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While Dolly Parton originally penned “I Will Always Love You” in 1972 as a farewell to her former collaborator Porter Wagoner, the country singer reworked her mega-hit for 1974 film The Best Little Whorehouse in Texas.
The musical comedy tells the story of star-crossed lovers – town sheriff Ed Earl, played by the late Burt Reynolds, and brothel owner Parton’s character Miss Mona – who date despite their professions landing on different sides of the law.
After a long tenuous battle, the brothel is shut down, forcing the girls and Miss Mona to move out. Before she leaves town, Earl attempted to stop her by professing his love for her and proposing marriage. Moved by his proposal, Mona decides to decline out of fear for interfering with his chance at running for public office.
“Oh Ed Earl I’ve loved you since I was 16 years old. And as much as I’d love for it to work, I know deep down in my heart it ain’t ever going to be,” she said to the heartbroken sheriff, before singing “I Will Always Love You.”
After she concluded her song, Mona explains her decision making and that she knows he’ll achieve all his dreams, but only if she exits his life. The sheriff fires back, insisting she accept his proposal, declaring he doesn’t care what people think because he loves her. It is quite possibly the most emotional part of the entire movie.
While it charted at number one at the time of song’s original release, “I Will Always Love You” topped the country charts once again shortly after The Best Little Whorehouse in Texas hit theaters.
Watch Reynolds profess his love for Parton, as well as her performance of “I Will Always Love You” in the video below.