|'Somewhere in Time': Christopher Reeve & Jane Seymour are at the height of their youth and beauty in this 1980 time travel romance.|
Somewhere was a rare movie that was filmed totally on location in the summer of 1979 on Mackinac Island, MI and Chicago. I had just moved to Traverse City, MI from Upper Michigan and everyone agog that Superman himself was making a movie on the popular summer resort island. I heard a few stories about girls going up to the island to catch a glimpse of Christopher Reeve, and maybe more! Traverse City TV movie host Don Melvoin talked about Somewhere in Time non-stop on his show since he had a bit part in a dining room scene as Diamond Jim Brady. This was the biggest movie made in Michigan since 1959’s Anatomy of a Murder, also filmed entirely on location, in Upper MI.
|Mackinac Island and its beautiful Grand Hotel provide a dramatic backdrop for 'Somewhere in Time.'|
Without spoiling the story, Somewhere in Time begins with college grad Richard Collier (Reeve) celebrating the performance of his first play. At the after party, an aged woman approaches him, and clasps a watch into his hand, saying, “Come back to me.” Eight years later, Collier is a playwright living and working in Chicago. Suffering through a breakup and writer’s block, Richard goes to a Michigan summer island getaway. Feeling a connection there, he sees a photo of a long ago actress that fascinates him. There seems to be clues of a strong connection between him and the mystery woman. With the help of a professor who’s believes in time-travel, Richard seeks to self-hypnotize, to go back in time, and meet his dream girl. Once he goes back to the island circa 1912, Richard indeed meets the actress, Elise McKenna, but finds more than he bargained for.
|Christopher Reeve as love-struck Richard travels back in time and finds himself in a romantic triangle.|
The first thing I noticed watching Somewhere in Time is how the overall scenario resembles 1997’s Titanic. Think about it: The year is 1912. A struggling artist falls in love with rich dream girl, thwarted by the villainous other man. The leading lady is first presented as aged version of herself, with a plot device piece of jewelry. The love-struck young man dies, but meets the woman in the afterlife. Apparently, I’m not the only one who noticed, because a Google check found many writers who felt the same. Here’s the best Time/Titanic comparison I found: https://dejareviewer.com/2011/09/27/movie-matchups-titanic-vs-somewhere-in-time/
|Christopher Reeve's playwright finds himself drawn to a portrait of a long-ago actress, Jane Seymour.|
The story is from the novel Bid Time Return, by sci fi/fantasy legend Richard Matheson, whose many stories that were turned into films include I Am Legend, The Incredible Shrinking Man, and Duel. Matheson was inspired by his haunted reaction to a photo of famed stage actress Maude Adams at a museum, while on a family vacation. Matheson used his feelings toward the photo and Adams situation, an actress who had a Svengali-type manager and later became a recluse, as the basis for his novel. The author’s version sounds more in-depth than the film’s story; Matheson also wrote the screenplay to the film.
|Christopher Reeve and Jane Seymour between scenes, on location at Mackinac Island, MI.|
Director Jeannot Szwarc wanted to do this project, and it was his reward for doing such a good job in continuing the Jaws franchise while Steven Spielberg went on to other projects. A solid utility director for Universal, he was disappointed when they allotted Szwarc a smaller budget than originally promised. The upside was that it required some creative thinking, which turned out to work for the film’s advantage.
The realism of the ‘70s filmmaking was still powerful, though waning. Yet, Spielberg/Lucas type blockbusters were taking over. And sleeper films like Somewhere in Time got lost in the shuffle. However, with cable TV gaining prominence in the ‘80s, Somewhere in Time became a staple. This led to its popularity at video stores as a perennial favorite. Today, it is considered a genuine cult classic, with a fan club that meets each year.
|Composer John Barry's score made the 'Somewhere in Time' soundtrack an unexpected hit.|
An added bonus was the great composer John Barry (of James Bond fame) agreed to compose the score for the small budget film at the behest of friend Jane Seymour. In exchange, Barry took a small fee and a cut of the soundtrack profits. With his original score and use of Rachmaninoff’s “Rhapsody of a Theme of Paganini,” the soundtrack became a surprise hit and backdrop to many a wedding for at least a decade. While not a success at first, Somewhere in Time later reaped dividends for Universal and the makers of the film for decades to come.
|Christopher Reeve wanted his post-Superman movie to be deliberately smaller in scale.|
Christopher Reeve was keen on making this movie as he wanted a departure from the Superman series, and liked the old-fashioned love story and the chance to be a leading man. Reeve performed at reduced pay, against his handlers’ advice, as they had their eyes on post-Superman salaries.
|Well, who wouldn't feel that way looking at Jane Seymour closeup for the first time?|
Jane Seymour later commented that no one seemed to believe in Somewhere in Time except the people actually making the movie. The studio and critics gave scant attention and initially Somewhere came and went, and an actors’ strike prevented the stars from even promoting the film.
|Christopher Reeve, as Richard, in his modern day life.|
Aside from the fanciful romantic story and the lovely location, the cast gives Somewhere in Time its suspension of disbelief.
Christopher Reeve is a bit much as the boyishly enthusiastic playwright besotted with the memory of Jane Seymour's Elise. Reeve's actually better in the dramatic sections, as his character becomes desperate to make the fantasy a reality.
|Jane Seymour, as Elise McKenna, star of stage and gilded cage.|
However, Jane Seymour is quite good as Elise McKenna, the star in a gilded cage. If Seymour didn’t live up to the reality of Reeve’s fantasy, this film would fall apart. Jane Seymour is a more capable actress than I remember. The fact that Jane is a classic beauty also helps a great deal. In another era, Seymour would fall somewhere between Gene Tierney and Vivien Leigh in their period films. I forgot how lovely Jane was, as opposed to later; while still attractive, Seymour became fashionably thin and a bit overdone style-wise, a bit like Susan Lucci. In Somewhere in Time, Seymour radiates old-time movie glamour, warmth, intelligence, and charisma.
|Christopher Plummer as the supercilious villain, Robinson.|
Though Somewhere focuses almost exclusively on Reeve and Seymour, and their characters’ romance, they get able support. As Elise’s manager, Robinson, Christopher Plummer always made a better villain than leading man, and he’s perfectly cast here. While you hate him, Plummer skillfully creates empathy for losing his prized possession to young upstart Reeve.
|Teresa Wright, '40s favorite from 'Mrs. Miniver,' 'The Little Foxes,' and more, as the housekeeper of the secrets.|
There is also ‘40s star Teresa Wright as the older Elise’s faithful housekeeper. As Arthur, the bellhop, Bill Erwin is a familiar face who has appeared in over 250 movies and TV shows. Susan French, as the elderly Elise, was a stage actress who got into films in her ’50s! And Fargo’s William H. Macy made his film debut as the theatre critic in Somewhere’s opening scenes.
|Susan French and Jane Seymour as the older and younger Elise McKenna in 'Somewhere in Time.'|
Somewhere in Time was special for Christopher Reeve. Aside from Reeve’s belief in the film, which was validated by its belated success, during filming the actor found out that he was going to be a father for the first time. Also, Reeve loved his time on Mackinac Island. From his 1998 biography, Still Me: "The location quickly cast a spell on our entire company. The real world fell away as the story and the setting took hold of us. I've rarely worked on a production that was so relaxed and harmonious. Even the hard-boiled Teamsters and grips from Chicago succumbed to the charms of the island and the mellow atmosphere on the set."
|Jane Seymour recalls Christopher Reeve, a licensed pilot, kept a plane and planned day trips from Mackinac Island.|
The Somewhere in Time fan club meets annually for a convention each October on Mackinac Island at the Grand Hotel. Fans dress like the characters or the period, special events are held, and of course, a big-screen showing of the film. Jane Seymour has made several appearances there, as did Christopher Reeve. One touching visit came after his horse riding accident. From his wheelchair, Reeve acknowledged what the film’s lasting legacy meant to him, while not living in the past. Reeve’s speech was touching then, but since he passed away in 2004 at age 52, Christopher’s comments are especially moving now.
|Christopher Reeve and Jane Seymour are pretty lovely young lovers!|
Somewhere in Time isn't a classic by any means, but a deliberately old-fashioned movie that's genuinely sweet, bolstered by a skilled cast, led by two gorgeous young stars at the start of their fame. A love story with Michigan’s beautiful Mackinac Island as backdrop, Somewhere in Time is place you will want to stay forever should you ever visit.
|"Come back to me."|