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Crown Cruise Vacations | July 20, 2018

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Shore Excursion: Grand Hotel takes guests back ‘Somewhere in Time’

Shore Excursion: Grand Hotel takes guests back ‘Somewhere in Time’
Jackie Sheckler Finch

On a whim, a young playwright from Chicago decides to take a trip and stay at the Grand Hotel on Mackinac Island, Michigan. Although he is a success in his profession, Richard Collier feels lonely and unhappy. He has never found his special love.

Wandering around the historic hotel to pass the time, the writer steps into the Grand Hotel Hall of History. There he encounters the photo of an actress who appeared at the hotel in 1912. Drawn to the picture, the young man feels driven to will himself back in time to meet the beautiful actress, his destiny Elise McKenna. Somehow or other, he succeeds.

Of course, this is all a Hollywood movie. And it was made way back in 1979, for goodness sake. But, if you visit the Grand Hotel on a special October weekend, you would never know the story wasn’t true or that the tale was filmed decades ago.

Ladies in long dresses and frilly hats will be enjoying tea in the hotel lobby, walking the beautiful grounds with dainty parasols to protect them from the sun or watching the sunset from the world’s longest front porch.

Men in turn-of-the century suits and gentlemanly hats will be sipping fine wine, discussing the merits of strong steeds pulling the passing carriages or taking a turn on one of the island’s many bicycles.

It will truly be like turning back the clock to “Somewhere in Time,” the 1980 movie that critics bashed but moviegoers loved.

“I’ve never seen anything like it,” said Bob Tagatz, historian at the Grand Hotel. “I’ve been here more than 20 years and there has not been a single day that someone has not asked me about the movie. The number of people who follow the movie is amazing.”

Starring Jane Seymour and Christopher Reeve, the classic movie featured the Grand Hotel as its backdrop. In fact, some folks swear the 1887 Victorian hotel is actually the scene-stealer. Perched high over the Straits of Mackinac, the hotel seems to have gotten even more beautiful with the passing years.

Coachmen atop glossy maroon carriages wait at the hotel entrance, the drivers resplendent in red jackets and black top hats. With the exception of a few emergency vehicles, the Michigan island is car free. When the first “horseless carriage,” arrived from the mainland in 1898, the contraption so traumatized the local horses that island officials banned the newfangled machines. And they’re still banned.

A snazzy convertible is shown in the movie but even Christopher Reeve and Jane Seymour were required to travel the half-mile between town and the Grand Hotel by carriage or bicycle or on foot. So were all the U.S. Presidents who have visited Mackinac Island for over a century. And so must all the guests, after arriving at the island by ferry boat.

The annual “Somewhere in Time” weekends officially started in 1991, but movie fans were staging their own impromptu tributes even before that.  “People dress in period clothing and we have special events throughout the weekend,” Tagatz said. “Jane Seymour has returned in the past but we’re not sure yet who will be here this year.”

Every setting required by the “Somewhere in Time” script was found on Mackinac Island. The movie was filmed entirely on the island, except for a few brief scenes shot in Chicago.

“This is a really rare place in the world today,” Tagatz said. “It’s a living, working museum and when you are here, you are a part of history.”

   HAUNTING MOVIE   

The movie was Reeve’s first one after his “Superman” hit. And most fans know of the tragedy that hit the popular actor. On May 27, 1995, Reeve’s horse suddenly stopped short of a jump during a horsemanship competition in Culpepper, Va.

Reeve’s hands became caught in the bridle and he was thrown headlong to the ground. He barely survived the broken neck that severed his spinal cord and left him completely paralyzed from the first vertebra down. He died Oct. 11, 2004, at age 52.

A special “Somewhere in Time” suite at the Grand Hotel is one of the most popular and is filled with photos of Reeve, Seymour and other movie pictures.

“The suite is decorated all in 1912 décor with a lot of the movie memorabilia,” Tagatz said. “People always want to see that room and they always want to ask about the movie. The Somewhere in Time weekend is a very special time to be here.”

The Somewhere in Time weekend in October includes a screening of the film and discussions of the movie’s production process. Guests are invited to make a cameo appearance in costume at the cocktail receptions, costume promenade and grand luncheon buffet.

“It’s just a beautiful movie,” Tagatz said. “I am an historian so time travel is something I am very interested in. Then the theme of the movie that love transcends death is something I think everyone wants to believe in.”

Hint: The two lovers are not destined to live happily ever after in 1912. But they eventually do find each other again – Somewhere in Time.

Photo by Jackie Sheckler Finch