Somewhere in Time

Somewhere in Time Poster

My All-Time Favorite Love Story

(and how I fell in love with the Grand Hotel)

While I have been fascinated with this movie since I first saw it when released in 1980, I became even more enamored (if that were possible) while visiting the Grand Hotel on Mackinac Island in 2011.

In writing about this now, I feel a bit vulnerable to reveal how touched I have been by this story – like it exposes something in me that I may try to deny and keep hidden from the world.  Or that I still want to believe that kind of timeless love is possible – that there really is romance and commitment left in the world.  I was 29 years old when I first saw it – before enough of my own relationships had failed and I started my jaded journey of non-belief in such a thing. Through time and disappointment, I gradually became a true "hopeless" romantic in the most pessimistic sense of the word – I was no longer hopeful that such a love were possible – at least for me.

So maybe what's so compelling to me about this romance is the story of two people who are undeniably "soul-mates" (as over-used as that term may be).  They both have a single-minded purpose – and the relationship itself is stronger and more powerful than the individuals that make it up.

Elise & Richard in front of Grand Hotel


But besides that, I remember literally gasping the first time I got a full glimpse of the Grand Hotel.  I think there is simply no other location in the world that would have done this story justice.

As a southern gal, I've always been drawn to huge porches, so maybe that's part of its charm for me.

Elise in White Theater Dress




And since I was also a fan of Gone With The Wind since I was a little girl when I went ga-ga over the southern belle dresses, the costumes that Jane Seymour wore in this movie started my fascination with that era's clothing style.


This is the "White Theater Dress" that Elise wore when performing in the stage play portrayed "Wisdom of the Heart."  She goes off-script and looking directly at Richard in the audience, she talks about the man of her dreams:Elise white theater dress - standing



Richard in audience



"The man of my dreams has almost faded now.  The one I have created in my mind.  The sort of man each woman dreams of, in the deepest and most secret reaches of her heart.  I can almost see him now before me.  What would I say to him if he were really here?  'Forgive me. I have never known this feeling.  I have lived without it all my life.  Is it any wonder, then, I failed to recognize you?  You, who brought it to me for the first time.  Is there any way that I can tell you how my life has changed?  Any way at all to let you know what sweetness you have given me?  There is so much to say.  I cannot find the words.  Except for these:  'I love you.'  Such would I say to him if he were really here."           (1:45 min. YouTube video of this scene)

She had been previously warned by her control-freak manager that she would one day meet a man who would change her life (and he didn't mean that in a good way).

Is it you?



That's why when Elise first met Richard, the mysterious words that first escaped her were, "Is it you?" 

2 minute YouTube video of this meeting





Come back to me




But the movie begins in 1972 when 20 year old Richard Collier, celebrating the production of his first college play, was approached by an old lady who put a pocketwatch in his hand and with more puzzling words, simply pleads, "Come back to me."

He had no idea who she was or what she meant, but he held on to that watch…




Elise McKenna Portrait at the Grand Hotel

Eight years later, Richard “coincidentally” makes his way to the Grand Hotel and immediately becomes love-struck with Elise McKenna’s portrait that was hanging on the wall of the Hall of History.  He is already obsessed enough to investigate and find out that she is the same old woman who gave him the watch, had died that very night, that she was very interested in time travel, never married, but was a budding actress back in the day, and had performed at the Grand Hotel in July, 1912.

He also discovers through a dusty old hotel registration book that he was there during that time, also.



After visiting the author of the time travel book that old Elise was reading before she died, he devised a way to travel back in time by self-hypnosis and sheer force of will.  But it was critical that all modern day reminders be completely removed from his presence, so he bought what he thought was an appropriate period suit and antique money, and after a great deal of angst, is awoken on June 27, 1912 by the sound of horse hooves outside his hotel room.

Richard Collier in suit


Good Lord, who wouldn't fall for this guy, even if in a 15 year outdated suit by 1912 standards! 


An ongoing challenge was trying to conform with the social proprieties of the day, while still determined to aggressively pursue and convince his lady love of his honorable intentions.

He practices his introduction: “Good evening, Miss McKenna. You don't know me…but you will.”  Or "Good afternoon Miss McKenna. I've just come 68 years – may I speak with you?"

But he says neither at the lakeshore when she asked "Is it you?"  He simply replied “Yes” and they both knew from that moment on…


Dance collage - Somewhere in Time

Then he convinced her to go with him for a carriage ride, rowed her across the lake while humming Rachmaninoff's hauntingly beautiful "Rhapsody on a Theme of Paganini" and sat across from the lake with a view of the Grand Hotel from Round Island Lighthouse. (If you click the link it takes you to my Dropbox with an option to download (it's quick) and you can listen to 3 minutes of this beautiful music on any mp3 player.)

Elise & Richard first date collage

At one point, Elise admires Richard's pocketwatch and asked where it came from.  He just says, "It was given to me."

You watch her fall in love with him by the look on her face against the backdrop of sparkling Lake Huron as they are talking at the lighthouse.  She reveals more of herself to him and when he asked why she said, "Is it you?" she replied that she was expecting him. Lots of hidden meanings in their cryptic conversations…

So even when we are afraid to believe, we're still expecting … in the deepest, most secret reaches of the heart … somewhere in time.  "The heart has reasons that Reason cannot know." ≈ Blaise Pascal

She couldn't resist that first kiss on their first date, despite the taboos of the day (especially unchaperoned in her hotel room!), but muttered wondrously, "God, what's happening?"


One of my favorite scenes is after the play monologue where she talks to Richard about the man of her dreams.  When he came backstage after that, she was in the midst of getting her picture taken.  It wasn't until Richard entered her vision that she gave the smile that delighted the photographer. 

Portrait collage

This, of course, became the portrait that sparked modern-day Richard's obsession with finding her.  Richard then realizes he fell in love with her from the portrait because he had been unknowingly looking at her falling in love with him!  Circles within circles, past, present, future all in one loop…  (4 min. YouTube video of the director's comments about shooting that scene – how it took a full day, how Christopher Reeve didn't want to see it ahead of time so that his response would be genuine.)

I thought it was interesting that in the director notes for the movie, he wanted to delete that scene because he thought it was too obvious and unnecessary.  He now says lots of people say that's a favorite scene, so thankfully it didn't end up on the cutting room floor!

Richard & Elise reunited collage

Elise:  "I want to be everything to you."
Richard:  "You are."

But all along, the evil manager, William Fawcett Robinson, was not amused at her distraction from the acting career he had grDastardly Manageroomed her for, but especially after she declared her love from the stage ("Excess within control, McKenna").  So he hired goons to beat and tie up Richard so he could not see Elise again before they left – dastardly deed! 

His plan is foiled again, however, because when she can't find Richard, Elise refuses to leave.  Our hero escapes, and they are reunited on Grand Hotel's lawn.  And when Elise lets her hair down, they are really united for the first time surrounded by lace curtains and candlelight into the dawn as they celebrate their future together as man and wife.


Elise makes fun of his sadly out-of-date suit (trying to change him already?) and he defends his style by showing how handy all the pockets are.  Out pops a shiny 1979 penny, which pops him out of his self-induced hypnosis and straight out of 1912 and back to 1980.  Oh, the cries of agony at the separation!  Richaaaaaard!!!

Somewhere in Time despair collage

Richard did not succeed this time in getting himself back to 1912, and who knows what Elise thought when he just vanished from her present (but she must have figured out he had time traveled since she became so interested in the subject).  She pined for her lost love the rest of her life and the watch he had left her was always her most prized possession until she gave it back to him that night in 1972.  She then went back to the Grand Hotel and died there at age 86, clutching the 1972 Richard's manuscript while listening to the music box replica she had made of the Grand Hotel.   (Short YouTube video of the Grand Hotel music box I played during my visit)

Somewhere in Time - Heaven collage

As Richard takes his last breath, he is smiling because he sees a glowing light through the window, and then Elise is standing there with outstretched hand.  He walks up to her, removes his hat just like he did when they first met, then fade out as they walk off into heaven hand in hand.  Together again – Somewhere in Time…

Five minute scene of this separation, Richard's death, their ultimate reunion (and film credits)

music symbolLyrics to "Somewhere in Time" (never heard in the movie, and I didn't even know it had words until found online)
(If you click the link it takes you to my Dropbox with an option to download (it's quick) and you can listen to 3-1/2  minutes of this incredible music by John Barry on any mp3 player.)

Somewhere in time
We met on timeless hills
And in the evening mist we kissed
And time stood still
Before the dawn, we found forever
Moments are timeless when I feel your caress

You'll always be inside of me
And I know when love is true
It's always with you

Somewhere in time
I came to realize
Love never goes

Love never goes
Once it has touched your heart
Just like the strength of wine that's left
As two lips part
A taste of love will linger after
I know the meaning of all that I see

You'll always be inside of me
And I know when love is true
It's always with you

Somewhere in time
I came to realize
Love never goes


Interesting Links:

Official movie website

Official Fan Club:  INSITE (International Network of Somewhere in Time Enthusiasts)

Christopher Reeve page on Somewhere in Time – "…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 interview about her part (Barnes & Noble) – "We're all looking for true love, and we want to believe that there's a purpose to life. In our increasingly discordant society, there seems to be precious little to believe in. So the message of Somewhere in Time strikes a chord — especially with young people. It's very comforting to believe that love transcends time and place. I certainly believe that, which is one of the reasons I'm so proud to have been a part of this film."

Somewhere in Time Weekend (Grand Hotel) and FAQs – It took me 31 years to get to visit the Grand Hotel and now I'm obsessed with making it to the Somewhere in Time Weekend before I'm as old as Elise was when she died – definitely on my bucket list!  This takes place in October annually.

Somewhere in Time Weekend FAQs (INSITE)

Somewhere in Time Costumes

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I'd love to hear your own experiences about places I've been - and what you think are "must-sees" - and I really value any suggestions and feedback from readers, so please let me have your 2 cents in Comments below: