Harman Patil (Editor)

Smoke Gets in Your Eyes

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B-side  "Jealousy"
Format  10"
Label  Victor
Released  1933
Recorded  October 13, 1933
Smoke Gets in Your Eyes
Writer(s)  Otto Harbach, Jerome Kern

"Smoke Gets in Your Eyes" is a show tune written by American composer Jerome Kern and lyricist Otto Harbach for their 1933 musical Roberta. The song was sung in the original Broadway show by Tamara Drasin. Its first recorded performance was by Gertrude Niesen, who recorded the song with orchestral direction from Ray Sinatra, Frank Sinatra's second cousin, on October 13, 1933. Niesen's recording of the song was released by Victor, catalog# VE B 24454, with the B-side, "Jealousy", featuring Isham Jones and his Orchestra.


Paul Whiteman had the first hit recording of the song on the record charts in 1934. The song was later reprised by Irene Dunne, who performed it in the original 1935 film adaptation of the musical, co-starring Fred Astaire, Ginger Rogers and Randolph Scott. The song was also included in the 1952 remake of Roberta, Lovely to Look At, in which it was performed by Kathryn Grayson, and was a chart hit in 1958 for The Platters.


The song has been covered by numerous artists; the first being Paul Whiteman and his Orchestra, with a vocal performance from Bob Lawrence. This version of the song topped music charts in 1934. Other early covers of the song include that of the Tommy Dorsey orchestra, who released their contemporary version in 1938, with His Master's Voice. The b-side to Dorsey's single was "Night And Day". During the mid-to-late 1930s Larry Adler and Henry Hall recorded live radio performances of the song on BBC radio broadcasts; Adler's rendition, a complex, syncopated, harmonic arrangement, and Hall's, a full orchestral performance with the BBC orchestra and a vocal performance from Dan Donovan. Henry Hall's version was also released as a 10" single. Art Tatum said in an introduction to a 1955 performance of the song that he performed "Smoke Gets in Your Eyes" in the 1930s, contributing to the song's popularity. However, it is unclear whether Tatum recorded the song during that decade; if a recording was made at that time, it may not have survived to the present day.

In 1941 the Benny Goodman Orchestra first performed the song during recorded radio performances with Helen Forrest. Forrest chose to leave the ensemble during the early part of 1941, and Goodman then began performing the song with her replacement Peggy Lee, whose recording, from a Mutual sustaining broadcast, was later released on a double long-play album; named Benny And Sid "Roll 'Em", the album consisted of an assortment of live radio broadcasts by the group. Glenn Miller conducted his rendition of the song at Abbey Road Studios in 1944. Owing to his sudden death later that year, his orchestral version of the song was not released until 1995. On October 30, 1946 Nat "King" Cole recorded the song, with Oscar Moore playing guitar and Johnny Miller playing bass as the "King Cole Trio". Cole's recording was made during a live WMCA radio broadcast from New York. Later, in 1957, Cole performed the song live on his television variety show The Nat King Cole Show. Though it was not released until some years later, Harry Belafonte made a recording of the song in 1949 with jazz saxophonist Zoot Sims. This was one of Belafonte's first recordings. Sims' performance on the track would later be parodied by the character inspired by him, in episode 2.02 of The Muppet Show, which aired on December 10, 1977.

In 1950 Charlie Parker and Jo Stafford each released versions of the song on their respective albums, Bird at St. Nick's and Autumn in New York. Thelonious Monk released the song in 1954 on his album Monk. On his 1955 album Clifford Brown with Strings, Clifford Brown released a cover of the song. In 1956 Vic Damone covered the song, with a very different arrangement, as a part of his album That Towering Feeling!. Damone's version became one of his most famous songs. Dinah Washington released the song in 1956, on her album Dinah!. Jeri Southern named her 1957 album When Your Heart's On Fire after a lyric from the song; the album features her version of the song. The same year as Nat King Cole's televised performance of the song, Polly Bergen performed the song during the series premiere of her variety show The Polly Bergen Show, originally airing September 21, 1957. In 1958 Sarah Vaughan released her rendition on her album, No Count Sarah.

Eartha Kitt versions

In a series of recording sessions with Henri René and his Orchestra in 1952, sessions that garnered the tracks for her first five albums, RCA Victor Presents Eartha Kitt, That Bad Eartha (2xEP), That Bad Eartha (LP), Down To Eartha, and Thursday's Child, as well as her hit single, "Santa Baby", Eartha Kitt first recorded "Smoke Gets in Your Eyes" for RCA Victor. This version of the song was first released on her 1954 album That Bad Eartha. A complete list of orchestra members used during the Henri René recording sessions can be read here. In the early 1990s Kitt re-recorded the song, as part of her work with a small jazz combo in Germany, in a recording session arranged by brothers Rolf Kühn and Joachim Kühn. These recordings were preserved by the 1998 release of Thinking Jazz. Kitt re-recorded the song again for the release of her MAC Cosmetics Smoke Signals collection. The new recording of the song was played at all MAC locations carrying the collection for the month. In addition, she performed the song in a music video that was showcased on the MAC website the same month.

The Platters version

Possibly the most well-known version of "Smoke Gets in Your Eyes" was recorded in 1958 by The Platters, for their album Remember When?. The group's cover became a number one hit in the U.S. on the Billboard Hot 100 music chart. In 1959 the version went on to peak at number three on the Rhythm and Blues chart. The song spent 20 weeks on the UK charts, peaking at Number 1 for one week on 20 March of that same year. The Platters' producer, Buck Ram, reported that Harbach "congratulated Buck Ram and the Platters for reviving his song with taste." Jerome Kern's widow, on the other hand, disliked the recording so much she considered taking legal action to prevent its distribution.



Margaret Whiting released the song on her 1960 album Margaret Whiting Sings the Jerome Kern Songbook. In 1961 Cannonball Adderley released the song on his album African Waltz. Bandleader Ray Conniff first released his arrangement of the song in 1962, on his double album The Ray Conniff Hi-Fi Companion; it became one of the signature songs of his career. Saxophone player Boots Randolph released an instrumental version of the song on the B-side of his LP Yakety Sax in 1963. On February 2, 1964, Judy Garland performed the song in a comical performance on the nineteenth episode of her variety television series, The Judy Garland Show. In her performance she sings longingly, sitting at a small table, as the house around her burns down; firefighters hack down the door behind her as she sits unfazed singing to the camera. A number of firefighters flee up the staircase, for which smoke billows down, in an attempt to douse the fire. When their attempts fail, they proceed to empty the room of its contents, presumably running them to the street. Eventually, after the room has been completely emptied, one man returns to save Garland; he grabs her by her waist, throwing her over his shoulder. Garland is still clutching the back of the chair she once sat on, now dragging it across the room as the firefighter carries her out. Throughout the scene, she never stops singing.

A remake of the song by British band Blue Haze, formed by Johnny Arthey and Phil Swern, also became popular; it was released as a lead single in 1972, and the following year on their eponymous album, Blue Haze. In 1973 the group Byron Lee and the Dragonaires released a version of the song on their studio album Reggae Round The World. Bryan Ferry recorded a quavering version of the song in 1974 on the album Another Time, Another Place, which reached number 17 on the UK charts in September 1974. Penny McLean, of the West German band Silver Convention, released a solo version in 1975 on her album Lady Bump; her version reached #6 on Billboard Disco Singles. In 1982 country singer Narvel Felts released the song as a 7-inch single; it charted at number eighty-four in the US on Billboards's country chart. Freddie Mercury is rumored to have recorded the song for an unreleased album of cover versions in 1986. The only cover Mercury is confirmed to have finished from the project is "The Great Pretender"; all other recordings are reported to be no more than fragments. A cover of "Smoke Gets in Your Eyes" was released by Patti Austin in 1988 on her number-four jazz album The Real Me. In 1989, the same year Dinah Washington's rendition of the song was used in the film Kill Me Again, J. D. Souther performed the song on stage in the film Always.


In 1993 Elaine Paige released a version of the song on her album Romance & the Stage. Jerry Garcia, who was named after Jerome Kern, released a music video in the early 1990s covering the song, with actress Ashley Judd sitting in the background listening. Garcia's rendition of the song was later used in the independent film Smoke, released in 1995. The film also had an official soundtrack release which included The Jerry Garcia Band's version. David Sanborn released a cover of the song in 1995 on his album Pearls. John Alford released the song as a CD single from his eponymous debut album in 1996; the single peaked at number thirteen on the UK Singles Chart. In the 1999 film Tea With Mussolini, Cher's character sings the last verse of the song, tenderly. Kurt Elling covered the song on his 2000 live album Live in Chicago; the album was nominated for a Grammy the following year for Best Vocal Jazz Album. Clare Fischer and Bert van den Brink released their version of the song on their joint album, Bert van den Brink Invites Clare Fischer, in 2001. The song has also been translated into Lithuanian by Vytautas Bložė around 2003; in Lithuanian the song is "Žiedų Pūga". Alison Jiear recorded a version of the song with new orchestral arrangements written by Mychael Danna in 2004 for the film Being Julia, the song was also featured in the official soundtrack for the film. Deborah Cox released her cover of the song on her 2007 jazz album Destination Moon; she recorded the track in a live session with a forty-piece orchestra. In 2008, on his album Let It Be Me, Jason Donovan covered the song. Barbra Streisand recorded the song for her thirty-second album Love Is the Answer, released on September 29, 2009. Johnny Dankworth covered the song on his 2010 album Too Cool For The Blues.

List of notable recordings

Other recordings

In film

The song has been featured in several films, including:

  • Roberta (1935), performed by Irene Dunne's character
  • Lovely to Look At (1952), performed by Kathryn Grayson's character
  • The Bitter Tears of Petra von Kant (1972), performed by The Platters
  • American Graffiti (1973), performed by The Platters
  • Night of the Creeps (1986), performed by The Platters
  • Terrorizers (1986)
  • Kill Me Again (1989), performed by Dinah Washington
  • Always (1989), performed by J.D. Souther
  • Smoke (1995), performed by Jerry Garcia
  • Tea With Mussolini (1999), performed by Cher's character
  • Hearts in Atlantis (2001), performed by The Platters with Mychael Danna
  • Being Julia (2004), performed by Alison Jiear with Mychael Danna
  • Traumschiff Surprise – Periode 1 (2004), performed by The Platters
  • Three Times (2005), features significantly in both the plot and soundtrack
  • Blue Valentine (2010), performed by The Platters
  • 45 Years (2015), performed by The Platters
  • Hello, My Name Is Doris (2015), performed by The Platters
  • In television

  • The Polly Bergen Show (1957); Polly Bergen sings the song during the series premiere of her NBC variety show, it originally aired September 21, 1957.
  • The Nat King Cole Show (1957); Nat King Cole performed the song during an episode of his television show.
  • The Judy Garland Show (1964); Judy Garland performs a comical version during episode 19.
  • The Morecambe and Wise Show (1971); the song was performed by Shirley Bassey, with assistance (in the form of well-meaning but less-than-competent stagehands) from the two comedians.
  • The Muppet Show (1977); the song was performed by the characters Zoot and Rowlf on episode 2.02, Zero Mostel.
  • Sliders (1995); Rembrandt Brown (Cleavant Derricks) sings the song while panhandling for change in a park.
  • 90 Days, Time to Love (2006); the song is used as background music throughout the Korean drama.
  • CSI (2008); In 09.08, "Young Man With a Horn," the song is used in both the opening and closing scenes as the song sung by contestants of a singing competition.
  • Mad Men (2007); "Smoke Gets in Your Eyes" is the title of the pilot episode of the AMC TV series which aired July 19, 2007.
  • Criminal Minds (2012); The Platters' version of the song was featured in a 2012 episode of the show, entitled "Heathridge Manor".
  • Endeavour (2014); in the episode "Sway", episode 2.03, which is set in 1965 Oxford, one victim's "fancy man" is given a cigarette lighter which she has engraved with the words "They asked me how I knew." Upon learning of this, Endeavour's mentor, Fred Thursday, immediately responds: "Smoke Gets In Your Eyes."
  • In music

  • Led Zeppelin performed a few seconds of the song at a live performance at Osaka, Japan on September 9, 1971. It was later released to a bootleg album entitled Live in Japan '69.
  • Allan Sherman sang a parody version in 1961, entitled "Smog Gets in Your Eyes".
  • Sha Na Na (with Johnny Contardo) performed the song live some time between 1970 and 1985. Their performance has strong similarities to The Platters' version.
  • In Cake's song "Wheels", from their 2004 album Pressure Chief, the song is referenced in the lyrics: "In a seedy karaoke bar... there's a Japanese man in a business suit singing 'Smoke Gets In Your Eyes'".
  • BoA performed the song live at the 10th Busan Film Festival on October 7, 2005.
  • In literature

    In Catcher in the Rye, Holden Caulfield listens to this song when he is at the carousel.

    Caitlin Doughty's memoir, Smoke Gets in Your Eyes: And Other Lessons from the Crematory, about life in the death industry is named after the song.

    In other uses

    In 1943 Giuliana Camerino and her husband fled Italy to escape the persecution of Jews in Italy; they returned in 1945, when Giuliana launched her fashion house Roberta di Camerino. "Smoke Gets in Your Eyes" was the last song the Camerinos danced to before becoming refugees, so Giuliana named her fashion house after the Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers film as a reminder of happier times.


    Smoke Gets in Your Eyes Wikipedia