Friday, January 20, 1984

50 years ago: “Smoke Gets in Your Eyes” hit #1 - for the first time

Smoke Gets in Your Eyes

Paul Whiteman with Bob Lawrence

Writer(s): Jereome Kern/ Otto Harbach (see lyrics here)

First Charted: December 9, 1933

Peak: 16 US, 2 GA (Click for codes to singles charts.)

Sales (in millions): --

Airplay/Streaming (in millions): -- radio, -- video, -- streaming

Smoke Gets in Your Eyes

The Platters

First Charted: November 17, 1958

Peak: 13 US, 14 CB, 11 GR, 14 HR, 3 RB, 11 UK, 13 CN, 110 AU, 2 DF (Click for codes to singles charts.)

Sales (in millions): 1.0 US

Airplay/Streaming (in millions): -- radio, 28.7 video, 76.69 streaming

Awards (Paul Whiteman):

Click on award for more details.

Awards (The Platters):

Click on award for more details.

About the Song:

According to Otto Harbach, Jerome Kern originally composed “Smoke” for 1927’s Showboat. It was supposed to be an uptempo instrumental which accompanied a tap dance routine while scenery was changed, LW although another account had the song originating as a march for a radio program which never happened. TY Harbach suggested refashioning it as a ballad, at which point it was left out of Showboat. LW

The song is filled with challenges – such as the octave-and-a-half range for singers and, for players, a surprising key change at the bridge. MM In addition, Harbach works in unlikely words like “chaffed” and “deride” – all leading toward the song’s conclusion about the end of a love affair – and the final line when the title is mentioned for the first time. MM

It resurfaced in 1933 for the Broadway musical Roberta. That same year, Paul Whiteman’s Orchestra charted with it, going to #1 the next year. Leo Reisman (#3), Emil Coleman (#4), and Ruth Etting (#15) also charted with the song in 1934. In 1935, the musical was turned into a Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers film. Irene Dunne performed “Smoke” in the movie. SB Artie Shaw took the song back to the charts in 1941 (#24). It was also used in the 1946 Kern biopic Till the Clouds Roll By. MM

Roberta was remade in the 1950s as the new musical and movie, Lovely to Look At. LW Then, in 1958, the doo-wop group the Platters took their million-selling version to the top of the US and UK charts, showcasing “the song’s ability to both transcend time and lend itself to varied interpretations and still remain fresh.” LW


  • DMDB Encyclopedia entry for Paul Whiteman
  • DMDB Encyclopedia entry for Jerome Kern
  • DMDB Encyclopedia entry for Otto Harbach
  • DMDB Encyclopedia entry for The Platters
  • LW Alan Lewens (2001). Popular Song – Soundtrack of the Century. Billboard Books: New York, NY. Page 67.
  • MM Max Morath (2002). The NPR Curious Listener’s Guide to Popular Standards. New York, NY; Penguin Putnam Inc. Page 181.
  • TY Don Tyler (1985). Hit Parade 1920-1955. New York, NY: Quill. Page 70.

First posted 1/20/2016; last updated 11/22/2022.

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