As always, the further we go back in Hollywood history,
the more that fact and legend become intertwined.
It's hard to say where the truth really lies.
February 19, 1987
A controversial, anti-smoking ad aired for the first time on television. It featured Yul Brynner who died shortly after of lung cancer.
In January 1985, nine months before his death, the tour reached New York for a farewell Broadway run. Aware he was dying, he gave an interview on Good Morning America discussing the dangers of smoking and expressing his desire to make an anti-smoking commercial. The Broadway production of The King and I ran from January 7 to June 30 of that year, with Mary Beth Peil as Anna. His last performance marked the 4625th time he had played the role of the King. Meanwhile, the American Cancer Society and he created a public service announcement using a clip from the Good Morning America interview.
Brynner died of lung cancer on October 10, 1985, in New York City. A few days after his death, the recorded anti-cigarette public service announcement was shown on all the major US television networks, and also in many other countries. In it, he expressed his desire to make an anti-smoking commercial after discovering how sick he was, and that his death was imminent. He then looked directly into the camera for 30 seconds and said, "Now that I'm gone, I tell you: Don't smoke. Whatever you do, just don't smoke. If I could take back that smoking, we wouldn't be talking about any cancer. I'm convinced of that."