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Somewhere in Time (1980)

1:59 | Trailer
A Chicago playwright uses self-hypnosis to travel back in time and meet the actress whose vintage portrait hangs in a grand hotel.


Jeannot Szwarc


Richard Matheson (screenplay), Richard Matheson (novel)
2,632 ( 219)
Nominated for 1 Oscar. Another 7 wins & 3 nominations. See more awards »



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Cast overview, first billed only:
Christopher Reeve ... Richard Collier
Jane Seymour ... Elise McKenna
Christopher Plummer ... William Fawcett Robinson
Teresa Wright ... Laura Roberts
Bill Erwin ... Arthur Biehl
George Voskovec ... Dr. Gerald Finney
Susan French ... Older Elise
John Alvin ... Arthur's Father
Eddra Gale ... Genevieve
Audrey Bennett Audrey Bennett ... Richard's Date
William H. Macy ... Critic (as W. H. Macy)
Laurence Coven Laurence Coven ... Critic
Susan Bugg Susan Bugg ... Penelope
Christy Michaels Christy Michaels ... Beverly
Ali Marie Matheson Ali Marie Matheson ... Student (as Ali Matheson)


Young writer Richard Collier is met on the opening night of his first play by an old lady who begs him to "Come back to me". Mystified, he tries to find out about her, and learns that she is a famous stage actress from the early 1900s, Elise McKenna. Becoming more and more obsessed with her, he manages, by self hypnosis, to travel back in time where he meets her. They fall in love, a matching that is not appreciated by her manager. Can their love outlast the immense problems caused by their "time" difference? And can Richard remain in a time that is not his? Written by Rhino <rhino@blueyonder.co.uk>

Plot Summary | Plot Synopsis


He sacrificed life in the present... to find love in the past. See more »


Drama | Fantasy | Romance


PG | See all certifications »

Parents Guide:

View content advisory »






Release Date:

3 October 1980 (USA) See more »

Also Known As:

Bid Time Return See more »


Box Office


$5,100,000 (estimated)

Opening Weekend USA:

$1,203,011, 5 October 1980

Gross USA:


Cumulative Worldwide Gross:

See more on IMDbPro »

Company Credits

Production Co:

Rastar Pictures See more »
Show more on IMDbPro »

Technical Specs


Sound Mix:

Mono (Westrex Recording System)


Color (Technicolor)

Aspect Ratio:

1.85 : 1
See full technical specs »

Did You Know?


It is a film adaptation of the 1975 novel Bid Time Return by Richard Matheson. See more »


When Collier is found sitting motionless in his room, he has been there for "days" after listlessly wandering about for some time. Nevertheless, he remains clean-shaven. We know he has a beard, because he has struggled to shave with a straight razor. See more »


[first lines]
[various snippets in crowd chatter]
Richard Collier: I got some news. There was an agent in the house tonight, and he said he thinks this play might be good enough for Broadway.
[cheers from crowd]
Richard Collier: Fingers crossed, who knows? Come on, let's all have some cake.
See more »

Alternate Versions

Video version has some parts of the soundtrack changed, due to copyright problems: the original "Theme from Somewhere In Time," performed by pianist Roger Williams over the end titles, is replaced by other music in the videocassette and DVD versions. It's intact in the laserdisc release. See more »


Referenced in Who Wants to Be a Millionaire: Episode #7.87 (2009) See more »


You Made Me Love You
Written by James V. Monaco and Joseph McCarthy
Performed by Jane Seymour
See more »

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User Reviews

When Everything Seemed Possible
10 February 2009 | by JamesHitchcockSee all my reviews

Although "Somewhere in Time" is a film with a time travel theme it has (unlike, say, "The Time Machine") no overt science-fiction elements. It has, in fact, more in common with the supernatural romance films such as "A Portrait of Jennie" or "Pandora and the Flying Dutchman" which were popular in the forties and fifties. Another time-travel romance with which it has something in common is the British "Quest for Love" from 1973, although that film does have some science-fiction content and its hero travels not back into the past but rather to an alternate present in which (among other differences) the Second World War never took place.

The opening scenes take place 1972. Richard Collier, a young playwright, is approached by an elderly woman who places a pocket watch in his hand and pleads with him to "come back" to her. Eight years later Richard, suffering from writer's block, decides to take a break at an elegant turn-of-the century hotel (actually the Grand Hotel on Mackinac Island, Michigan). During his stay he becomes captivated with a photograph of a beautiful young woman, whom he discovers is Elise McKenna, a famous early 20th-century stage actress. He also learns that she was the woman who gave him the pocket watch eight years earlier, but that she subsequently died later that same evening.

Richard becomes obsessed with the idea of travelling back into the past to meet Elise as a young woman, and learns about auto-suggestive time travel from his old college professor. Through self-hypnosis, he travels back in time to the year 1912, where he does indeed meet Elise, who is staying at the hotel. The two fall in love, but they face an obstacle in the shape of her obsessively protective manager William Fawcett Robinson, who fears that the budding romance will damage Elise's career.

As with a number of time-travel films the plot, especially its dramatic conclusion, will not always bear the rigid application of strict logic. One might come to the conclusion that Richard's trip into the past was merely a self-induced hallucination were it not for the fact that concrete evidence survives to show that he actually did visit the hotel in 1912. His signature, for example, appears in an old hotel register for that year, and he himself was responsible for taking the photograph which came to obsess him 68 years later.

This is the film which proved that Christopher Reeve was more than just a musclebound superhero and that Jane Seymour was more than just a Bond Girl. There are also good contributions from Bill Erwin as Arthur, the elderly, long-serving hotel employee who remembers meeting Elise when he was a boy, and from Christopher Plummer as Robinson. Plummer does not play Robinson, as he could have done, as a straightforward villain; it is clear that he believes in Elise and will do anything to further her career. The relationship between Robinson and Elise is reminiscent of that between Lermontov and Victoria in Powell and Pressburger's "The Red Shoes"; there is a suggestion that, at least subconsciously, he may be in love with her, but on a conscious level his love for Elise the woman has been sublimated into his concern for Elise the artiste.

Director Jeannot Szwarc succeeds in evoking a romantic, dreamlike atmosphere, aided by the visual beauty of the Grand Hotel and its surroundings, by the radiant loveliness of Jane Seymour and by the elegance of the Edwardian costumes. Another important factor in creating this atmosphere is the lush musical score, composed by John Barry, and the use of the eighteenth variation of Rachmaninov's "Rhapsody on a Theme of Paganini". The use of this piece is deliberately anachronistic; although Rachmaninov was already an internationally known composer by 1912, the "Rhapsody" was not written until 1934, so it is hardly surprising that Elise is not familiar with it.

This is a film with a loyal cult following; there is even an International Network of "Somewhere In Time" Enthusiasts. Cults, whether religious or cinematic, can often be incomprehensible to outsiders, and I therefore tend to be suspicious of anything described as a "cult movie", a phrase which can be a euphemism for "pretentious nonsense, likely to prove totally baffling to those who have not been initiated into the mysteries of the cult". There are, however, numerous exceptions, in which case the phrase can be more accurately translated as "excellent film unjustly neglected by the critics", and this is the category into which "Somewhere in Time" falls. Upon its first release in 1980 it was not particularly successful, either critically or at the box office. Its fanciful plot and its lush romanticism were perhaps out of tune with the materialistic early eighties, and this style of film-making must have seemed rather old-fashioned in the age of "Star Wars".

Yet since then appreciation of the film has increased, perhaps because we have once again learned to appreciate unashamed romanticism in the cinema. The date to which Richard travels back, 1912, is significant, as it comes towards the end of the last great romantic era in our history, before the world was irrevocably changed by the mechanised destruction of the First World War. The late Victorian and Edwardian periods (often known as the Progressive Era to Americans) seemed to be an age of optimism, of progress, an age when everything seemed possible. This is a film which captures something of the spirit of those times, a film which celebrates the power of love and its ability to achieve the seemingly impossible. Seen in this light, the implausible nature of the plot need not trouble us. 8/10

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