Celebrating 75 Years of This Time for Keeps

 Seventy-five years ago, October 17, 1947, This Time for Keeps was released in theaters. The Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer musical picture was the third of 19 “water ballet” extravaganzas starring national swimming champion Esther Williams. The film was produced by Joe Pasternak who had been impressed by the beauty of Mackinac Island featured in an MGM “Fitzpatrick Traveltalk” short in 1944. He decided then that he would feature the island in his next Williams picture.

 While the boy-meets-girl, boy-loses-girl, boy-gets-back-girl story is primarily set in New York, it bounces twice to Mackinac Island. All the New York scenes and Mackinac Island interiors were shot at the MGM studios in Culver City, California. However, crews were dispatched in February and July to shoot exterior scenes on the island. The winter shoots included establishing and background shots of various locations in the movie. Some of these included doubles for the stars. The July scenes brought several of the principals to the island including Williams, leading man Johnnie Johnston, Lauritz Melchior, Sharon McManus, and Jimmy Durante. Scenes were shot on the Coal Dock, the front of the Stewart Woodfill residence, downtown street scenes, the exterior of Grand Hotel, and, of course, the Grand Hotel pool. A lovely montage of island scenes to the tune of “When It’s Lilac Time on Mackinac Island,” originally written for the Fitzpatrick Traveltalk, introduces the final segment of the picture.

 Williams was fitted with 10 specially designed bathing suits for the film by the MGM costume designer. In her autobiography Williams noted that, as the story was set in the Northwoods, one of the suits was made from lumberjack plaid flannel. Unfortunately, it absorbed water like crazy. When she dove into the Grand Hotel pool for the first time, the suit dragged her to the bottom, and she could barely keep her head above water. She finally had to reach around, tug at the zipper and slip out of it! There were many crew members and tourists surrounding the pool. Williams quickly swam to the edge where her wardrobe assistant cut a hole in a large towel and dropped it over her head like a poncho.

 All the actors and crew enjoyed their time on the island, and Williams was remembered by island residents for her grace, good humor, and charm. She returned to the island in 1987 when the pool was named in her honor.

 While the critical reviews were mixed, the picture was a hit at the box office, netting a $1.7 million profit ($23.4 million in 2022 dollars). The film brought priceless publicity to the island as it was just emerging from the 15-year slump of the Great Depression and World War II. This Time for Keeps is not as well remembered today as 1980s Somewhere in Time. However, unlike the latter picture, it actually focused the story on Mackinac Island itself and provides some stunning Technicolor footage of the island as it appeared more than 75 years ago.

This Time For Keeps Photo Album

This Time For Keeps Photo Album

2017 marks the 70th anniversary of the release of Metro-Goldwyn-Meyer’s This Time for Keeps. The Esther Williams “water ballet” musical was the third she made in this genre. About a third of the 90-minute movie is set on Mackinac Island. A number of exterior shots and all interior scenes set on the island were filmed at the M-G-M studio in Culver City, California. However, a number of outdoor scenes were shot on the island. This included winter footage of the docks, downtown, the Stewart Woodfill residence, and wooded trails. These were filmed in February 1946, some using doubles to represent the principals. Most of the principal cast, including Esther Williams, Johnnie Johnston, Jimmy Durante and Lauritz Melchior came to Mackinac Island for several weeks in July 1946 for scenes shot along Main Street, at the Coal Dock, in front of Grand Hotel and at the hotel’s swimming pool. More than 200 extras were also employed for these scenes. (more…)

The Somewhere in Time Gazebo

The Somewhere in Time Gazebo

The gazebo decorated for a wedding around 2012.

Nestled along Anne’s Tablet Trail, you’ll find the Somewhere in Time Gazebo tucked away over-looking Haldimand Bay, Round Island, and Downtown Mackinac Island. Though the gazebo is stashed away in a secluded part of Mackinac Island, visitors from around the world stop to take in the beauty every day. Some come to witness a part of Hollywood history, others find the view inspiring, and many find it to be a romantic and picturesque wedding venue. (more…)