Janet Landgard, Actress in ‘The Swimmer’ and ‘The Donna Reed Show,’ Dies at 75

Janet Landgard, who accompanied Burt Lancaster on a portion of his bizarre tour of backyard swimming pools in the acclaimed 1968 drama The Swimmer, has died. She was 75.

Landgard died this week after a very brief bout with brain cancer, actor Paul Petersen told The Hollywood Reporter. She recurred as his love interest on the final three seasons of the ABC family comedy The Donna Reed Show.

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On Facebook, Petersen called her “the best TV girlfriend my alternate ego, Jeff Stone, ever had. Janet was gorgeous, inside and out … a flawless Scandinavian beauty that literally stunned jaded Hollywood types into silence. We were always close no matter the time or distance.”

In Columbia Pictures’ The Swimmer — directed by Frank Perry and adapted by his then-wife, Eleanor Perry, from a John Cheever short story in The New Yorker — Landgard was memorable as Julie Ann Hooper, who used to babysit Ned Merrill’s (Lancaster) kids but is now grown up.

The two reconnect as Ned is “swimming his way home” using neighborhood pools in suburban Connecticut, but when she admits she once had a crush on him, and he gets a bit too intimate, she runs away, leaving him to continue his bizarre trip alone.

(L-R) Lisa Daniels, Janet Landgard and Burt Lancaster in 'The Swimmer'
Janet Landgard (center) with Burt Lancaster and Lisa Daniels in 1968’s The Swimmer

Born on Dec. 2, 1947, Landgard was raised in Pasadena and worked for the William Adrian Modeling Agency. While still at Pasadena High, she made her onscreen debut in 1963 on The Donna Reed Show, playing a girl named Sabrina on a fifth-season episode. She also appeared on ABC’s My Three Sons that year.

She returned to play Jeff’s girlfriend Karen on 11 installments of The Donna Reed Show through 1965, and the pair would grace the cover of Teen Screen magazine.

Landgard was showcased as a rising young talent alongside Raquel Welch, Mary Ann Mobley, Barbara Parkins and others on the TV special The Hollywood Deb Stars of 1965, then served as a hostess on Dream Girl of ’67, executive produced by Chuck Barris.

After The Swimmer, Landgard appeared in Land Raiders (1969), starring Telly Savalas, George Maharis and Arlene Dahl; in the 1971 ABC telefilm The Deadly Dream, starring Lloyd Bridges and Janet Leigh; and in Moonchild (1972), starring Victor Buono, before she left acting.

Landgard was “a real outdoorswoman,” Petersen said, adding that she was involved in horse racing in recent years. Information about her survivors was not immediately available.

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