"Pack Up Your Troubles in Your Old Kit-Bag, and Smile, Smile, Smile" is the full name of a World War I marching song, published in 1915 in London. It was written by George Henry Powell under the pseudonym of "George Asaf", and set to music by his brother Felix Powell. A play presented by the National Theatre recounts how these music hall stars rescued the song from their rejects pile and re-scored it to win a wartime competition for a marching song. It became very popular, boosting British morale despite the horrors of that war. It was one of a large number of music hall songs aimed at maintaining morale, recruiting for the forces, or defending Britain's war aims.
The song is best remembered for its chorus:
- Pack up your troubles in your old kit-bag,
- And smile, smile, smile,
- While you've a Lucifer to light your fag,
- Smile, boys, that's the style.
- What's the use of worrying?
- It never was worth while, so
- Pack up your troubles in your old kit-bag,
- And smile, smile, smile.
Full lyrics are here.
A lucifer was a popular make of match, and "fag" remains British slang for a cigarette. A kit-bag (also known as a duffle bag) is a large cylindrical canvas or heavy-duty cotton bag, with a flat base and punched holes round the other end for tying with a draw string. It is generally carried balanced on one shoulder, with a hand held up to steady it. It was the traditional means of carrying personal equipment (bedding, clothing etc.) in both the army and navy in both world wars and for some time afterwards.
In other languages
The Dutch version goes:
- Pak al je zorgen in je plunjezak en fluit, fluit, fluit!
- Aan alle moeilijkheden heb je lak, fluit man en 't is uit!
- Waarom zou je treuren, het helpt je niet vooruit,
- Dus: pak al je zorgen in je plunjezak en fluit, fluit, fluit.
The Spanish version
- Guarda tus penas en el fondo del morral y rie ya!
- Ponte contento y así venceras la dificultad!
- Siempre estarás alegre, nunca triste estaras, jamás!
- Guarda tus penas en el fondo del morral y rie ya.!
- The title of Wilfred Owen's bitter anti-war poem "Smile, Smile, Smile" (September 1918) was derived from the song.
- In the 1932 comedy movie High Pressure, William Powell ends his "dynamic personality classes" by leading the salesmen in singing this song to pump up the product and stock (even though there is yet no product)
- The song was recalled in the title of the 1932 Laurel and Hardy film Pack Up Your Troubles where the duo are drafted and make a friend who dies during the war, then in its aftermath try to reunite his orphaned baby daughter with her surviving family.
- Clark Gable sings a line from the chorus in the 1936 Gable-Jean Harlow film Wife vs. Secretary.
- The song was also used in the 1938 film The Shopworn Angel. Margaret Sullavan, who plays Broadway singer Daisy Heath, performs the song in a special concert for World War I troops about to be shipped overseas. The song is also sung in the film's finale when Daisy is performing the number and learns that her soldier-husband, Bill Pettigrew (played by Jimmy Stewart), has been killed in action.
- Sung and danced to in the finale of the 1942 musical What's Cookin'? with slight lyric alterations
- The song features prominently in the second assignment of Sapphire & Steel, whistled by the ghost of a dead soldier.
- In Hergé's Tintin in Tibet, Captain Haddock sings "Pack up you troubles in your old kitbag and...."
- The name of the 2003 Richard Thompson album The Old Kit Bag hints at the song title but the album makes no explicit reference. When asked if the album had a theme, he had no immediate answer, then said "I suppose the title is a theme of sorts. It's a reference to the old World War I song, 'Pack up your troubles in your old kit bag,' which is about smiling and whistling a happy tune as the Germans rain shells down on you."
- The song was played in the annual TV special It's the Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown. Snoopy (dressed in his World War I flying ace regalia) dances to this song played by Schroeder on his toy piano in a left-right-left marching pace while twirling his baton.
- The song is featured in the beginning of the film, Darling Lili, sung by Julie Andrews.
- In one of the scenes of "Cats Don't Dance", during the flood scene, when Tillie Hippo sees L.B. Mammoth showing up, she sings the first part of the song.
- A version of the song is sung by Chuckie Finster in the episode Music of Rugrats.
- A few lines of the chorus sung by Lloyd Wade are used in Eliza Doolittle's song "Pack Up" (2010).
- The song is also referenced as the origin for Kit Kittredge's nickname in "Meet Kit" from the American Girl series. The book was written by Valerie Tripp and published in 2001. It is also referenced in the movie Kit Kittredge: An American Girl (2008).
- It was covered by Minnutes on their 2009 album 'Pretty Baby' . This version was used in the Season 1 finale (episode 10) of Castle ("A Death in the Family").