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|Somewhere in Time|
Theatrical film poster
|Directed by||Jeannot Szwarc|
|Produced by||Stephen Deutsch
|Written by||Richard Matheson|
|Music by||John Barry|
|Editing by||Jeff Gourson|
|Distributed by||Universal Pictures|
|Release date(s)||October 3, 1980|
|Running time||103 minutes|
Somewhere in Time is a 1980 romantic science fiction film directed by Jeannot Szwarc. It is a film adaptation of the 1975 novel Bid Time Return by Richard Matheson, who also wrote the screenplay. The film stars Christopher Reeve, Jane Seymour, Christopher Plummer, Teresa Wright, and Bill Erwin.
Reeve plays Richard Collier, a playwright who becomes smitten by a photograph of a young woman at the Grand Hotel. Through self-hypnosis, he travels back in time to the year 1912 to find love with actress Elise McKenna (portrayed by Seymour). But her manager William Fawcett Robinson (portrayed by Plummer) fears that romance will derail her career and resolves to stop him.
 Plot summary
In May 1972, college theater student Richard Collier (Christopher Reeve) is celebrating the debut of a play he has written. During the celebration, he is approached by an elderly woman who places a pocket watch in his hand and pleads “come back to me”. Richard does not recognize the woman, who returns to her own residence afterward.
Eight years later, Richard is a successful playwright living in Chicago, but has recently broken up with his girlfriend and is struggling with writer’s block. Feeling stressed from writing his play, he decides to take a break and travels out of town to the Grand Hotel. While looking at a display in the hotel’s museum, Richard becomes enthralled by a photograph of a beautiful woman. With the assistance of Arthur Biehl (Bill Erwin), an old bellhop who has been at the hotel since 1910, Richard discovers that the woman is Elise McKenna, a famous early 20th century stage actress. Upon digging deeper, Richard learns that she was the aged woman who gave him the pocket watch eight years earlier, but subsequently died later that same evening. Traveling to McKenna’s home, he discovers a music box she had made, in the shape of the Grand Hotel, that plays his favorite melody. He also discovers among her effects a book on time travel written by his old college professor, Dr. Gerard Finney (George Voskovec), and learns that McKenna read the book several times. Richard becomes obsessed with the idea of traveling back to 1912 and meeting Elise McKenna, with whom he has fallen in love.
Visiting Finney, Richard learns that the man believes that he himself very briefly time traveled once to 1571 through the power of self-suggestion. To accomplish this feat of self-hypnosis, Finney tells Richard, one must remove from sight all things that are related to the current time and trick the mind into believing that one is in the past. He also warns that such a process would leave one very weak, perhaps dangerously so. Richard buys an early 20th century suit and some vintage money and cuts his hair in a time-appropriate style. Dressing himself in the suit, he removes all modern objects from his hotel room and attempts to will himself into the year 1912 using tape-recorded suggestions, only to fail for lack of real conviction. Later, while searching the hotel’s attic, Richard finds an old guest book from 1912 with his signature in it and realizes that he will eventually succeed.
Richard again hypnotizes himself, this time with the tape recorder hidden under the bed, and allows his absolute faith in his eventual success to become the trigger for the journey back through time. He drifts off to sleep and awakens to the sound of whinnying horses on June 27, 1912. Richard looks all over the hotel for Elise, even meeting Arthur as a little boy, but he has no luck finding her. Finally, he stumbles upon Elise walking by a tree near the lake. She seems to swoon slightly at the sight of him, but then suddenly asks him if he is “the one”. McKenna’s manager, William Fawcett Robinson, abruptly intervenes and sends Richard away. Richard stubbornly continues to pursue Elise until she finally agrees to accompany him on a stroll through the surrounding idyllic landscape. Richard ultimately asks why Elise wondered aloud if he was “the one”. She replies that Robinson somehow knows that she will meet a man one day who will change her life forever. Richard then shows Elise the same pocket watch which she will eventually give him in 1972, but he does not reveal its origin, merely saying it was a gift.
Having checked into room 416 at precisely 9:18 am, Richard accepts Elise’s invitation to her play. He attends the comedic-farce and she, in an almost trance-like state, recites an impromptu monologue dedicated to him. During intermission, he finds her posing formally for a photograph. Upon spotting Richard, Elise breaks into a radiant smile. The camera captures what we realize is the same portrait that Richard will see 68 years later on a wall at the Grand Hotel. He later receives a letter from Robinson asking to meet him immediately and saying that it is a matter of life and death. Robinson tricks Richard and has him tied up and thrown into the stables. Later, Robinson tells Elise that Richard has left her and is not the one, but she replies that she does not believe him and he is wrong. Elise admits to Robinson that she loves Richard and that he will make her very happy. Dispirited, Robinson leaves her dressing room and reminds her that they leave within the hour.
Richard wakes up the next morning and escapes his constraints. He runs to Elise’s room and finds that her party has left. Despondent, he goes out to the hotel’s porch. Suddenly, he hears Elise calling his name and sees her running towards him. They return to his room together and make love. The next morning they agree to marry. Elise tells him that the first thing she will do for him is buy him a new suit. (The suit Richard has been wearing the entire time in 1912 is about ten to fifteen years out of style.) Richard begins to show her how practical the suit is because of its many pockets. He is alarmed when he reaches into one and finds a shiny new Lincoln penny with a mint date of 1979. Seeing an item from his real present wrenches him out of his hypnotically-induced time trip, and Richard feels himself rushing backwards with Elise screaming his name in horror as he is pulled inexorably out of 1912.
Richard then wakes up back in the present but in the room he just left in the past at the Grand Hotel. He is drenched in sweat and very weak, apparently exhausted from his trip through time and back. He scrambles desperately back to his own room and tries to hypnotize himself again, without success. Heartbroken and after wandering around the hotel property and sitting interminably at the places where he spent time with Elise, he eventually retires to his room and remains there unmoving for days until discovered by Arthur and the hotel manager; they send for a doctor and paramedics. Richard suddenly smiles and sees himself drifting above his body and (having presumably died of a broken heart) is drawn to a light shining through the nearby window, where he is reunited with Elise.
 Differences from the novel
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In the novel, Richard travels from 1971 to 1896 rather than 1980 to 1912. The setting is the Hotel del Coronado rather than the Grand Hotel. Unlike in the film, he is dying from a brain tumor, and the book ultimately raises the possibility that the whole time-traveling experience is merely a series of hallucinations. The scene where the old woman hands Richard a pocket watch (which an older version of himself had given to her) does not appear in the book. Thus, the ontological paradox generated by this event (that the watch was never built, but simply exists eternally) is absent. In the book, it is two psychics, not William Fawcett Robinson, who anticipate Richard’s appearance. And Richard’s death at the end is brought about by his tumor, not heartbreak.
Although this movie was well received during its previews, it was widely derided by critics upon release, and it underperformed at the box office. In 2009, in an interview with WGN America, Jane Seymour stated “It was just a little movie…The Blues Brothers came out the same week and it was a $4 million budget, so Universal didn’t really support it. There was also an actors strike, so Chris [Reeve] and I weren’t allowed to publicize it. And they barely put it out because I don’t think anyone really believed in it.” Jane’s memory on this point is incorrect, however. The Blues Brothers was released June 20, 1980; Somewhere in Time premiered September 17, and released October 3, 1980. The actual budget for Somewhere in Time had originally been set at 8 million, but the studio would only “green light” the picture by cutting the budget in half ($4 million). The final figure was 5.1 million. The actors strike prevented Reeve and Seymour from promoting the film, as making public appearances to promote a film is considered ‘work’. No positive buzz could be generated, and the critics were harsh. 
 Production notes
The movie was filmed on location at the Grand Hotel, and the former Mackinac College (during filming, Inns of Mackinac, now Mission Point Resort), located on Mackinac Island, Michigan. It was also filmed in Chicago, Illinois.
- Director Jeannot Szwarc had a slight problem directing the scenes between Christopher Plummer and Christopher Reeve in that whenever he said “Chris” both men would respond with “Yes?” Szwarc resolved this by deciding to address Christopher Plummer as “Mr. Plummer” and addressing Christopher Reeve as “Bigfoot“.
- The final scene between Christopher Reeve and Jane Seymour before Reeve’s character is thrown back into his own time was difficult for Reeve to shoot because he had just learned that his then girlfriend and companion, Gae Exton, was pregnant with his first son, Matthew. For much of that day his attention was understandably elsewhere. Reeve says on the bonus material of the 2000 DVD, “The day we shot the picnic scene on the floor I found out, and the world found out, that I was about to be a father for the first time.”
- In the film, Reeve’s character consults with a Dr. Finney (played by George Voskovec), a time travel theorist. This is a deliberate nod to author Jack Finney, whose novel Time and Again, published five years before the book on which this film is based, features an almost identical theory on the mechanics of time travel.
- The cars used in the film required special permission from the City of Mackinac Island to be brought onto, and driven on, the island. Motorized vehicles, other than emergency vehicles and snowmobiles in the winter, are prohibited on Mackinac Island. With very few exceptions, like motorized ambulances, transportation is limited to horse and buggy or bicycle.
- Elise McKenna was a fictional actress, but in the scene where Collier is in the library searching and looks through an old theater album there are several pictures of well-known real life stage actresses. The picture of three little girls is of Blanche Ring and her sisters. A child holding a doll is actress Rose Stahl. A picture of a woman in nun’s habit, just barely made out, is Ethel Barrymore in a 1928 play, The Kingdom of God. (Barrymore’s head is left out of the frame as she would be readily recognizable by alert fans of old films.)
- Elise McKenna’s character was loosely based upon the life of theatre actress Maude Adams, who was born Maude Ewing Adams Kiskadden in Salt Lake City, Utah on November 11, 1872. She died in Tannersville, New York on July 17, 1953. Her manager, Charles Frohman (whom Christopher Plummer played as William Fawcett Robinson) was very protective of her. He died on the RMS Lusitania on May 7, 1915 when it was torpedoed by a German submarine during World War I.
 Main cast
|Christopher Reeve||Richard Collier|
|Jane Seymour||Elise McKenna|
|Christopher Plummer||William Fawcett Robinson|
|Teresa Wright||Laura Roberts|
|Bill Erwin||Arthur Biehl|
|Susan French||Older Elise|
|George Voskovec||Dr. Gerard Finney|
|Tim Kazurinsky||Photographer, in 1912|
|Bruce Jarchow||Bones, in 1912|
Richard Matheson, who wrote the original novel and screenplay, appears in a cameo role as an astonished 1912 hotel guest. The cause of his astonishment is apparently Richard’s face after cutting himself shaving with a straight razor.
A then-unknown William H. Macy has a bit role as a critic in the 1972 scene before Elise hands the watch to Richard. George Wendt is credited as a student during this same scene, but his appearance was omitted from the final cut of the film. Richard Matheson’s daughter Ali Matheson is similarly credited as a student.
Many of the Mackinac Island residents at the time were cast as extras.
 Fan club
In 1990, Somewhere in Time fan Bill Shepard founded the International Network of Somewhere In Time Enthusiasts (INSITE) to “Honor the film, and those responsible for its creation, to Inform members about all aspects of it, to enhance their appreciation of it, as well as to Influence public and media perception of the film, to assure its recognition as the classic we know it to be.” INSITE has placed a permanent monument, a plaque on a stone on Mackinac Island near the Grand Hotel to commemorate the first encounter of the film’s lovers. In 1997, the fan club also paid for Reeve’s star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame. In 1999, INSITE co-sponsored Jane Seymour’s Walk of Fame star, along with Dr. Quinn, Medicine Woman fans.
An annual Somewhere in Time Weekend is held at the Grand Hotel. Attendees dress in period attire to celebrate the movie, in company with celebrity guests who worked on the film—in front of and behind the camera. INSITE has published over 1,800 pages on Somewhere in Time since its inception, making the movie one of the most documented films of all time. Members may subscribe to special email news alerts via the website. INSITE has provided news and information about the upcoming musical adaption of the story Somewhere In Time: The Musical, produced by Ken Davenport, and scored by Leslie Arden, via its magazine and email news service. INSITE is self-sustaining, through membership dues and member contributions, and its quarterly journal is a 100% volunteer effort.
 External links
|Wikiquote has a collection of quotations related to: Somewhere in Time|