What’s in a Song: Smoke Gets in Your Eyes (2)

[Another entry in an occasional series about American songs with long histories. This one follows Part 1, about the history of the composition of “Smoke Gets in Your Eyes.” You can read Part 1, posted last week, here.]

[Video clip above assembled from the first film version of Roberta (1935); Irene Dunne sings it here. Later in the film, Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers dance to an instrumental version, and their dance is what people usually remember from the film. This clip’s uploader helpfully tacked the dance scene onto the vocal: it begins at around 4:03 into the clip.]

By the time the 1940s rolled around, “Smoke Gets in Your Eyes” had already established itself in the pop songbook. According to at least one observer, pianist Joe Bushkin of the Tommy Dorsey band, it provided the pivotal moment on “the night Frank Sinatra happened.” (Something of a storyteller, Bushkin apparently told the story many times; the details below come from Sinatra! The Song Is You, by Will Friedwald.)

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