When Irish Eyes are Smiling originated in America during the height of the Tin Pan Alley days. The lyrics were written by two Americans, Chauncey Olcott and George Graff Jr. and set to music by Ernest Ball. The song has been featured in more than 20 movie scores.
While reportedly being born in Buffalo, New York, Chauncey Olcott comes by his Irish heritage legitimately. His mother immigrated to America with her parents at the age of 8. She grew up on the banks of the Erie Canal in a makeshift shanty. Chauncey spent his childhood summers at the shanty visiting with his grandmother where he came to love the ballads of the Irish Troubadours. Olcott spent most of his career on Broadway, acting and producing. He was a prolific songwriter with much of his work written for and used in Broadway productions.
His collaborator, George Graff, Jr. was of Dutch and German origins. Graff, also a prolific songwriter, contributed to Zigfield follies and penned more than 400 songs in his lifetime, many with religious themes.
When Irish Eyes are Smiling was first performed by Olcott in a short four week run production of "The Isle of Dreams" in 1913. While the production bombed, the song survived the disastrous play and went on to become a St. Patrick's day standard.
When Irish Eyes Are Smiling
There's a tear in your eye,
and I'm wondering why,
For it never should be there at all.
With such power in your smile,
sure a stone you'd beguile,
So there's never a teardrop should fall.
When your sweet lilting laughter's like some fairy song,
And your eyes twinkle bright as can be,
You should laugh all the while and all other times smile,
And now smile a smile for me.
When Irish eyes are smiling,
Sure it's like a morning spring.
In the lilt of Irish laughter,
You can hear the angels sing.
When Irish hearts are happy,
All the world seems bright and gay.
And when Irish eyes are smiling,
Sure, they steal your heart away.
For your smile is a part
of the love in your heart
And it makes even sunshine more bright
Like the linnet’s sweet song, crooning all the day long
Comes your laughter so tender and light
For the spring-time of life is the sweetest of all
There is ne’er a real care or regret
And while spring-time is ours,
throughout all of youth’s hours
Let us smile each chance that we get