Somewhere in Time (film)

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Somewhere in Time
Somewhere sheetr.jpg
Theatrical film poster
Directed byJeannot Szwarc
Produced by
Screenplay byRichard Matheson
Based onBid Time Return
by Richard Matheson
Music byJohn Barry
CinematographyIsidore Mankofsky
Edited byJeff Gourson
Distributed byUniversal Pictures
Release date
  • October 3, 1980 (1980-10-03)
Running time
103 minutes
CountryUnited States
Budget$4 million[1]
Box office$9.7 million

Somewhere in Time is a 1980 American romantic fantasy drama 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, and Christopher Plummer.

Reeve plays Richard Collier, a playwright who becomes obsessed with a photograph of a young woman at the Grand Hotel, a hotel located on Mackinac Island in Michigan. Through self-hypnosis, he wishes himself back in time to the year 1912 to find love with actress Elise McKenna (portrayed by Seymour), but comes into conflict with Elise's manager, William Fawcett Robinson (portrayed by Plummer), who fears that romance will derail her career and resolves to stop him.

The film is known for its musical score composed by John Barry, featuring pianist Roger Williams. The 18th variation of Sergei Rachmaninoff's Rhapsody on a Theme of Paganini also appears several times.


In 1972, college theatre student Richard Collier celebrates the debut of his new play. During the celebration, an elderly woman 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 in her sleep that same night.

Eight years later, Richard is a successful playwright living in Chicago. While struggling with writer's block, he decides to take a break from writing and travels to a resort, the Grand Hotel. While exploring the hotel's hall of history, he becomes enthralled with a vintage photograph of Elise McKenna, a beautiful and famous early-20th century stage actress. Upon further research, he discovers that she is the same woman who gave him the pocket watch. Richard visits Laura Roberts, Elise’s former housekeeper and companion. While there, he discovers a music box that plays the 18th variation of Rhapsody on a Theme of Paganini by Rachmaninoff, his favorite musical piece. Among Elise's personal effects is a book on time travel written by his old college professor, Dr. Gerard Finney. Richard becomes obsessed with traveling back to 1912 and meeting Elise, with whom he has fallen in love.

Richard seeks out Professor Finney, who believes that he briefly time-traveled through the power of self-suggestion. Finney warns Richard that such a process would leave one very weak physically, perhaps dangerously so. Richard is determined to try. Dressed in an early 20th-century suit, he removes all modern objects from his hotel room and attempts to will himself to 1912 using tape-recorded suggestions. The attempt fails because he lacks real conviction, but after finding a hotel guest book from 1912 containing his signature, Richard realizes that he will eventually succeed.

Richard hypnotizes himself again, this time allowing his absolute faith in his eventual success to serve as the engine that transports him to 1912. Richard finds Elise walking by the lake. Upon meeting him she asks, "Is it you?" Her manager, William Fawcett Robinson, abruptly intervenes and sends Richard away. Although Elise is initially uninterested, Richard pursues her until she agrees to accompany him on a stroll the next morning. During a boat ride, Richard hums his favorite melody by Rachmaninoff, which Elise has not heard before as it has yet to be written. Richard asks what Elise meant by "Is it you?" She reveals that Robinson had predicted that she would meet a man who will change her life, and that she should be afraid. Richard shows Elise the pocket watch that she will give him in 1972.

Richard attends Elise's play where she gives an impromptu monologue dedicated to him. During the intermission, Elise poses formally for a photograph but seeing Richard, breaks into a radiant smile. It is the same image which Richard sees 68 years later. Afterward, Richard receives an urgent message from Robinson requesting a meeting. Robinson wants Richard to leave Elise, saying it is for her own good. When Richard says he loves her, Robinson has him bound and locked inside the stables. Robinson then tells Elise that Richard has left, though she does not believe him and professes her love for Richard.

Richard wakes the next morning and frees himself. The acting troupe has already left for Denver, though Elise has returned to the hotel to find him. They go to her room and make love. They agree to marry and Elise promises to buy Richard a new suit, as his is about a decade out of style. Inside one of the suit pockets, Richard discovers a penny with a 1979 mint date. This modern item breaks the hypnotic suggestion, pulling Richard into the present as Elise screams in terror.

Richard awakens back in 1980. His attempts to return to 1912 are unsuccessful. After wandering the hotel grounds despondently, physically weakened by the time travel and brokenhearted, he dies in despair. His spirit is drawn into the afterlife, where he is reunited with Elise.


Actor Role
Christopher Reeve Richard Collier
Jane Seymour Elise McKenna
Christopher Plummer William Fawcett Robinson
Teresa Wright Laura Roberts
Bill Erwin Arthur Biehl
George Voskovec Dr. Gerard Finney
Susan French Older Elise
John Alvin Arthur’s father
Eddra Gale Genevieve

Sean Hayden plays 5-year-old Arthur in 1912.

Tim Kazurinsky appears briefly as the photographer in 1912.

Richard Matheson, who wrote the original novel and screenplay, appears in a cameo role as a 1912 hotel guest. He is astonished by Richard's having cut 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 cut from the film during editing.

Richard Matheson's daughter, Ali, is similarly credited as a student.

Many Mackinac Island residents were cast as extras.

Production notes[edit]

The Grand Hotel where the film was shot
  • The movie was filmed on location at the Grand Hotel, as well as the Mission Point Fine Arts building of the former Mackinac College (now Mission Point Resort), both located on Mackinac Island, Michigan. Additional scenes were filmed in Chicago, Illinois.
  • Bringing cars onto the island for use in the film required special permission from the City of Mackinac Island. Motorized vehicles, other than emergency vehicles and snowmobiles in the winter, are prohibited on the Island. With very few exceptions, transportation is limited to horse and buggy or bicycle.
  • Director Jeannot Szwarc had a slight problem directing the scenes between Plummer and Reeve in that whenever he said "Chris," both men would respond with "Yes?" Szwarc resolved this by addressing Plummer as "Mr. Plummer" and addressing 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 as he had just learned that his 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 1975 Richard Matheson novel Bid Time Return, on which this film is based, features an almost identical theory on the mechanics of time travel.
  • Elise McKenna was a fictional actress. Collier is filmed in the library searching and looking through an old theater album, which has photos of historic stage actresses. The three little girls are Blanche Ring and her sisters. A child holding a doll is actress Rose Stahl. A faded picture of a woman in nun's habit 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.)[2]
  • 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 (the basis for the William Fawcett Robinson character) 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.[3]
  • At two points in the movie Christopher Reeve is seen listening to the radio; first while driving northbound on Lake Shore Drive in Chicago; then when Reeve returns to the present and turns on the radio in his room at the Grand Hotel. In both instances the radio announcer is Reese Rickards, a long-time fixture at Chicago AM radio station WJJD. While the movie portrays the radio station as having a jazz format, Rickards plays an actual jingle from WJJD which was a country station at that time.

Differences from the novel[edit]

In the novel, Richard travels from 1971 to 1896 rather than from 1980 to 1912. The setting is the Hotel del Coronado in California, rather than the Grand Hotel in Michigan. The book has Richard knowing that he is dying of a brain tumor, and it ultimately raises the possibility that the whole time-traveling experience was merely a series of hallucinations brought on by the tumor.

The scene where the old woman hands Richard a pocket watch (which he had given to her in the past) does not appear in the book. Thus, the ontological paradox generated by this event (that the watch was never made, but simply exists eternally between 1912 and 1980) is absent. In the book, there are two psychics, not William Fawcett Robinson, who anticipate Richard's appearance, and Richard's death is brought about by his tumor, not by heartbreak.

Also, in the film Elise witnesses Richard's return to his own time, while in the book she is asleep and does not.


Although the film was well received during its previews, it was derided by critics upon release and 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 [Somewhere In Time] 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."[4]

Critical response[edit]

Review aggregator Rotten Tomatoes reports that 61% of 18 film critics have given the film a positive review; the rating average is 6 out of 10.[5] Metacritic, which assigns a weighted average score out of 100 to reviews from mainstream critics, gives the film a score of 29 based on 7 reviews, signifying "Generally unfavorable reviews".[6]


Somewhere in Time received several awards, including Saturn Awards for Best Costume, Best Music, and Best Fantasy Film. The film was also nominated for the Academy Award for Best Costume Design (Jean-Pierre Dorleac).[7]

The film is recognized by the American Film Institute in these lists:


The original musical score for the film was composed and conducted by John Barry, who was suggested by Jane Seymour, a personal friend. The producers had been considering a score based on The 18th variation of Sergei Rachmaninoff's "Rhapsody on a Theme of Paganini" which is used in the film several times. In lieu of a fee, Barry took a percentage of the royalties on the soundtrack, which went on to become his best-selling film score.[citation needed]

The film was not a success at the box office and a very limited run above promotional copies of the album was pressed with very limited circulation. Universal Pictures used "Somewhere in Time" as a test bed for soundtrack sales and did not expect it to do well at all. It was cable television the following spring where the film garnered a huge fan audience and interest in the music was tremendous. So many requests were made at record stores across the country that Universal pressed 500,000 more copies and the soundtrack, now into several pressings, still sells well on CD. The music became one of the most requested at weddings for a decade after the film's release.

Barry wrote the score at a creative and prolific time in his career, scoring the music for films such as Raise the Titanic, High Road to China and the highly acclaimed Body Heat all within an 18-month period, yet the score for Somewhere in Time is considered to be among the best of his career. The music from the film is often credited for much of its success by invoking a deeply emotional pull for the viewers. In the years since the film's release the music has become as famous as the film, if not more so, with many hearing it and then seeking the film on video.

The music has been released on two albums, neither of which are from the original sessions from the film itself. Like most soundtracks of the time, the album was a series of re-recordings with highlights of the score recorded to fit onto two sides of an LP. The original release from MCA has nine tracks.

  1. Somewhere in Time (2:58)
  2. The Old Woman (2:49)
  3. The Journey Back in Time (4:22)
  4. A Day Together (6:02)
  5. Rhapsody on a Theme of Paganini (composed by Rachmaninov) (2:57)
  6. Is He the One? (3:10)
  7. The Man of My Dreams (1:35)
  8. Return to the Present (4:04)
  9. Theme from "Somewhere in Time" (3:20)

A later release of the score was released on the Varèse Sarabande label. It was recorded in 1998 by the Royal Scottish Orchestra conducted by John Debney.

  1. Somewhere in Time (3:37)
  2. Old Woman (1:00)
  3. Grand Hotel (1:22)
  4. 1912 (1:42)
  5. Thanks (1:20)
  6. June 27 (1:32)
  7. Room 417 (1:04)
  8. The Attic (4:07)
  9. Near the Lake (2:14)
  10. Rhapsody on a Theme by Paganini (composed by Rachmaninov) (3:06)
  11. Is He the One? (0:56)
  12. A Day Together (2:31)
  13. Rowing (1:29)
  14. The Man of My Dreams (1:22)
  15. Razor (1:12)
  16. Total Dismay (4:07)
  17. Coin (0:28)
  18. Whimper (3:20)
  19. Somewhere in Time (end credits) (4:55)


Region Certification Certified units/sales
Brazil (Pro-Música Brasil)[10] Gold 100,000*
United States (RIAA)[11] Platinum 1,000,000^

* Sales figures based on certification alone.
^ Shipments figures based on certification alone.

There has yet to be a release of the original scoring session music, although bootlegs circulate on the Internet.[12][13]


A stone monument located at one of the filming locations

Despite reviews calling the film "horrible" and a "superficial tear jerker", the International Network of Somewhere In Time Enthusiasts (I.N.S.I.T.E.), an official fan club, was formed in 1990 and continues to meet regularly.[14][15] During the month of October, the Grand Hotel hosts a Somewhere in Time Weekend, with events such as a large-screen screening of the film, panel discussions with some of the film's principals and crew, and a costume ball of members dressed in Edwardian attire.[16]

The film was also listed as an example of pop-culture time travel in the 2019 blockbuster film Avengers: Endgame.[17]

Adding to the film's legacy is a Ken Davenport-produced theatrical adaptation of the story with assistance from Matheson on the story book.[18][19] The adaptation received New York workshops and a full production at Portland Center Stage.[20][21][22]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ On Location With Christopher Reeve: 3 Chocolates on the Pillow 'To Escape the Cape' Crew Works for Scale
  2. ^ Blum, Daniel. Great Stars of the American Stage, c.1952. All of these photos are in Blum's book.
  3. ^ Robbins, Phyllis (1956), Maude Adams: An Intimate Portrait, New York: G.P. Putnam's Sons.
  4. ^ Interview with Jane Seymour (video) on YouTube
  5. ^ "Somewhere in Time Movie Reviews, Pictures". Rotten Tomatoes. Retrieved March 14, 2013.
  6. ^ "Somewhere in Time Reviews, Ratings, Credits, and More – Metacritic". Metacritic. CBS Interactive Inc. Archived from the original on 10 September 2010. Retrieved March 14, 2013.
  7. ^ "The 53rd Academy Awards (1981) Nominees and Winners". Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences. Archived from the original on 10 November 2014. Retrieved March 14, 2013.
  8. ^ "AFI's 100 Years...100 Passions Nominees" (PDF). AFI. Archived from the original (PDF) on October 24, 2018. Retrieved August 19, 2016.
  9. ^ "AFI's 100 Years of Film Scores Nominees" (PDF). AFI. Archived from the original (PDF) on July 14, 2019. Retrieved August 19, 2016.
  10. ^ "Brazilian album certifications – John Barry – Somewhere In Time" (in Portuguese). Pro-Música Brasil.
  11. ^ "American album certifications – John Barry – Somewhere In Time". Recording Industry Association of America. If necessary, click Advanced, then click Format, then select Album, then click SEARCH. 
  12. ^ "Somewhere In Time (1980)". SoundtrackCollector.
  13. ^ "Did You Know ?". Insite.
  14. ^ Slater, Eric (May 14, 1995). "Fans of 1980 'Tear-Jerker' Celebrate Film : Entertainment: Devotees of 'Somewhere in Time' gather in Universal City to honor movie as the pinnacle of romance cinema". Los Angeles Times. Retrieved May 20, 2015.
  15. ^ Paulin, David (October 6, 2013). "Celebrating a Movie the Critics Hated". American Thinker. American Thinker. Retrieved May 20, 2015.
  16. ^ Storch, Charles (October 23, 1992). "'Somewhere In Time' Travelers: Fans Of Cult Romance Movie Descending On Mackinac Island To Wallow In The Fantasy". Chicago Tribune. Chicago Tribune. Retrieved May 26, 2015.
  17. ^ Petrakovitz, Caitlin. "Answering the big questions about that major Avengers: Endgame plot point". CNET. Retrieved 1 August 2020.
  18. ^ Cox, Gordon (March 7, 2006). "'Somewhere' rights nabbed by Davenport". Variety. Variety. Retrieved May 27, 2015.
  19. ^ Hoffman, Barbara (April 15, 2012). "Blockbusters go Broadway". New York Post. Retrieved May 27, 2015.
  20. ^ Hetrick, Adam (December 4, 2012). "Somewhere in Time Musical Reading to Feature Andrew Samonsky and Kelli Barrett". Playbill. Retrieved 27 September 2020.
  21. ^ Hetrick, Adam (February 5, 2015). "Somewhere in Time Musical, With Laura Osnes and Ryan Silverman, Begins NYC Workshop". Playbill. Retrieved 27 September 2020.
  22. ^ Hetrick, Adam (April 24, 2013). "Andrew Samonsky Steps Into Leading Role of Somewhere in Time Musical". Playbill. Retrieved 27 September 2020.

External links[edit]