I’ve Always Loved you

(Frank Borzage, USA, 1946)


The suave maestro Goronoff (Philip Dorn) is engaged in duelling pianos with his brilliant protégé Myra (Catherine McLeod). He plays the lead line of a concerto, explaining that it expresses the life of a man – striving, dying, proclaiming words of love.

Myra responds with another musical motif which she identifies as female – but the master is displeased and ends the duet. "There is no woman in music!", he bellows.

This scene alone would be enough reason to watch Frank Borzage’s wonderful melodrama I’ve Always Loved You. But it gets even better. During Myra’s debut public performance, she again finds herself locked in an almighty clash of wills with her teacher-conductor.

While the music of Rachmaninoff crashes and swells, Goronoff wields his fierce baton and crushes Myra with his male, musical force. The moment is so traumatic for Myra that the rest of the plot is devoted to its aftermath.

This is the kind of old-fashioned drama which skips decades in the blink of an eye, all for the sake of constructing a peculiarly dreamlike fable of love and sacrifice, desire and regret, fancy and duty.

Freud would have most certainly called it a family romance, since the unresolved passions of adults inexorably find themselves recreated in the tangled destinies of their respective children. It is soap opera – and popular art of the highest order.

Although not as celebrated today as some of his Hollywood contemporaries, Borzage (Seventh Heaven [1927], Moonrise [1948]) was a great filmmaker. Many of his florid romances contain intensely mystical, religious and supernatural elements.

I’ve Always Loved You shines when Goronoff and Myra are locked in psychic synchronicity at their respective keyboards, oceans apart. Technicolour has never been so splendid as in this restored print from the UCLA Film and Television Archive.

MORE classical-music melodrama: The Piano Teacher, Blueprint

© Adrian Martin June 1994

Film Critic: Adrian Martin
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