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The Swimmer

The Swimmer

Director:Frank Perry
Cast:Burt Lancaster, Janet Landgard, Janice Rule, Tony Bickley, Marge Champion
Screen Writer:Frank Perry

By Eric Allen Hatch | Posted 3/24/2004

Frank Perry's 1968 film of the John Cheever short story "The Swimmer" delivers a whole lot of substance from what initially sounds like a very limited premise. Ned Merrill (Burt Lancaster) emerges from the suburban woods one morning in his swimming trunks and arrives at the pool of some friends. As he exchanges pleasantries, Merrill becomes seized with the idea of swimming home--swimming a lap in the pools of each of his affluent neighbors until he arrives home. What begins as a good-natured lark quickly devolves into a penetrating psychological portrait of a man in decay, as each pool reopens another strange chapter in Merrill's past. This dark, often creepy character study also captures a watershed moment in our society, exposing elements of racism and misogyny in Merrill's personality that his own outdated attitudes prevent him from understanding and eradicating. Perry apparently left this film toward the end of production, with Sydney Pollack handling additional direction, but the finished product maintains a consistent vision throughout.

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