Marlene is dancing with her boss, and it’s kind of awkward. Petra looks into the distance as if she remembers past and failed loves. Suddenly, Petra tells Marlene to hurry and check the mail. This brief moment of forced intimacy reveals Petra and Marlene’s dysfunctional relationship and hints at Petra’s desire for women.
George Lucas’ coming-of-age comedy “American Graffiti,” in 1973, uses the song in a more humorous context. Steve Bolander (Ron Howard) just broke up with his girlfriend Laurie Henderson (Cindy Williams) before leaving for college. At dance school, he asks her to dance with him and is strongly rejected. Unfortunately for Laurie, the emcee calls the two to start the snowball dance since Steve was the class president and she was the head cheerleader. The Platters version starts playing and as they dance Laurie reminds Steve how much she fought for him because he was too scared to take the first step. He dismisses this notion at first, claiming that he invited her out. After describing all the ways she made every first move, Laurie cries into Steve’s shoulder. “What’s wrong?” He asks. To which she responds quickly: “Go to hell”, before tightening up and wrapping her arm around him. Similar to the song arc, Laurie comes to terms with the reality of her relationship with Steve as they dance. Even though she realizes it’s not as rosy as she thought, she’s afraid to let go. The smoke clears and she sees all the effort she puts into the relationship
“Smoke Gets In Your Eyes” is used twice in Steven Spielberg’s “Always” (1989). The first time is at Dorinda (Holly Hunter) ‘s birthday party with her boyfriend Pete (Richard Dreyfuss), during which Dorinda wears a white dress and a wig similar to Fassbinder’s Petra. Dorinda is angry Pete forgets “their” song. After a few moments of arguing, Pete said they should try the “point to the group” trick, because “it always works in the movies.” When he points to the band, they start playing “Smoke Gets In Your Eyes” with JD Souther’s lead vocals. It is reminiscent of “Lovely to Look At”, when the restaurant group marks its dance. Pete, an aerial firefighter, is surrounded by all his friends and they take turns dancing with Dorinda.
Later, Pete dies on the job and becomes a Spirit and begins guiding new pilot Ted (Brad Johnson). Emerging from a year of mourning, Dorinda and Ted begin to fall in love. Pete’s ghost tries to interfere with their budding connection and soon realizes he’s supposed to say a final goodbye to Dorinda. In the second scene with “Smoke Gets In Your Eyes”, Dorinda plays the version of the Platters while wearing the same white dress. She begins to dance on her own, reaching out as if swinging with Pete. Pete’s spirit joins her then, moving alongside without touching her, they smile at each other. In the end it is gone and she finishes dancing on her own before leaning effortlessly against the wall and blowing out a candle, extinguishing their flame once and for all. After that, Dorinda walks up with Ted and Pete ascends to heaven.