Smoke Gets in Your Eyes

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For the Homicide episode, see Smoke Gets in Your Eyes (Homicide: Life on the Street). For the Mad Men episode, see Smoke Gets in Your Eyes (Mad Men). For the book about death care, see Caitlin Doughty.
"(When Your Heart's on Fire)
Smoke Gets in Your Eyes"
Single by Gertrude Niesen
(with Ray Sinatra and his Orchestra)
B-side "Jealousy"
Released 1933
Format 10"
Recorded October 13, 1933
Label Victor
Writer(s) Otto Harbach, Jerome Kern
Producer(s) Ray Sinatra

"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,[1] 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.[2] 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. It is perhaps best known today from its chart-topping 1958 hit recording by The Platters (see below).

Later recordings[edit]


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.[citation needed] 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"[3] During the mid-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,[4] 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.[5] 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 inevitable popularity. However, it is unclear if a recording of the song was ever made by Tatum during that decade; if a recording was made it may not survive to the present day.[6]

Benny Goodman and his orchestra performing with Peggy Lee.

In 1941, the Benny Goodman Orchestra first performed the song during recorded radio performances with Helen Forrest. After Forrest's choice to leave the ensemble during the early part of 1941,[7] Goodman began performing the song with Forrest's replacement, Peggy Lee,[8] 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.[9] Glenn Miller conducted his rendition of the song at Abbey Road Studios in 1944. His orchestral version of the song was not released until 1995, due to his sudden death in 1944.[10] 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.[11] Later, in 1957, Cole performed the song live on his television variety show, The Nat King Cole Show.[12] Though not released until some years later, Harry Belafonte recorded the song in 1949 with jazz saxophonist Zoot Sims, making it one of the first songs Belafonte ever recorded; Sims performance in the song would later be parodied by the character inspired by him, on episode 2.02 of The Muppet Show, which aired on December 10, 1977.

The song was covered by multiple artists during this time span including Nat King Cole (left), Jo Stafford (center), and Sarah Vaughan (right).

In 1950, artists Charlie Parker and Jo Stafford both 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 this song, with a very different arrangement, as a part of his album That Towering Feeling!.[13] Damone's version became one of his most famous songs.[citation needed] Dinah Washington released the song in 1956, on her album, Dinah!. Jeri Southern named her 1957 album after a lyric from the song, "When Your Heart's On Fire"; the album also 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.[14] In 1958, Sarah Vaughan released her rendition on her album, No Count Sarah.

Eartha Kitt versions[edit]

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. Kitt's recording 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, the song was re-recorded by Kitt 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 which was showcased on the MAC website the same month.[15]

The Platters version[edit]

"Smoke Gets in Your Eyes"
Single by The Platters
from the album Remember When?
B-side "No Matter What You Are"
Released November 1958
Format 45 rpm
Genre Doo-wop
Length 2:40
Label Mercury
Writer(s) Otto Harbach, Jerome Kern
Producer(s) Buck Ram[16]
Certification Gold (RIAA)
The Platters singles chronology
"I Wish"
"Smoke Gets in Your Eyes"

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 US, on the Billboard Hot 100 music chart. In 1959 the song went on to peak at number three on the Rhythm and Blues chart.[17] On the UK charts the song spent 20 weeks, peaking at Number 1 for one week on 20th March of that same year.[18] The Platters' producer, Buck Ram, reported that Harbach "congratulated Buck Ram and the Platters for reviving his song with taste."[16] Jerome Kern's widow, on the other hand, disliked the recording so much she considered taking legal action to prevent its distribution.[19]

Chart performance[edit]

Chart (1958–59) Peak
Australia 1
United Kingdom 1
United States Billboard Hot 100 1
United States Billboard Hot R&B 3


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;[20] it became one of the signature songs of his career.[citation needed] Saxophone player Boots Randolph released an instrumental version of the song on the B-side of his LP Yakety Sax in 1963.[21] 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; fire fighters hack down the door behind her as she sits unfazed singing to the camera. A number of fire fighters 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 fire fighter carries her out. Throughout the scene, she never stops singing.[22]

The song was covered by multiple artists in this period including Bryan Ferry, Judy Garland (left), and Ray Conniff (center); Freddie Mercury (right) is rumored to have recorded the song for an unfinished album.

A remake of the song by British band Blue Haze, formed by Johnny Arthey and Phil Swern,[23] also became popular; it was released as a lead single in 1972,[24] and the following year on their eponymous album, Blue Haze.[25] In 1973 the group Byron Lee and the Dragonaires released a version of the song on their studio album Reggae Round The World.[26] 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.[citation needed] Penny McLean, of the West German band Silver Convention, released her version, as a solo artist, in 1975, on her album Lady Bump.[citation needed] 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.[27] 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.[citation needed]


Jerry Garcia (left) and Barbra Streisand (right) have both covered the song.

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.[28] David Sanborn released a cover of the song in 1995, on his album, Pearls.[29] John Alford released the song as a CD single[30] from his eponymous debut album[31] 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.[32] Deborah Cox released her cover of the song on her 2007 jazz album, Destination Moon; Cox recorded the track in a live recording 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[edit]

Performer(s) Year Original appearance(s)
Cannonball Adderley 1961 African Waltz
Larry Adler 1934-37 live radio broadcast from London[4]
John Alford 1996 CD single[30]
John Alford[31]
Patti Austin 1988 The Real Me
Harry Belafonte (with Zoot Sims) rec:1949 Unreleased cut from either Close Your Eyes or Ballads by Belafonte.[33][34]
Polly Bergen 1957 The Polly Bergen Show (episode 1)
Blue Haze (Johnny Arthey and Phil Swern) 1972 Blue Haze[25]
Sierra Boggess 2013 Awakening: Live at 54 Below[35]
Richard Clayderman 2003 Romantic Nights[36]
Clifford Brown 1955 Clifford Brown with Strings
Byron Lee and the Dragonaires 1973 Reggae Round The World[26]
Cher (last verse only) 1999 Tea With Mussolini (film)
Nat King Cole 1946 WMCA broadcast[11] (radio)
1957 The Nat King Cole Show[12]
Ray Conniff 1962 The Ray Conniff Hi-Fi Companion[20]
Deborah Cox 2007 Destination Moon
Vic Damone 1956 That Towering Feeling![13]
Johnny Dankworth 2010 Too Cool For The Blues
Jason Donovan 2008 Let It Be Me
Tommy Dorsey and his Orchestra 1938 10" single[3]
Kurt Elling 2000 Live in Chicago
Narvel Felts 1982 7" single
Bryan Ferry 1974 Another Time, Another Place
Clare Fischer and Bert van den Brink 2001 Bert van den Brink Invites Clare Fischer
Serge Gainsbourg 1975 Rock Around the Bunker
Judy Garland 1964 The Judy Garland Show (episode 19)
Benny Goodman Orchestra (with Helen Forrest) 1940–41 original release is unclear; re-released to multiple compilation albums
Benny Goodman Orchestra (with Peggy Lee) 1941 Mutual sustaining broadcast[8] (radio)
Benny And Sid "Roll 'Em" [9] (a collection of live radio performances)
Henry Hall and the BBC Orchestra (with Dan Donovan) 1934-38 BBC Broadcast (radio)
10" single[5]
"Hannibal" Marvin Peterson (as a member of New York Unit) 1992 Now's The Time[37][38]
Coleman Hawkins 1962 On Broadway
Engelbert Humperdinck 1995 Love Unchained[39]
Keith Jarrett 2009 Yesterdays
The Jerry Garcia Band 1995 Smoke (Original Soundtrack)[28]
Alison Jiear 2004 Being Julia (Original Soundtrack)[32]
Al Jolson rec:
Kraft Music Hall broadcast (radio)
1995 Live![40]
Vytautas Juozapaitis (Lithuanian translation "Žiedų Pūga") 2004 Negaliu Nemylėti
Eartha Kitt 1954 That Bad Eartha
rec:1991 Thinking Jazz (1998)
2007 MAC Cosmetics Smoke Signals collection promotion[15]
Penny McLean 1975 Lady Bump
George Melachrino (as The Melachrino Strings and Orchestra) 1961 The Music Of Jerome Kern
Freddie Mercury rec:1986 rumored recording made for an album of cover versions[27]
Glenn Miller rec:1944 Missing Chapters, Vol. 5: The Complete Abbey Road
[10] (recording not released until 1995)
Thelonious Monk 1954 Monk
Nana Mouskouri 1962 Nana Mouskouri in New York (The Girl from Greece Sings)
Gertrude Niesen (with Ray Sinatra and his Orchestra) 1933 10" single
Elaine Paige 1993 Romance & the Stage
Charlie Parker 1950 Bird at St. Nick's
The Platters 1958 Remember When?
Boots Randolph 1963 Yakety Sax[21]
David Sanborn 1995 Pearls[29]
JD Souther 1989 Always (film)
Jeri Southern 1957 When Your Heart's On Fire
Jo Stafford 1950 Autumn in New York
Barbra Streisand 2009 Love Is The Answer
Art Tatum 1930s unrecorded or lost recordings[6]
1955 live radio broadcast[6]
1965 Great Jazz Pianists (Oscar Peterson / Erroll Garner / Art Tatum)[41]
Sarah Vaughan 1958 No Count Sarah
Caetano Veloso 2004 A Foreign Sound
Dinah Washington 1956 Dinah!
Paul Whiteman and his Orchestra (with Bob Lawrence) 1934 10" single
Margaret Whiting 1960 Margaret Whiting Sings the Jerome Kern Songbook
Timi Yuro 1981 All Alone Am I[42]
Zoot and Rowlf 1977 The Muppet Show (episode 2.02: "Zero Mostel")
Other recordings

In popular culture[edit]

In film[edit]

The song has been featured in several films including:

In television[edit]

  • 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[edit]

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.[45]

Alan Sherman in 1961, sang a parody version 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.[46]

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'".[citation needed]

BoA performed the song live at the 10th Pulsan Film Festival on October 7, 2005.[47]

In literature[edit]

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

In other uses[edit]

In 1943, Giuliana Camerino and her husband fled Italy to escape the persecution of Jews in Italy and 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.[48]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Ray Sinatra: Frank's cousin,, retrieved July 25, 2014 
  2. ^ Victor 24454: Gertrude Niesen and Isham Jones – Smoke Gets In Your Eyes / Jealousy,, retrieved July 24, 2014 
  3. ^ a b Tommy Dorsey And His Orchestra – Smoke Gets In Your Eyes / Night And Day, discogs, retrieved July 24, 2014 
  4. ^ a b Larry Adler In The Thirties CD [read "Product Description" section], CD Universe, retrieved July 24, 2014 
  5. ^ a b Henry Hall Orch – Smoke Gets In Your Eyes, Internet Archive, retrieved July 24, 2014 
  6. ^ a b c Art Tatum plays "Smoke Gets in Your Eyes" (1955), YouTube, retrieved July 24, 2014 
  7. ^ Great Encounters #24: When Peggy Lee Joined Benny Goodmans Band,, retrieved July 24, 2014 
  8. ^ a b Peggy Lee official discography,, retrieved July 23, 2014 
  9. ^ a b Benny and Sid "Roll 'Em", discogs, retrieved July 23, 2014 
  10. ^ a b Missing Chapters, Vol. 5: The Complete Abbey Road Recordings, Allmusic, retrieved July 23, 2014 
  11. ^ a b Nat King Cole: An Informal Discography (Sessions of 1946),, retrieved July 24, 2014 
  12. ^ a b c Nat King Cole. Smoke Gets In Your Eyes.1957., YouTube, Johnny Brown (user), NBC (original), retrieved July 24, 2014 
  13. ^ a b Vic Damone – That Towering Feeling!, discogs, retrieved July 24, 2014 
  14. ^ a b "The Polly Bergen Show". Classic Television Archives. Retrieved 9 January 2011. 
  15. ^ a b Eartha Kitt M.A.C. Cosmetics by Michel Comte, YouTube, MAC Cosmetics (original/user), retrieved July 24, 2014 
  16. ^ a b Buck Ram interviewed on the Pop Chronicles (1969)
  17. ^ Whitburn, Joel (2004). Top R&B/Hip-Hop Singles: 1942–2004. Record Research. p. 463. 
  18. ^ Frith, Simon; Gillett, Charlie (1976). Rock File 4. Panther Books Ltd. p. 388. 
  19. ^ Fred Bronson, The Billboard Book of Number One Hits, Billboard Publications, 1985, p. 48.
  20. ^ a b Ray Conniff his Orchestra and Chorus – The Ray Conniff Hi-Fi Companion, discogs, retrieved July 24, 2014 
  21. ^ a b Boots Randolph – Boots Randolph's Yakety Sax, discogs, retrieved July 24, 2014 
  22. ^ Judy Garland – Smoke Gets In Your Eyes (The Judy Garland Show), YouTube, TheManThatGetsAway (user), CBS (original), retrieved July 24, 2014 
  23. ^ Verity, Michael. "One Hit Wonders: Blue Haze’s "Smoke Gets In Your Eyes"". Retrieved 3 March 2012. 
  24. ^ Blue Haze (2) – Smoke Gets In Your Eyes, discogs, retrieved July 24, 2014 
  25. ^ a b Blue Haze (2) – Blue Haze, discogs, retrieved July 24, 2014 
  26. ^ a b Byron Lee And The Dragonaires – Reggae Round The World, discogs, retrieved July 24, 2014 
  27. ^ a b Queen band members discographies,, retrieved July 23, 2014 
  28. ^ a b Smoke (Original Soundtrack), Allmusic, retrieved July 23, 2014 
  29. ^ a b "Pearls overview". 
  30. ^ a b John Alford – Smoke Gets In Your Eyes, discogs, retrieved July 22, 2014 
  31. ^ a b John Alford – John Alford, discogs, retrieved July 22, 2014 
  32. ^ a b Being Julia (Original Motion Picture Soundtrack), Allmusic, retrieved July 31, 2014 
  33. ^ Belafonte Sings the Blues CD (Bonus Tracks) [read "Product Description" section], CD Universe, retrieved July 23, 2014 
  34. ^ Belafonte discography ('49–'59),, retrieved July 23, 2014 
  35. ^ Awakening: Live at 54 Below – Sierra Boggess, iTunes and Apple Inc., retrieved July 24, 2014 
  36. ^ Richard Clayderman – Romantic Nights CD, CD Universe, retrieved July 24, 2014 
  37. ^ "Now's the Time" by New York Unit, Allmusic, retrieved July 23, 2014 
  38. ^ Hannibal discogrophy,, retrieved July 23, 2014 
  39. ^ Engelbert Humperdinck – Love Unchained, Allmusic, retrieved July 24, 2014 
  40. ^ Live! CD – Al Jolson, CD Universe, retrieved July 24, 2014 
  41. ^ Oscar Peterson / Erroll Garner / Art Tatum – Great Jazz Pianists, discogs, retrieved July 24, 2014 
  42. ^ Timi Yuro – All Alone Am I, discogs, retrieved July 24, 2014 
  43. ^ Tatsuro Yamashita -==- Smoke Gets In Your Eyes, YouTube, shaggy line (user), retrieved July 24, 2014 
  44. ^ "Criminal Minds episode Heathridge Manor". Retrieved 14 July 2013. 
  45. ^ Led Zeppelin – Led Zeppelin Live in Japan '69, discogs, retrieved July 24, 2014 
  46. ^ Sha Na Na/ Johnny Contardo – Smoke Gets In Your Eyes, YouTube, faerydancer (user), retrieved July 24, 2014 
  47. ^ Kwon BoA – Smoke Gets In Your Eyes, YouTube, Brian Rafferty Brian Rafferty (user), retrieved July 25, 2014 
  48. ^ Bellafante, Ginia (11 September 1999). "Front Row: To Have and To Hold". The New York Times. Retrieved 30 January 2012. 

External links[edit]