Every October as the summer season comes to an end, in the north of Michigan, the delightful and charming Mackinac Island celebrates the ‘Somewhere in Time’ weekend. This weekend of festivity is a tribute to the movie ‘Somewhere in Time’ filmed at The Grand Hotel, Mackinac Island and around the island in 1979. The film stars Jane Seymour, Christopher Reeve and Christopher Plummer and is a romantic, time-travelling journey filled with joy and love.
August 2022 – MY DISCOVERY OF MACKINAC ISLAND
The minute I stepped on to the trolley bus ferrying people from the car park to the waterfront I felt as if I had been transported back in time. The smiling driver welcomed passengers one by one. The sun shone down and the sky was blue. It was just a short drive to the shores of Lake Huron, where blue and white stripped canvas parasols and sun shades fluttered in the breeze. All aboard, all aboard, shouted a smiling crew member as an orderly crowd of visitors, including me, stepped onto a well-maintained and immaculately clean lake cruiser that would whisk us across the water, with a quick detour under the impressive and gargantuan Mackinac Bridge, which looked to my untrained eye, remarkably similar to the Golden Gate Bridge. In seconds we were underway and the dulcet tones of the boat captain filled the air. We are on Lake Huron our Captain explained, one of the Great Lakes and we are heading to Mackinac Island, a summer playground for the people of Michigan and the sprawling metropolitan areas to the south. The boat service was provided by the Shepler Ferry Company, founded by Captain William Shepler in the 1950s. My host Mary Lou explained to me that the owner of the ferry boat company went down to Orlando in Florida in the 1980s to learn how to run a transportation business for tourists. He learned well and the company is doing a great job.
As we approached the harbour of Mackinac Island I noticed a pretty collection of houses, cottages and coloured buildings lining the waterfront. The white timber terrace of The Grand Hotel, a landmark on the island glistened in the morning light. Horses and carriages progressed up and down Main Street in a steady and stately fashion. There are no cars. Visitors get about on foot, by bicycle or in a horse-drawn carriage.
I spotted a mountain of hay, bales of hay to be precise, stacked high at the side of the dock. Hay is delivered daily to the island to feed the 500 horses who live and work on the island during the summer months. There’s a riding stables where you can rent a horse (their words) and numerous carts and carriages (all horse-drawn) for rental. Strolling along the paths and avenues of Mackinac is just like stepping back in time. The island is charming, the absence of motor vehicles gives an air of calm and tranquility. Horses, people, bicycles and pedestrians fill the streets and pavements with hustle, bustle and life. On a perfect summer’s day it is a magical and enchanting place to be. Surrounded by the cool waters of Lake Huron, the island has been a popular holiday spot for city dwellers from Chicago, Detroit and Toledo for generations. Quaint and often very large ‘cottages’ line the streets, they are summer homes for the out-of-towners.
Each year as the summer comes to an end the Grand Hotel hosts a ‘Somewhere in Time‘ weekend designed for movie lovers who adored the ‘Somewhere in Time’ film. There’s a special screening of the film, guests dress up in period costumes and members of the cast and the production team are invited back to the island for the weekend. Guests can even make a cameo appearance in costume at various receptions and parties. The film is a love story involving a time-traveller (Christopher Reeve) and the lady of his dreams, an actress from the early 1900s (Jane Seymour). The story is cute, romantic and completely captivating, especially when you add in the traditional and historic Grand Hotel as a key player in the movie. This year’s ‘Somewhere in Time’ event was particularly special because Jane Seymour flew in especially to participate in the event!
Here’s what Jane Seymour says about Mackinac and the Grand Hotel,
Seymour once said she thought there was “pixie dust” sprinkled over the film, and she has come to several of these themed weekends. “She loves our hotel,” said Grand Hotel Historian Bob Tagatz in a video about Seymour and the film. “She has a true love for Mackinac Island.”
“The ‘Somewhere in Time’ weekend here at The Grand Hotel was pure magic. It was so wonderful to spend time with all of the amazing people who love this special film. Thank you to everyone who worked tirelessly to make it happen, to those who came to celebrate, and to all of you for joining us for the journey. My heart is full!,” Seymour posted on social media after the event.
Somewhere in Time – In 1972, college theatre student Richard Collier (Christopher Reeve) celebrates the debut of his new play. An elderly woman Richard does not know comes up and places a pocket watch in his hand and pleads, “Come back to me”. The woman returns to her home and dies in her sleep later the same day.
Eight years later, in 1980, 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 Mackinac Island and stays at the Grand Hotel. While exploring the hotel’s exceptional collection of photographs and paintings, spanning the last century he comes across a photograph of Elise McKenna, a beautiful early-20th century stage actress. He becomes obsessed with this lady and her ethereal beauty. Later he discovers she is the same woman who gave him the pocket watch, eight years earlier. Time travel is in the air. Desperate to discover more about this enigmatic character, Richard visits Laura Roberts, Elise’s former housekeeper and companion. Whilst visiting he discovers a music box that plays the 18th variation of Rhapsody on a Theme of Paganini by Rachmaninoff. By complete coincidence it is one of his favourite musical pieces! 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-travelled through the power of self-suggestion, in other words, hypnosis. Finney warns Richard that such a process would leave one very weak physically, perhaps dangerously so. Of course Richard takes the risk and so the film unfolds.
Somewhere in Time was filmed in 1979 at The Grand Hotel on Mackinac Island. It was released in 1980. The film starred: Jane Seymour (Elise), Christopher Reeve (Richard), Christopher Plummer as Professor Finney and The Grand Hotel (as a grand hotel)!
The combination of the majesty and elegance of Mackinac’s Grand Hotel and the romance and charm of ‘Somewhere in Time’ creates a potent cocktail of history, drama and emotion. It’s impossible to stroll on the worn timbers of the hotel’s porch (said to be the longest in North America) without being transported back in time to the heady days of the 1890s when the Grand Hotel was the talk of the mid-west. The rocking chairs that line the verandah have silently witnessed the comings and goings of hundreds of visitors over the last century; actors and musicians, business owners, socialites, doctors, lawyers and mobsters. The good, the bad and the ugly. Add a sprinkling of time travel into this heady mix and a delicious effervescence is guaranteed.
In fact old hotels in general are often a wonderful source of inspiration, imagination and story-telling. The Pera Palace Hotel in Istanbul, was built by the French Wagons Lit railway company in the 19th century. The hotel provided European style, luxury accommodation for passengers who had travelled to Istanbul on the Orient Express train. It was Agatha Christie’s favourite hotel in Istanbul and the room she stayed in has been perfectly preserved in her memory. A Turkish film company recently used the room as a time portal between the present day and the 1920s juxtaposing the social upheaval of Turkey, as it became a secular democracy, under the inspirational leadership of Ataturk, with the drama of radical extremism.
In Liverpool, the landmark Adelphi Hotel, also built by the railway companies of the 1860s offered luxury lodging to travellers about to embark on one of the many Cunard ships departing for New York. Charles Dickens was a regular visitor as was Sir Winston Churchill. There was even a death at The Adelphi, when the aristocratic Sir ‘Jock’ Delves Broughton was found dead in one of the hotel suites in 1941, the circumstances of his death were hotly debated at the time.
It seems to me that there is a rich seam of imagination that can be mined and developed when history, tradition and hotels intersect. Agatha Christie adored taking a cast of diverse characters and throwing them together on a boat (Death on the Nile) or on a train (Murder on the Orient Express) or at a country house hotel where first a murder and then the solving of the crime would take place. Christie set her Miss Marple ‘Sleeping Murder’ at the Imperial Hotel, Torquay. She used the atmospheric Burgh Island Hotel on the Devon coast for two murder mysteries; ‘And then there were none’ and ‘Evil under the Sun’.
It is a curiosity and a delight to me that the art of story-telling is alive and well in the 21st century. Through books, films, TV and radio we are able to let our imaginations run wild. From the porch of the Grand Hotel, Mackinac Island to the Adelphi Hotel in Liverpool, characters from the past populate our dreams. Could we go back in time as Christopher Reeve did in ‘Somewhere in Time’ if we believe in the possibility of time travel strongly enough, can we make it happen? The truth is it doesn’t really matter, because when we mix people, emotions and time together in different proportions we create a laboratory experiment of intangible elements, a burning flame of incandescence, shining brilliantly. Blue, white, purple, crimson and ivory.
- I write regularly about history, geography, art and culture. My next article will be developing the theme of grand hotels and their unique role in the social history of Europe. You can discover more of my writing at: www.educated-traveller.com
- Here is the web site of Mackinac Island’s Grand Hotel: www.grandhotel.com
- Several ferry services link Mackinaw City (mainland) and Mackinac Island – they are: www.sheplersferry.com
- www.mackinacislandferry.com – known as Star Line.
- Happy meandering through the winding rivulets of your mind.
Jane Seymour thanks fans – Somewhere in Time weekend – October, 2022 – whilst Christopher Reeve relaxes between takes during filming, 1979. Photos courtesy of: www.mlive.com and www.grandhotel.com
2 thoughts on “Somewhere in Time….”
Oh, you know how I love this! What a good time we had, and to read your take on it is very special. Somewhere in Time Weekend is quite the thing up here and I loved reading about it.
LikeLiked by 1 person
Thank you xxx
LikeLiked by 1 person