A movie made thirty-six years ago, still captures the hearts of romantics to this day. A small, independent film was released in 1980, Somewhere In Time.
(Christopher Reeve), as Richard Collier, is a successful playwright who has recently broken up with his girl friend. Now suffering with writer’s block, he decides to take a break. He travels to an isolated getaway, the Grand Hotel on Mackinac Island, Michigan. While walking the halls he notices a photograph of a young woman, that reminds him of a strange incident eight years prior. Richard Collier, a college theatre student in May of 1972, is celebrating the debut of a play he has written. During the celebration, he is approached by an elderly woman (Susan French) 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 and dies soon afterward.
Prompted by yearnings he doesn’t understand, Collier seeks out the assistance of Arthur Biehl (Bill Erwin), an aging bellhop who played in the lobby of the hotel as a boy, while his father worked there in 1910. Richard learns from him, the woman is Elise McKenna (Jane Seymour), a famous early 20th century stage actress. Collier finds out more about her by visiting the home and talking to her housekeeper. He discovers later pictures of her life and that she was the aged woman who gave him the pocket watch eight years earlier.
Determined to realize the wishes of this mysterious woman, and finding an author who describes traveling back in time using self-hypnosis, he convinces himself that he’s back in the year 1912. There he seeks to find love with actress Elise McKenna (portrayed by Jane Seymour).This relationship is tenuous, as the two of them realize; Elise’s manager, William Fawcett Robinson (portrayed by Christopher Plummer), wants to put an end to it, because he’s concerned about her career.
There are a few twists and turns in the movie, but it’s really about two people falling in love, under conditions of secrecy, and as we later learn, the difficulty in maintaining control of the illusion when Richard discovers a modern coin in his pocket, thereby yanking him back to present time.
Perhaps the most popular part of the movie was the music. The theme was written by John Barry, a friend of Seymour’s, who wisely took his compensation on soundtrack sales. This was a windfall, as it became one of the most popular soundtracks from the 1980’s. Backing his original score was Rachmaninoff’s “Rhapsody on a Theme of Paganini“.
The critics whizzed all over this film, however Universal sold the rights to Cable TV and video tape distribution. That created a strong fan following, and to this day, The Grand Hotel holds annual showings of the movie, which sometimes brings back cast and crew that worked on it. Sadly, Christopher Reeve was paralyzed in an accident in 1995 and passed away in 2004.
I found the film one of my favorite romantic films, second only to the Franco Zeffirelli’s emotionally stirring, Romeo and Juliet (1968). I admit to weeping at the end of both films. The theme to “Somewhere in Time” is as moving as “A Time for Us (Love Theme)” from ‘Romeo and Juliet (1968). This definitely helps set the mood of the film.
The original story encompasses two books, “Somewhere in Time” gives writing credit to Richard Matheson, “Bid Time Return”. Another novel, “Time and Again”, written five years earlier by Jack Finney, uses self-hypnosis as a means to travel back in time but isn’t about romance.
According to Matheson, his story was inspired from a visit to an old opera house where he sees a photo of Maude Adams, an American actress, (November 1, 1872 – July 17, 1953). She achieved her greatest success as the character, Peter Pan. She first played the role in 1905 on the Broadway production of Peter Pan; or, The Boy Who Wouldn’t Grow Up. Adams became the most successful and highest-paid performer of her day, with a yearly income of more than one million dollars during her peak.
Hollywood likes to do remakes, and this is one I wish would be carefully and lovingly redone. I have a preference for the part of Elise McKenna. I believe that role would best be served by Stana Katic. I find her one of the under-rated talents in recent years. She has an ability to bring the audience into any role she plays. Throughout her work in Castle and a short independent black and white film, “For Lovers Only,” shot on a shoe string, she is the essence of romance., Her screen presence is captivating, and from what I read about Maude Adams, a similar facility. As can be seen from these two images over 100 years difference in time, Stana resembles Maude Adams.
A bit of movie trivia, William H. Macy and George Wendt have their debut in this film, although I understand Wendt’s moment got lost on the cutting room floor.