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.

Johnnie Johnston, Sharon McManus and Esther Williams taking a sleigh ride in the studio with a projection of Mackinac Island behind them. The scene was interspersed with scenes of their three doubles in a sleigh on the island. One of the few original songs penned for the film, “Sno’ Wonder They Fell in Love,” was used in this scene.

Esther Williams double, at Grand Hotel.

Esther Williams and Jimmy Durante in a publicity shot aboard the Straits of Mackinac car ferry.

Dick Simmons, Esther Williams and Jimmy Durante in a studio shot of their arrival on the island. This was used with footage shot on the Coal Dock.

Metropolitan Opera star Lauritz Melchior and Jimmy Durante in front of the Woodfill House, used for exteriors of the family home of Esther Williams’ character in the film. Behind them, with the luggage, is young East Bluff cottager Larry Keogh with the family’s pony, Betsy.

Williams posing in the Keogh pony cart in front of the Woodfill house. Larry Keogh donated the cart to Mackinac State Historic Parks several years ago.

Johnnie Johnston and Esther Williams in a studio-shot scene set on the island.

Johnnie Johnston, Esther Williams and Jimmy Durante at Grand Hotel.

Johnnie Johnston and band leader Xavier Cugat on the hotel set.

Lauritz Melchior and Xavier Cugat also in a scene on the hotel set.

Dame May Whitty and Jimmy Durante in a scene set at Grand Hotel but filmed in the studio.

Sharon McManus and Johnnie Johnston at the pool with some of Cugat’s drums.

Extras in the Grand Hotel pool.

Esther in one of the specially designed “lumberjack” pattern swimsuits specially designed for the movie. Originally made of flannel, Williams tells in her autobiography of barely being able to keep her head above water in the heavy fabric and having to shed the suit in the pool.

Director Richard Thorpe, right, and the production crew with Technicolor camera somewhere near the lakeshore.

The production crew shooting on the street.

“When It’s Lilac Time On Mackinac Island” was one of the songs from the film released on sheet music. It had been composed two years earlier for a “FitzPatrick’s Traveltalk” short about the island. It was this short that inspired film producer Joe Pasternak to set part of This Time for Keeps at Mackinac.

For the full story of making This Time for Keeps on the island see our publication “Moviemaking at Mackinac” by Patricia A. Majher in Mackinac History (Volume IV, No. 20) and Esther Williams’ autobiography, Million Dollar Mermaid (New York: Simon & Schuster, 1999). The movie is available on DVD as part of the collection “The TCM Spotlight: Esther Williams, Volume 2.”

2 Responses to “This Time For Keeps Photo Album”

  1. Sandra Trivett

    My great grandfather, Joseph Cory Barnum served at the light house in 1895. He was married to my great grandmother Luna Gilbert Blake Barnum. They had one son, Earl Gilbert Barnum. I did not know Joseph or Luna as they died before I was born. Joseph was born in New York about 1832.

    • Dominick Miller

      Hi Sandra,

      Thanks for sharing! Our records indicate a George Blake served at Old Mackinac Point Lighthouse from 1895-1899 and a William Barnum served from 1911-1919. Do you have any more information on your ancestry? We’re always eager to learn more about the people who served at the station.

      Please feel free to email me at or call me at 906.847.3328.

      Thank you!


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