We may be in the midst of winter, but that doesn’t mean we aren’t dreaming of warmer days spent poolside. In this guest post, Rick Armstrong looks at classic film swimming pools!
1. Taste of Fear (aka Scream of Fear)
The creepiest swimming pool on film is not the one from Cat People (see below). No, it gets edged out by the dark, dank pool in this excellent 1961 Hammer suspense film. Susan Strasberg plays the film’s wheelchair-bound protagonist, who seems obsessed with the murky waters after returning home following a ten-year absence. In one of the best scenes, she imagines seeing her father’s corpse in a room opposite the pool and, consumed with fright, falls helplessly into the shadowy water.
2. Cat People
The most famous swimming pool scene is undoubtedly Jane Randolph‘s nearly fatal dip in Jacques Tourneur‘s chilling 1942 classic. She plays Alice, a young woman who goes for a late night dip in the basement of her apartment building. Alas, she is unaware that she has been followed by a jealous wife who can transform into a panther. As Alice treads alone in the water, dark shadows drift across the walls, followed by a panther’s growls and a fleeting silhouette of a large stalking cat. Good stuff!
3. The Swimmer
On an afternoon in suburban Connecticut, middle-aged Ned Merrill (Burt Lancaster), still looking fit in swimming trunks, decides to “swim his way home” by navigating through a series of neighbors’ pools. There were plenty of unusual films in the late 1960s, but The Swimmer is one of the oddest–a sort of esoteric version of Ingmar Bergman‘s Wild Strawberries courtesy of Frank and Eleanor Perry (David and Lisa). Still, it’s critically praised in some quarters and can count film critics Roger Ebert and Vincent Canby among its fans.
The best adaptation of a Philo Vance detective novel, this 1934 mystery begins with a wealthy playboy disappearing after a night-time dive into a natural lake called the Dragon Pool. When he fails to turn up after a day, the police drain the pool and discover claw marks on the sandy bottom. Later, Philo Vance discovers the dead body in a “glacial pot-hole” on another part of the estate. The victim’s mangled body is covered with large claw marks–as if he had been ripped open by a dragon.
There had to be an Esther Williams movie on this list, right? We opted for one of her first major roles in this 1944 musical comedy with Red Skelton. The huge swimming pool is pretty impressive, with white steps and backlit columns in the background and a barrage of ladies dressed in pink, yellow, purple, black, and shimmering white (that’d be Esther!)
5. (tie) The Thrill of It All
Yes, there is a tie for the last spot because we felt compelled to include this sparkling 1963 Doris Day–James Garner comedy. Doris plays a housewife who unexpectedly becomes the TV spokesperson for the Happy Soap Company. Inevitably, several boxes of the product are kicked into the pool and eventually transform into a giant cloud of foamy bubbles–leading to one of the film’s best known scenes.
Rick29 is a film reference book author and a regular contributor at the Classic Film & TV Café , on Facebook and Twitter. He’s a big fan of MovieFanFare, too, of course!