Somewhere in Time (film)

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Somewhere in Time
Theatrical film poster
Directed byJeannot Szwarc
Screenplay byRichard Matheson
Based onBid Time Return
by Richard Matheson
Produced by
CinematographyIsidore Mankofsky
Edited byJeff Gourson
Music byJohn Barry
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 from Universal Pictures, directed by Jeannot Szwarc, and starring Christopher Reeve, Jane Seymour, and Christopher Plummer. It is a film adaptation of the novel Bid Time Return (1975) by Richard Matheson, who also wrote the screenplay.

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

Seymour disclosed at the 2022 TCM Classic Film Festival that she and Christopher Reeve fell in love while working on the film. However, they broke up after Reeve found out his ex-girlfriend was expecting his child. The two remained close friends until Reeve died.[2]

The film garnered a serious cult following and in 1990 super fan Bill Shepard, founded a fan club called INSITE, the International Network of Somewhere In Time Enthusiasts.[3][4]


In 1972, college theater student Richard Collier celebrates the debut of his new play. An elderly woman approaches him, places a pocket watch in his hand, and pleads, "Come back to me". After returning to her home, she dies in her sleep.

Eight years later, Richard is a successful playwright living in Chicago. While struggling with writer's block, he decides to take a break and travel to a resort, the Grand Hotel. There he becomes enthralled with a vintage photograph of Elise McKenna, an early-20th century stage actress. She turns out to be the woman who gave him the pocket watch. Richard visits Laura Roberts, Elise's former housekeeper and companion, and 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. Having fallen in love with Elise, Richard becomes obsessed with traveling back to 1912 and meeting her.

He seeks out Professor Finney, who believes that he briefly time-traveled through the power of self-suggestion. Dressed in an early 20th-century suit, Richard 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, he realizes that he will succeed.

He hypnotizes himself again, allowing his faith in his eventual success to serve as the engine that transports him back in time. When he awakes in 1912, he finds Elise walking by the lake. Upon meeting him, she asks, "Is it you?” Her manager, William Fawcett Robinson, 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. He asks what Elise meant by "Is it you?" Elise 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 recites an impromptu romantic monologue while making eye contact with him. In the interval, Elise poses for a photograph and, once more making eye contact with Richard, breaks into a radiant smile. This is the photograph Richard saw hanging at the hotel.

After the play, Richard receives a message from Robinson requesting a meeting. Robinson wants him to leave Elise, saying it is for her own good. When Richard declares his intention to stand by Elise for the rest of her life, Robinson has him bound and locked inside the stables. He then tells Elise that Richard has left.

Richard wakes the next morning and frees himself. The acting troupe has 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 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.

He awakens in 1980, physically weakened by the time travel. His attempts to return to 1912 are unsuccessful. After despondently wandering the hotel grounds for weeks without eating, he dies in despair. Richard’s spirit then joins Elise in the afterlife.


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

George Wendt is credited as a student during this same scene, but his appearance was cut from the film during editing.

The Grand Hotel where the film was shot


Although the film was well received during its previews, it was derided by critics upon release and underperformed at the box office.

In a TCM interview, Jane Seymour stated “Well, what happened is we finished the movie and we weren't allowed to publicize it. The Screen Actors Guild had a strike, and Chris and I were not allowed to tell anyone about the movie and its time to come out. Plus, Universal spent, was it two million or three something, very minimal on this movie. And they had a thing called The Blues Brothers, they were very worried about getting their investment back on, so they ignored us completely. So literally they hid this movie, literally hid it, and I remember we got the worst reviews ever.”[5]

Critical response[edit]

Film review aggregator Rotten Tomatoes reports that 52% of 21 film critics have given the film a positive review; the rating average is 5.9 out of 10.[6] 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".[7]


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).[8]

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


The film's original musical score 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.[11][12]

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 compact disc. The music became one of the most requested at weddings for a decade after the film's release. [citation needed]

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. However, 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. [citation needed]

Bruce Handy for Vanity Fair described the development of Barry’s scoring style after moving to Hollywood in 1975 as "the liquid orchestral style that would be epitomized by his music for Somewhere in Time, a 1979 time-travel romance starring Christopher Reeve and Jane Seymour."[13]

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 Records 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 of 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)

On July 13, 2021, a limited edition album was released by La-La Land Records with an expanded presentation of Barry's music. Tracks 1-17 are presentation of the score, followed by source music and alternates.[14]

  1. Theme from Somewhere in Time - Performed by Roger Williams (pianist); Produced by Michael Lloyd 3:26
  2. The Grand Hotel 2:04
  3. Rhapsody on a Theme of Paganini (Piano Solo by Chet Swiatkowski) 2:54
  4. The Old Woman (Film Version) 2:49
  5. June 27 2:03
  6. Room 417 1:11
  7. The Journey Back in Time 4:29
  8. Is He the One? (Film Version) 3:13
  9. A Day Together (Film Version) 2:31
  10. Rowing 1:15
  11. The Man of My Dreams 1:42
  12. That's It :40
  13. Razor 1:05
  14. Total Dismay 3:21
  15. Coin :37
  16. Return to the Present 4:10
  17. A Day Together (End Credits) 6:08
  18. After Party 2:03
  19. Car Jazz 2:00
  20. Rhapsody on a Theme of Paganini (Alternate) - Piano Solo by Chet Swiatkowski 3:03
  21. Rhapsody on a Theme of Paganini (Music Box) 2:11
  22. Is He the One? (Alternate Excerpt) 2:21
  23. My Melancholy Baby 2:02
  24. Oh, You Beautiful Doll 3:30
  25. In the Good Old Summer Time :37
  26. I Want a Girl (Just Like the Girl That Married Dear Old Dad) 1:53
  27. Wisdom of the Heart 1:09
  28. Somewhere in Time (Piano Theme) 1:59
  29. Rowing (Alternate) 1:18
  30. Razor (Alternate) :51
  31. Coin (Alternate) :32
  32. Somewhere in Time (Theme Variation) 1:46
  33. Finale and End Credits (From the Motion Picture Somewhere in Time) 4:57

Tracks in bold are previously unreleased. Tracks in italics contain previously unreleased material.


Region Certification Certified units/sales
Brazil (Pro-Música Brasil)[15] Gold 100,000*
United States (RIAA)[16] Platinum 1,000,000^

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


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.[17] 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.[18]

The film was also listed as an example of popular culture time travel in the blockbuster film Avengers: Endgame (2019).[19]

Adding to the film's legacy is a Ken Davenport-produced theatrical adaptation of the story with assistance from Matheson on the story book.[20] The adaptation received New York workshops and a full production at Portland Center Stage.[21][22][23]

The film was particularly well received in the then British Hong Kong. It was screened exclusively at the Palace Theatre [zh] in Causeway Bay, the most luxurious cinema in Hong Kong at that time, starting from September 12, 1981. Due to its excellent reputation and box office, it continued to be screened at the Palace Theatre until April 22, 1982, with a total of 223 days. This set the record for the longest continuous screening of a film in Hong Kong at that time, and it also kept the theatre itself full for three consecutive months. In the end, the film earned HKD 9.38 million at the box office in Hong Kong, and making it the highest-grossing international film of the year 1982 in Hong Kong.[24] Due to the popularity of the film in Hong Kong, Hong Kong singer Adam Cheng recorded a Cantopop cover version (如在夢中; lit. "Like in a Dream") that was adapted from the theme music of the film in 1982, and the song was included in Cheng's album "Brothers Four [zh]".[25]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ On Location With Christopher Reeve: 3 Chocolates on the Pillow 'To Escape the Cape' Crew Works for Scale
  2. ^ "Jane Seymour says she and Christopher Reeve 'fell madly in love' making 'Somewhere in Time'". Retrieved 2024-02-20.
  3. ^ Slater, Eric (1995-05-14). "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 2024-02-20.
  4. ^ Tribune, Chicago (1992-10-23). "`SOMEWHERE IN TIME` TRAVELERS". Chicago Tribune. Retrieved 2024-02-20.
  5. ^ Jane Seymour on "Somewhere in Time", retrieved 2023-03-15
  6. ^ "Somewhere in Time Movie Reviews, Pictures". Rotten Tomatoes. Retrieved July 28, 2022.
  7. ^ "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.
  8. ^ "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.
  9. ^ "AFI's 100 Years...100 Passions Nominees" (PDF). AFI. Archived from the original (PDF) on October 14, 2018. Retrieved August 19, 2016.
  10. ^ "AFI's 100 Years of Film Scores Nominees" (PDF). AFI. Archived from the original (PDF) on July 14, 2019. Retrieved August 19, 2016.
  11. ^ Somewhere in Time [Original Motion Picture Soundtrack] - John Barry | Songs, Reviews, Credits | AllMusic, retrieved 2022-03-21
  12. ^ "Somewhere in Time". Retrieved 2022-03-21.
  13. ^ "John Barry: The Man Who Knew the Score". Vanity Fair. 2009-01-08. Retrieved 2022-03-21.
  14. ^ "Somewhere in Time: Limited Edition".
  15. ^ "Brazilian album certifications – John Barry – Somewhere In Time" (in Portuguese). Pro-Música Brasil.
  16. ^ "American album certifications – John Barry – Somewhere In Time". Recording Industry Association of America.
  17. ^ 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.
  18. ^ 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.
  19. ^ Petrakovitz, Caitlin. "Answering the big questions about that major Avengers: Endgame plot point". CNET. Retrieved 1 August 2020.
  20. ^ Cox, Gordon (March 7, 2006). "'Somewhere' rights nabbed by Davenport". Variety. Variety. Retrieved May 27, 2015.
  21. ^ Hetrick, Adam (December 4, 2012). "Somewhere in Time Musical Reading to Feature Andrew Samonsky and Kelli Barrett". Playbill. Retrieved 27 September 2020.
  22. ^ Hetrick, Adam (February 5, 2015). "Somewhere in Time Musical, With Laura Osnes and Ryan Silverman, Begins NYC Workshop". Playbill. Retrieved 27 September 2020.
  23. ^ Hetrick, Adam (April 24, 2013). "Andrew Samonsky Steps Into Leading Role of Somewhere in Time Musical". Playbill. Retrieved 27 September 2020.
  24. ^ "香港估估吓:世貿前身 夜總會變大戲院?". Oriental Daily News. 5 November 2018. Retrieved 27 June 2023.
  25. ^ "演藝蝶影:經典愛情片《時光倒流七十年》". Wen Wei Po. 18 February 2022. Retrieved 27 June 2023.

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