Last night I watched the classic 1935 film musical Roberta, which is set in Paris. The romantic leads are played by Irene Dunn and Randolph Scott. The secondary romantic couple is played by Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers. Ginger Rogers is hilarious early in the film, masquerading – with a faux French accent – as a wealthy countess and a Parisian woman of very high fashion. She and Fred meet by accident in Paris. Back in Indiana they were a song and dance team, and of course they pick up where they left off.
A beautiful Lucille Ball plays one of the many fashion models in the movie. Speaking of Lucy, William Frawley (better known as Fred Mertz), plays a bartender.
It’s a beloved musical because of its songs, written by Jerome Kern, and the dance routines. In particular Irene Dunn sings Smoke Gets in Your Eyes, accompanied by an orchestra of balalaikas. Later Fred and Ginger dance to an instrumental version.
See http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=gkQU-VQkhGw for all of that.
Jerome Kern, a great songwriter, also wrote Ol’ Man River and The Way You Look Tonight, a Sinatra staple that Kern wrote for Fred Astaire to sing to Ginger in Shall We Dance.
Smoke Gets in Your Eyes is one of the great popular songs of the 20th century, and continues to have an impact on American popular culture. A remarkable, long and eclectic list of singers and groups have done a rendition of the song (some listed below).
The Platters recorded the most commercially successful version of the song in 1952.
A favorite version of mine is sung by Dinah Washington:
Here’s a version by Jerry Garcia, with the lovely Ashley Judd sitting next to him, from the movie Smoke.
Jerry Garcia was named after Jerome Kern.
The song has been central to many movies and books (a list of both in Wikipedia).
In the climax of The Catcher in the Rye, Holden Caulfield comes to terms with reality while watching his 6 year old sister Phoebe on the carousel as it plays Smoke Gets in Your Eyes.
The song title still pervades American popular culture. “Smoke Gets in Your Eyes” is the title of the pilot episode of the AMC TV series Mad Men (airdate July 19, 2007).
A partial list of who else has recorded a version of the song, along with some links:
Kathryn Grayson (from Lovely to Look At, a 1952 remake of Roberta)
Judy Garland on The Judy Garland Show
Nat King Cole http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=u6Je0rHIal4
Zoot and Rowlf from the Muppet Show