A Familiar Tune

         Aaron Copland won an Academy Award in 1949 for best score of a comedy/drama for The Heiress. The film, directed by William Wyler, starred Olivia de Havilland as Catherine, and Montgomery Clift as Morris. The film proved to be a wonderful version of the 1880 Henry James novel, Washington Square, winning various awards during the year. Copeland (1900-1990) was a wonderful American composer, after taking up the profession at the age of fifteen. Copeland's musical works ranged from ballet and orchestral music to choral music and movie scores.

         In a particular scene in The Heiress, Morris (Montgomery Clift) sings a song, "Plaisir d'amour," to Catherine (Olivia de Havilland) on the piano proclaiming his feelings for her, while foreshadowing his later betrayal and her pain:

         Plaisir d'amour ne dure qu'un moment

         chagrin d'amour dure toute la vie.

         The joy of love lasts but a moment.

         The pain of love lasts all the life long.

         When experiencing the movie, listen closely. The tune bears an exact resemblance to the 1961 Elvis Presley hit, "Can't Help Falling in Love." After researching the origin of the song. I found out that it was based on an eighteenth-century French melody. The author of the lyrics in the movie is unknown. Copland uses the tune as a theme song throughout the movie. It would be interesting to interview the songwriters of the Presley hit because lyrically the song is very similar to Morris's version in the film.

         It is also a possibility that the film provided the inspiration for the song. After reading the lyrics to "Can't Help Falling in Love," I found that the amazing resemblance to Wyler's film is plain. The song was the closing number for Elvis' 1970 live show, and made its first appearance in the 1961 film Blue Hawaii. The commercial success of both picture and soundtrack set a pattern from which Elvis gained attention for a number of years. The songs sold the movie; the movie sold the songs; the method was a preview of MTV twenty years before its time. It seems very possible that one of Elvis's greatest hits was inspired by a classic film.

"Can't Help Falling In Love"

Wise men say only fools rush in

but I can't help falling in love with you

Shall I stay

would it be a sin

If I can't help falling in love with you


Like a river flows surely to the sea

Darling so it goes

some things are meant to be

take my hand, take my whole life too

for I can't help falling in love with you


Like a river flows surely to the sea

Darling so it goes

some things are meant to be

take my hand, take my whole life too

for I can't help falling in love with you

for I can't help falling in love with you.

Whitney Alexander

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