Cast & Crew
On a summer afternoon in suburban Connecticut, adman Ned Merrill inexplicably finds himself 8 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. Their encounter is ended by Ned's amorous overtures and by his insistence that she return to his home to babysit. Everywhere Ned goes, he is met by hostility and is 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 to Ned, it is his reunion with a former mistress, Shirley Abbott, that cuts most deeply: she claims, in a final outburst, that she never loved him. Finally, shivering in the rain and shaken by the succession of ego-shattering attacks, Ned arrives home. For the first time he seems able to face the reality of what his life has become, symbolized by the rundown house in which he used to live.
John Garfield Jr.
Cornelia Otis Skinner
Diana Van Der Vlis
Anna Hill Johnstone
Alan Shayne Associates
To some The Swimmer must have seemed like a virtually unfilmmable story that was destined to become a boring and pretentious art film. Instead, it succeeds brilliantly as a fascinating, enigmatic drama that ponders middle-age disillusionment and failure. It's one of those lucky accidents that occurred in the sixties when Hollywood was still open to experimentation because most studio executives were completely insecure in predicting commercial hits. After all, Bonnie and Clyde and The Graduate (both 1967) had blindsided the industry with their unexpected box-office grosses. So maybe audiences were ready for more challenging films like The Swimmer? Unfortunately, the film was a box-office flop, but part of it's commercial failure was due to poor marketing by Columbia.
The Swimmer was also something of an ordeal for most of the cast and crew, starting with Eleanor Perry, who had to adapt a short story into a feature-length movie. Lancaster, who had a secret fear of the water, took swimming lessons to prepare for the role along with a strict exercise routine since he would be wearing only a bathing suit in most of his scenes. But almost from the beginning, the star and the director clashed and undermined each other's work to such a degree that after Perry completed the film, Columbia brought in three other directors, including Sydney Pollack, to do additional work on it. One sequence that was shot by Pollack was the scene where Merrill visits his ex-mistress played by Janice Rule. Barbara Loden was supposed to play this role but she never completed her scenes under Perry's supervision. In the end, less than half of what Perry filmed ended up in the studio cut of The Swimmer.
Still, the final result is a strangely hypnotic viewing experience and is particularly notable for its offbeat casting - Diana Muldaur, Kim Hunter, Marge Champion, Bernie Hamilton, Dolph Sweet, John Garfield, Jr. (he has a brief cameo as a guy selling tickets at the public pool) and comedienne Joan Rivers in her film debut as a flirtatious woman at a party. In her autobiography, Still Talking, Rivers admitted that working with Lancaster was no picnic: "He redirected every line so that there would be no sympathy for me. Frank (Perry) wanted a happy girl who then got hurt. Lancaster was going to be Mr. Wonderful who came up against a mean bitch, and was right not to go off with her. Trying to please both men, I was going back and forth between line readings, and nothing made sense." Her brief scene ended up taking seven days to shoot.
First-time film composer Marvin Hamlisch (he was only 24 years old at the time) had a much happier experience on The Swimmer. Producer Sam Spiegel hired him to write the score after hearing him play the piano at a party and Hamlisch's haunting theme song for the film opened many doors for him in Hollywood. He would go on to win three Oscars at the 1973 Academy Awards ceremony - one for the score of The Sting (Best Song Score Adaptation) and two for The Way We Were (Best Song and Best Original Dramatic Score).
Lancaster later said in an interview in Take 22 that while The Swimmer was one of his favorite roles, "the whole film was a disaster, Columbia was down on it. I personally paid $10,000 out of my own pocket for the last day of shooting. I was furious with Sam Spiegel because he was over at Cannes playing gin with Anatole Litvak while he was doing The Night of the Generals. Sam had promised me, personally promised me to be there every single weekend to go over the film, because we had certain basic problems - the casting and so forth. He never showed up one time. I could have killed him, I was so angry with him. And finally Columbia pulled the plug on us. But we needed another day of shooting - so I paid for it."
Most critics were oblivious to the behind-the-scenes squabbles and praised the film for its unique qualities. Variety reported that "a lot of people are not going to understand this film; many will loathe it; others will be moved deeply. Its detractors will be most vocal; its supporters will not have high-powered counter-arguments." Vincent Canby in the New York Times probably articulated the most common assessment of The Swimmer when he wrote: "Although literal in style, the film has the shape of an open-ended hallucination. It is a grim, disturbing and sometimes funny view of a very small, very special segment of upper-middle-class American life. As a box-office proposition it obviously is an uncertain quantity and one few major producers might have undertaken without Lancaster's name."
Producer: Frank Perry, Roger Lewis
Director: Frank Perry, Sydney Pollack
Screenplay: Eleanor Perry, based on a story by John Cheever
Cinematography: David L. Quaid
Editing: Sidney Katz, Carl Lerner, Pat Somerset
Music: Marvin Hamlisch
Art Direction: Peter Dohanos
Cast: Burt Lancaster (Ned Merrill), Janet Landgard (Julie Hooper), Janice Rule (Shirley Abbott), Tony Bickley (Donald Westerhazy), Marge Champion (Peggy Forsburgh), Nancy Cushman (Mrs. Halloran), Bill Fiore (Howie Hunsacker), Kim Hunter (Betty Graham), Charles Drake (Howard Graham), Diana Muldaur (Cynthia), Joan Rivers (Joan), Dolph Sweet (Henry Biswanger), Diana Van der Vlis (Helen Westerhazy), Bernie Hamilton (Chauffeur).
by Jeff Stafford
TCM Remembers - Kim Hunter
KIM HUNTER, 1922-2002
Kim Hunter, the versatile, distinguished actress who won the Supporting Actress Academy Award for her portrayal as the long-suffering Stella in A Streetcar Named Desire (1951) and appeared as Dr. Zira in three Planet of the Apes movies, died in her Greenwich Village apartment from an apparent heart attack on September 11, 2002. She was 79.
Born Janet Cole in Detroit on November 12, 1922, where her mother was a concert pianist, she made her professional debut at 17 with a small theatre company in Miami. She gained notice immediately with her strong voice and alluring presence, and eventually studied at the Actors' Studio in New York.
She made a striking film debut in an eerie, low-budget RKO horror film, The Seventh Victim (1943), produced by Val Lewton. She played a similar ingenue role in another stylish cult flick, When Strangers Meet (1944) - a film directed by William Castle and notable for featuring Robert Mitchum in one of his first starring roles. Hunter's big break came two years later when Michael Powell and Emeric Pressburger cast her in their splendid romantic fantasy, Stairway to Heaven (1946).
Despite her growing popularity as a screen actress, Hunter returned to the stage to make her Broadway debut as Stella in Tennessee Williams'A Streetcar Named Desire (1951). When Elia Kazan adapted the production for the silver screen, she continued her role as Stella opposite Marlon Brando, and won an Oscar as best supporting actress. A few more film roles followed, but sadly her screen career entered a lull in the late 1950s, after Hunter, a liberal Democrat, was listed as a communist sympathizer by Red Channels, a red-hunting booklet that influenced hiring by studios and the Television networks. Kim was blacklisted from both mediums despite never having been labeled a Communist, yet as a strong believer in civil rights she signed a lot of petitions and was a sponsor of a 1949 World Peace Conference in New York. She was widely praised in the industry for her testimony to the New York Supreme Court in 1962 against the publishers of Red Channels, and helped pave the way for clearance of many performers unjustly accused of Communist associations.
Hunter spent the next few years on the stage and didn't make a strong impression again in films until she was cast as Dr. Zira in the Planet of the Apes (1968), as a simian psychiatrist in the classic science fiction film. The success of that film encouraged her to continue playing the same character in two back-to-back sequels - Beneath the Planet of the Apes (1970) and Escape from the Planet of the Apes (1971). Hunter spent the remainder of her career on the stage and television, but she a terrific cameo role in Clint Eastwood's Midnight In The Garden Of Good And Evil (1997), one of her last films. She is survived by her daughter Kathryn, from her first marriage to William Baldwin, and her son Sean, from her marriage to actor and producer Robert Emmett.
By Michael T. Toole
TCM REMEMBERS J. LEE THOMPSON, 1914 - 2002
Oscar-nominated director J. Lee Thompson died August 30th at the age of 88. Though he worked in several genres, Thompson was best-known for his action films. Thompson was born in Bristol England on August 1, 1914. After graduating from college he became a playwright and it was the appearance of one of his plays on London's famous West End that got him noticed by the British film studio, Elstree. His first filmed script was The Pride of Folly in 1937 and others appeared sporadically until his career was side-tracked during the war when Thompson served in the RAF as a B-29 tail gunner. (He also reportedly worked as a dialogue coach on Hitchcock's Jamaica Inn, 1939.) Thompson's directorial debut came in 1950 when he adapted his own play Double Error to the screen as Murder Without Crime. Throughout the decade he directed a variety of dramas and comedies until hitting it big in 1958 with Ice Cold in Alex (released in the US minus 50 minutes under the title Desert Attack). It was nominated for three BAFTAs and was enough of a commercial success that Thompson landed the film that made his career: The Guns of Navarone (1961). This enormous international hit snagged Thompson an Oscar nomination for Best Director. He immediately followed that with the original Cape Fear (1962) and his reputation was set. Though Thompson remained active almost three more decades he didn't reach that level again. He worked on Westerns (Mackenna's Gold, 1969), horror films (Eye of the Devil, 1967), literary adaptations (Huckleberry Finn, 1974) and others. During this time, Thompson directed two Planet of the Apes sequels but was kept most busy working with Charles Bronson, for whom he directed nine films. Thompson's last film was in 1989.
KATRIN CARTLIDGE, 1961 - 2002
The news of actress Katrin Cartlidge's death at the age of 41 has come as a shock. It's not just the age but the thought that even though Cartlidge was already a major actress--despite a slender filmography--she held out the promise of even greater work, a promise that so few artists of any type can make. "Fearless" is perhaps the word most often used to describe Cartlidge but emotions are never enough for an actor; much more is required. Director Mike Leigh said she had "the objective eye of an artist" while remarking on her "her deep-seated suspicion of all forms of woolly thinking and received ideas."
Cartlidge was born in London on May 15, 1961. Her first acting work was on the stage, in tiny independent theatres before she was selected by Peter Gill for the National Theatre. Cartlidge also worked as a dresser at the Royal Court where she later made one of her final stage appearances. She began appearing in the popular British TV series Brookside before making her first film in 1985, Sacred Hearts. A small role in the Robbie Coltrane-Rik Mayall vehicle Eat the Rich (1987) followed before Cartlidge had her first leading role in Mike Leigh's scathing Naked (1993).
Cartlidge never took a safe approach in her films. She told The Guardian that "I try to work with film-makers who I feel will produce something original, revealing and provoking. If something provokes a reaction, it's well worth doing." You can see this in her choice of projects. Before the Rain (1994) dramatized violence in Macedonia in the wake of the Yugoslavian break-up and made Cartlidge something of a star in the area. She appeared in Lars Von Trier's controversial look at redemption, Breaking the Waves (1996), Leigh's sharply detailed story of aging friends Career Girls (1997), as one of Jack the Ripper's victims in From Hell (2001), as a call girl trying to leave the business in Clair Dolan (1998) and in the Oscar-winning film about Bosnia-Herzegovina, No Man's Land (2001). Her last work included a BBC adaptation of Crime and Punishment (2002), playing Salvador Dali's wife Gala in the BBC comedy-drama Surrealissimo (2002) and an appearance in Rosanna Arquette's directorial debut, Searching for Debra Winger (also 2002), a documentary about women in the film industry.
Cartlidge died September 7th from septicaemia brought on by pneumonia.
By Lang Thompson
TCM Remembers - Kim Hunter
Pool by pool, they form a river all the way to our house.- Ned Merrill
Here's to sugar on the strawberries!- Ned Merrill
Thy belly is like a heap of wheat.- Ned Merrill
You loved it. YOU LOVED IT!- Ned Merrill
On a scale of one to ten, how good is he in bed?- Ned Merrill
Frank Perry did not finish directing this film because of creative differences.
The scene between Burt Lancaster and Janice Rule was directed by 'Sidney Pollack' .
Burt Lancaster did numerous push ups and sit ups every morning before each shoot to stay lean and solid. He gained 20 lbs. of muscle by doing weights, running, karate, and aerobics.
Location scenes filmed in and around Westport, Connecticut. Pollack directed only the scene with Janice Rule.
Released in United States Spring May 1968
Released in United States August 1997
Shown at Locarno International Film Festival (50 Years of American Film) August 6-16, 1997.
Marvin Hamlisch makes his film scoring debut at the age of 22.
Sydney Pollack directed one scene in which Janice Rule appears.
Released in United States Spring May 1968
Released in United States August 1997 (Shown at Locarno International Film Festival (50 Years of American Film) August 6-16, 1997.)