Once Upon a Time…Storybook Love is a song written by singer and songwriter Mark Knopfler and performed by Guy Fletcher.
The song was featured in the 1987 film, The Princess Bride, and was released on the film’s soundtrack, also titled The Princess Bride, on November 12, 1987. The soundtrack was released internationally by Vertigo Records and domestically by Warner Bros. Records.
The popularity of the song is greatly due to the cult status of the film, which was actually a huge flop in the box office but then surged in sales when it was later released to VHS, as actor Cary Elwes wrote in his recent memoir As You Wish: The Inconceivable Tales from the Making of the Princess Bride:
“What was kind of sad was that it seemed destined back then to be a relatively small movie, seen by only a smattering of people. Or so we thought. Then, out of the blue ( I guess if I had to figure out a date, it might have been around Christmas 1988), the movie started to take on a life of its own. It was a booming time for the VHS market and videos had become an enormously popular Christmas gift. And what better movie to share at Christmas than the Princess Bride? That first year, copies flew off the shelves – and they’ve been flying ever since, in one form or another…It came out of nowhere. And at the time there didn’t seem to be a reason for this. The Princess Bride had disappeared. The movie was ‘mostly dead,’ if not buried. And then suddenly, it was everywhere. It had come back to life in a gloriously, wonderfully, and deliciously unexpected way.”
Although the song was never released as a radio single, it was hugely popular among fans of the film and was well received by music critics, as can be seen in a review for AllMusic.com by Johnny Loftus, who wrote that “the main theme ‘Once Upon a Time…Storybook Love’ is as romantic and pastoral as the film itself.”
A review by the website Filmtracks.com gave the album four out of five stars and called it “an important piece of late-80s film music history.” The review praises the album’s beautiful melodies and guitar arrangements, particularly on the opening track “Once Upon a Time…Storybook Love”:
“Performed by only two individuals (Knopfler and Fletcher) the score won’t blow you away with sonic depth. Instead, it steals your heart with two opening cues of sweet and romantic acoustic guitar performances. These delicately plucked cues are quite lovely, with the kind of friendly personality that renders them a regular accompaniment at wedding receptions.”
Carey Elwes himself also praised the soundtrack in his memoir when he wrote: “Instead of a bouncy techno-pop sound track, you have the elegant slide guitar of Mark Knopfler.”
Once Upon a Time…Storybook Love is actually an instrumental version of another song in the film titled Storybook Love, which is played during the closing credits. Storybook Love was written by Willey Deville and arranged by Mark Knopfler and features lyrics and vocals. The song received a nomination for an Academy Award for Best Original Song in 1988.
In Once Upon a Time…Storybook Love, Knopfler arranged Willy Deville’s vocal melody in Storybook Love for acoustic guitar. The guitar is accompanied by an orchestra, thus giving the piece a concerto feel that is very reminiscent of works such as the second movement Largo from Vivaldi’s Concerto for Lute in D. After a brief interlude, a flute signals a key change from C to D and the song recapitulates the theme a step higher than the original key.
I myself created a popular arrangement of the song a few years ago. You can download my arrangement of Once Upon a Time…Storybook Love on iTunes.