U.S. 1972 Re-release poster

The Time Machine (1959)

While filming War of the Worlds, production was nearly shut down when it was realized that Paramount had only bought the rights to film a silent version of the novel. George Pal got on the phone and contacted Frank Wells, H.G. Wells' son, and negotiated for the talking rights and production was again moving forward. After the release of War of the Worlds, the Wells Estate eager to have other works filmed, contacted George Pal and asked if he were interested in any other of Wells' works. George looked over the various properties and concluded that The Time Machine would be best suited for a movie. George bought the option on it but Paramount wasn't interested in doing it. Irregardless of Paramount's lack of interest, George hired David Duncan to write a script. Initial discussions were to update the story to modern day as they were doing with War of the Worlds.


"We modernized War of the Worlds because flying saucers were so topical at that time. In The Time Machine we didn't because we had a different problem. Here the problem was to convince the audience that the time machine was real. So we put it in the past at the turn of the century, and we showed incidents the audience knows did happen, such as the changing of women's fashions, the First World War, the Second World War, etcetera. By that time the people believed it, so went along and believed there was such a thing in the future as little blond people on the surface and albino monsters down below."
—George Pal

Years later while George was in England filming tom thumb, the head of the M.G.M. British studio,Matthew Raymond, asked George if he had any other projects under consideration, George replied with The Time Machine. George and Raymond worked up a budget of $850,000 to do the film. When George returned to Hollywood and screened the rough cut of tom thumb for the studio exec Sol Siegel, Siegel recognized the potential and asked what George wanted to do next.

"The production department at M.G.M. Hollywood realized they had been wrong about their tom thumb budget and they accepted my figures of $850,000 for The Time Machine. They wanted to prove they could make pictures in the U.S. as cheaply as they could in England, so they told me to shoot it in Hollywood. In fact The Time Machine came in slightly under budget."
—George Pal

Paul Scofield
Michael Rennie
James Mason
Rod Taylor

George was considering Paul Scofield, Michael Rennie and James Mason for the role of the Time Traveler, it was a relative unknown though that was awarded the role, Rod Taylor. While viewing film tests and films to cast the remaining roles, Pal spotted his Weena in a test reel for another actor. As George was excited at the discovery the agent assumed George liked his client, George corrected him by saying something like, no not him, her! M.G.M. had already dropped the option on this young actress but George insisted and Yvette Mimieux was on her way to becoming a star actress.

H.G. Wells' description of the Time Machine was very sketchy at best, after all, Wells main concern was the telling of his story in the far future and the machine was merely a plot device to take us there. The design of the machine for the film came from William Ferrari, Mentor Huebner and George Pal himself.

"The design all started with a barber chair. Bill Ferrari, the Art Director, thought that was a good way to begin. A turn-of-the-century barber chair. Then came up with the idea of the sled like design. He sketched that out and I liked it. And then we put the controls on the front. I thought it was a good idea. He sketched, and I sketched, and other people made comments. And then Bill said we needed something behind it to indicate movement so we came up with the big radar like wheel."
—George Pal

M.G.M. had three Berninghaus 1895-1901 barber chairs in there prop department and one of these was taken to become the saddle of the Time Machine. William Ferrari's working drawing of the machine shows a more generic chair design with the notation "stock chair do not build. " The full size machine was built by the M.G.M. prop Department.

George approached Project Unlimited to handle the effects shots for the film and once the full size machine was finished, Project was assigned the job to build the miniature Time Machine as well. Once the film was finished the model machine was taken home by George Pal and in 1962 tragedy struck when Bel Aire was engulfed in fire and the Pal's home was completely destroyed and all it's contents including the miniature model and year of his personal film mementos from the Puppetoons and earlier films.

The effects in Time Machine utilized many different processes to accomplish the desired effects. Time lapse photography and in many cases stop-motion animation. David Pal's (George Pal's eldest son) first animation job was changing the dates on the Time Machine console. Some of the scenes using only stop -motion are the snail racing past in the work shop, the mannequin's clothes changing which was made more difficult by including a live person in the sequence, Don Sahlin and of course the model Time Machine running and disappearing on the table.

More complicated shots involved stop-motion and miniatures such as the buildings being built leading up to the 1960's sequence, and other shots combined stop-motion and paintings such as the apples growing which was done by Bill Brace by painting the new images one frame at a time over the previous ones. Matt paintings were used to show the futuristic Eloi Palace both exterior and interior. The final shot of the time traveler's home is actually a matt painting also. The real building was destroyed after the opening scenes were shot and Pal wanted to show it as the last shot of the film so a painting was done and the falling snow was Ivory soap flakes being dropped in front of the camera.

The special effects earned an Academy Award for Gene Warren and Tim Barr, due to a technical mistake Wah Chang was not included in the nomination although he most deservedly earned it.

William Tuttle, head of M.G.M.'s makeup department was responsible for translating George Pal's sketches of the Morlocks into screen reality. Foam appliances were used for the featured Morlocks and pull over rubber masks were used for the background characters. One of the Morlocks was played by George Pal's youngest son, Peter.

Pal had heard Fantastica, Music From Outer Space, a record album of music with a science fiction theme. George contacted the composer, Russell Garcia, and asked him if he could compose the music track for The Time Machine.

"Well, of course the first thing he did was give me a script before the film was ready, and he wanted me to come in with some themes. So I thought, "wow, this picture goes a few hundred thousand years into the future, I can imagine some very futuristic wild music, I and I went in and I played a few of these things at the piano for him, and he said "very nice, Russ," but he didn't look too enthusiastic! So I went home and wrote a few simpler folk-type themes and the next day I came back and I phoned him and said "I've got a few more things," and he was ecstatic, he thought that was wonderful. But I did use a few of the more modernistic themes later, because when you see them with the actual film they fit, and they wouldn't be offensive to somebody who likes simple folk themes.
—Russell Garcia

Russell's score is one of my all time favorites. A portion of it is the piece which plays when you first entire our web site. When Russell was asked how he makes such wonderful music he replied "I only use the pretty notes." Russell is still very active traveling all over the globe. When I last contacted him he was in Europe working on a project.

"The executives complained that I didn't make enough 'cover' shots. Because I knew what I was going to use, I didn't shoot what I didn't need. Everybody seeing the rushes was worried about what the director was doing. So at a big meeting I told them it would be alright. They went along for awhile, but when the fight scenes with the Morlocks came, we had to over shoot. Suddenly they said I shot too much. So, Sol Siegel called me. He was a good executive, very understanding. He is the one who, when the story department said the script was no good, said, 'George, stick to your guns anyway.' So all the executives wanted to have a big meeting. I told them, 'Why don't you let me cut together a sequence over the weekend instead. I'll have it for you Monday, and then we'll see if you still feel that way.' So I worked all Saturday and Sunday with the editor, George Tomasini. It was hard work to put the whole sequence together in the middle of production, but somehow we did it. Monday came and we ran the film. Everyone was there, waiting for the bloodshed to come. After the screening the lights came up. Nobody said a word. They were all waiting for Seigel's reaction. Slowly Siegel stood up and held out his hand, saying, 'Congratulations, George! Great! ' 'You have the wrong George , Sol,'I said and pointed to Tomasini. 'This is the George who deserves the credit.' Then all the other executives came to life. From then on we had no trouble. George Tomasini was the greatest editor I ever knew."
— George Pal

The film was finished at the cost of $827,000 under George's estimate of $850,000. George Pal made one dynamic change to Wells' original story. Where Wells' Time Traveler finds mankind a dyeing entity and further discovers man has become extinct, Pal shows that future mankind may be able to pull itself back together. As with many of Pal's projects we are given hope of a better life.

"Neither MGM nor Pal could have expected that The Time Machine would take off at the box office the way it did. Supported by a well-handled promotional campaign it became one of MGM's top grosser's of the year and Pal's most financially successful film. The Time Machine somehow caught the fancy of young audiences, particularly those interested in science fiction. It proved that there was indeed an audience for good fantasy films. It earned a well-deserved Academy Award for special effects, but more importantly it earned Pal the admiration of a whole new generation of film fans.
— Gail Morgan Hickman

Indeed, many of the e-mails I receive are from those you saw The Time Machine in 1960 at an age of between 8-12 years old and their lives changed because of it. Some credit this film as an influence to becoming MD's, PhD's. Physicists and some entered the film industry and a few have earned their own Oscars for their efforts.

The Time Machine
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The Time Machine Project 1998 Don Coleman
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