience of having been the other woman. Unable to reconcile his feelings with the pain he has caused, Ned wades into the deep end of the pool.

Ned continues on, winding up at a crowded public swimming pool. He is confronted by local shopkeepers who ask him “How do you like our water?” and ask him when he will settle his unpaid bills. When some of them let loose vicious comments about his wife’s snobbish tastes and his out-of-control daughter’s recent troubles with the law, it is too much for Ned and he flees.

As the sun goes down, a shivering, limping Ned staggers home, finding his house locked and deserted, as rain pours down.

1 comment

  1. avatar
    marc defago

    Mention this film occasionally when working in similar developments in Hunterdon County..”you could swim to Clinton” from here. Only one older gentleman ever caught the reference ….He offered me a scotch from his Tiki bar and we bs’ed about the movie for a good hour..marc