Musical Borrowing
An Annotated Bibliography

Individual record

[+] Pomerance, Murray. “‘The Future’s Not Ours to See’: Song, Singer, Labyrinth in Hitchcock’s The Man Who Knew Too Much.” In Soundtrack Available: Essays on Film and Popular Music, edited by Pamela Robertson Wojcik and Arthur Knight, 53-73. Durham: Duke University Press, 2001.

The song Que Sera, Sera plays an important part in the plot for Alfred Hitchcock’s 1956 version of The Man Who Knew Too Much. In order to get Jimmy Stewart to agree to be in the film, his agent bundled in others represented by the same company including Ray Evans and Jay Livingston, who had pre-written some songs. Hitchcock was impressed with Que Sera, Sera and used it for a large part of the film’s plot. Bernard Hermann, the film’s composer, was unimpressed (he supposedly referred to the song as a “piece of junk”), but the song plays a large role in the film as a whole. There are many labyrinthine aspects to both the film’s plot and its mise-en-scène, and the song echoes this complexity despite its outwardly simple appearance. Within the film, the song often plays with space through acousmatic placement and with time through its forward looking lyrics set in the past (“When I was just a little girl / I asked my mother ‘What will I be?’”). The diegetic quality of this one popular song aspect of the otherwise classical score is emphasized in that Que Sera, Sera is included in its entirety in the film, an unusual decision for a popular song that both normalizes and emphasizes the performance.

Works: Alfred Hitchcock (director): The Man Who Knew Too Much (53-70).

Sources: Ray Evans and Jay Livingston: Que Sera, Sera (53-70).

Index Classifications: 1900s, Film

Contributed by: Emily Baumgart

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