It was fated to be a hit

Doris Day’s greatest song. It’s origins are completely unimaginable from the tune or the lyrics. This is from Mark Steyn:

It was written by Jay Livingston and Ray Evans.

“Que Sera Sera” was a deal-clincher: Alfred Hitchcock wanted Jimmy Stewart for The Man Who Knew Too Much, his 1956 Hollywood remake of one of his early British films. But Stewart’s agency, MCA, told Hitchcock they’d only give him Stewart if he took another of their clients, Doris Day, as co-star. So Hitch agreed. Then Doris demanded a song. So Hitch caved again.

“We had never met him before,” Ray Evans recalled a few years ago. “And Hitchcock said, ‘I don’t know what kind of a song I want, but it’s got to be the kind of song that a mother would sing to a little child.’ The picture takes place in Europe and North Africa. Jimmy Stewart is a diplomat-” Mr Evans’ memory was a little faulty here: Stewart was playing a doctor. “-and Hitchcock said, ‘I’ve written it into the plot because it’s the part when the little boy is kidnapped, when Doris Day finally finds him. She finds him by singing the song and hearing him echo her in the distance and she knows where he is.’ But we got the title ‘Que Sera, Sera’ and wrote it on that basis and then we had to play it for Mr Hitchcock and he said, ‘Gentlemen’ – and Jay could imitate him very well. I can’t do that – he said, ‘Gentlemen, when I first met you, I didn’t know what kind of a song I wanted. That’s the kind of a song I wanted.’ He said, ‘Thank you very much. Goodbye.’ And we never saw him again.”

In the picture, with Doris Day singing to a young child, you can sense the director doesn’t know what he’s got – the artlessness of the song seems to have thrown poor old Hitch. Miss Day didn’t like it. She thought it was a child’s song and would never be a hit, so she did it in one take and said “That’ll do”, and it became the biggest hit of her career.

But aside from the genealogy, there is the philosophy behind the tune which is discussed by Steyn at the end of his piece:

The philosophy is bunk. Whatever will be is not what will be: We have the capacity to shape events and, if we don’t, they may well turn out to be far less congenial for us than they were for Doris Day.

For myself, I am a great believer in trying to steer events in the right direction but looking at how things are going, I’m not sure that Doris Day didn’t get it right after all.

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