See You Around, Arthur

January 8, 2011

Bill Erwin, who played Arthur in Somewhere in Time, died this week at the ripe old age of 96.

Bill was a wonderful character actor and just a plain character par excellence. Well into his 90s, Bill still made the journey to Mackinac Island, Michigan every October for the annual Somewhere in Time weekend at The Grand Hotel. While there, Bill would hold court wherever he was, and his booming voice could be heard making jokes, greeting people, and most of all, flirting with every woman in the hotel, always adding that he didn’t remember why he was flirting but it was still such a powerful instinct that he couldn’t resist it. He will be sorely, sorely missed. We’ll definitely “see you around, Arthur.”

Thinking of Bill this week has of course taken me back to Mackinac Island and the Somewhere in Time experience that fills a chapter in Bringing Back The Old Hollywood. I hope you enjoy this excerpt from the book:

“The big puzzle piece that we did not yet have was the location.

The script called for an old hotel that had been around since at least 1912. As we had severe budget restrictions, we needed to be able to shoot the 1912 sequences in a location that was untouched by modern day devices like parking meters, etc. The book had been set at the Hotel del Coronado near San Diego, California but the area was too modern for us.

And then we heard of The Grand Hotel on Mackinac Island, Michigan. The Grand had been built in 1887 and the photos we saw were beyond magnificent. We were also thrilled to hear that motorized vehicles had never been allowed on the Island and that taxis were actually horse-drawn carriages so there were no modern impediments of any kind.

The challenge, of course, was that we would need our equipment trucks. Other than a brief sequence in a 1946 film, no one had shot a film on the Island because of those logistical challenges.

I discovered that the Grand was actually owned not by some big corporation but by one man, Dan Musser. I sent him a copy of the script, noting that his hotel would be one of the major stars of the film.

Mr. Musser called very soon after he read the script and invited us to come visit the Island, which we quickly did. We fell in love with the hotel and the island, leading Mr. Musser to say that he would make things work for us.

And did he ever.

Mr. Musser and his entire staff facilitated the shooting at his always busy hotel and he even forged a way for us to get permits for a couple of trucks on the Island.

On the end credits of the film, we thanked Mr. Musser and his staff for “the gracious use of their magnificent hotel.”

Without Dan Musser, Somewhere in Time would have been a very different and lesser film.

{ 2 comments… read them below or add one }

Danny January 8, 2011 at 11:34 am

Stephen,
Take a second to look up Bill Erwin
on the “imdb” website … His TV Credits list
“EVERY” TV Series we watched growing up!!!
It is truly amazing! I never his incredible history?
I wished I’d known this before … What a Guy !!!

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Stephen Simon January 8, 2011 at 12:30 pm

I know….he was in absolutely everything we boomers watched and loved….it’s interesting that the focus of most of the obituaries was his role in Seinfeld …what a wonderful actor and dear, dear man he was…

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