In the Loop: Repeat Performance

It’s a joke now that we’ve all been repeating the same day over and over for more than a year now. I had been thinking about this and also my unapologetic love of time loop movies.

Welcome to In the Loop, a project where I will write about time loop movies (and on occasion, TV shows) once a week.

Note: I will be writing about all of these movies as if you’ve seen them, so spoilers ahead!

Repeat Performance (1947, directed by Alfred L. Werker)

  • Time until the loop begins: 10 minutes
  • The cause of the loop/inciting incident: Sheila makes a wish on New Year’s
  • Number of time loops: 1
  • Lessons learned: You can’t escape fate; or maybe your husband is so terrible he should die anyway

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For the last movie for In the Loop, I decided to go with the earliest one I could find — Repeat Performance from 1947. It’s also a slight cheat since there’s really only one time loop, but it still counts. (I’m not claiming this is the first time loop movie — just the earliest one I could find.)

Based on a 1942 novel by William O’Farrell, Repeat Performance shows up on the Turner Classic Movies schedule every so often, but was not easily available on DVD or Bluray (or at least not for a price I wanted to pay. It was also not streaming anywhere legally, but I managed to find a serviceable version on YouTube (although with burned-in Spanish subtitles).

I think there’s a reason for that. As much as I wouldn’t say Repeat Performance is a bad movie, I can’t really say it’s a good one either. It’s mostly just there.

Repeat Performance begins with some narration by an uncredited John Ireland explaining the themes in the movie we’re about to see. It’s New Year’s Eve and we meet Sheila (Joan Leslie), who just shot a man. We will quickly find out this is her husband, Barney (Louis Hayward). Upset and full of regret, Sheila wishes she could just start the past year again.

She gets her wish (the mechanics of which is never explained — nor does it need to be explained). It’s now the beginning of 1946.

Sheila spends the year doing all she can to make things different than the last time she experienced 1946. Her romantic rival, Paula (Virginia Field) shows up at her party and Sheila immediately sends her away. Instead of going to London alone, she and Barney go to California instead.

But of course, things don’t go the way Sheila wants. She still ends up in Paula’s play. Paula and Barney get together (which disastrous results, of course). Despite her warnings, her unstable poet friend, William (Richard Basehart), still ends up being entangled with rich benefactor Eloise Shaw (Natalie Schafer), who once again ends up having him committed.

The only difference is that it’s not Sheila who shoots Barney in the end — it’s William (a change, it seems, from the original story). Barney was always going to die no matter what choices Sheila made.

There’s a core here that’s fun. Leslie is beautiful and breathy and there are a lot of great theatrics from the rest of the cast. Hayward’s Barney never really seems that appealing, though, and his late turn into absolute villainy seems to come out of nowhere, mostly because the character’s descent into alcoholism feels so over-the-top (even for movies of this era). It was pretty enough to look at, but even at just about 90 minutes, it felt like it dragged a bit. It felt like there should have been much more dread and suspense as everyone approached the end of the year, but mostly everything just felt like it was going to wrap up in the most inevitable way. And it did. I didn’t need a twist (even William shooting Barney was foreshadowed extremely early on) but I wanted something a bit more unexpected than what I ended up with.

Repeat Performance was remade in 1989 as a TV movie, Turn Back the Clock, with Connie Selleca and David Dukes. Joan Leslie also appears briefly as a party guest. Despite many searches, I was never able to find more than a few minutes of this movie anywhere that wasn’t questionable, so I didn’t watch it. I, however, absolutely love when time loop movies are remade. It’s like another loop!

I would’ve loved Repeat Performance to be some forgotten hidden gem so I could’ve concluded this project on a higher note, but that wasn’t meant to be. I’m still glad I watched it, though, and I think going back as early as I could feels like the right place to end this.

I’ll give some final thoughts next week.

Next week on August 31: Out of the Loop

In the Loop logo by Sarah Burnett. If you’d like to support this project, buy one of my Polaroids.