YUL BRYNNER / A Cautionary Tale / Part One

Yul Brynner

“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”

– Yul Brynner

Yul was from the era (not so long ago) when smoking was sophisticated.


So sophisticated.

So dead.


Author: jcalberta

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6 thoughts on “YUL BRYNNER / A Cautionary Tale / Part One”

  1. I know why I started. I was 38 and I’d begun living a woman who smoked. She would smoke and I would too. I think it took about six months for me to be able to draw the smoke into my lungs without discomfort, and after that smoking was a source of daily pleasure, although it became increasingly more expensive as the taxes on the cigarettes kept going up. (I’m still with the woman, and she still smokes.)

    Anyway, I quit when I was 57. I quit abruptly on a New Year’s Day, experiencing no great discomfort. I doubt if I was ever really addicted, because I took up smoking so late in life.

    Has smoking harmed me? Yes. I have a persistent cough, and I’m worried about incipient chronic bronchitis. Oddly, I have long maintained a running program, and when I did smoke I could run five miles in fifty minutes and smoke cigarettes the whole way. This is why I cannot really believe that second hand smoke is dangerous. I drew smoke directly into my lungs without noticeable harm, so how could the much-diluted smoke exhaled by smokers harm the lungs of people who themselves do not smoke? That seems so unlikely that I think that it is just a lie.

    And brother, the aging process is real. Everybody I know my age complains about the loss of the resilient health of youth. Smoke or don’t smoke, you’re going to get old and die. This of course doesn’t meant that losing your health to smoking is a trivial matter, but if you die at 66 (as Yul did) or 86, death is still going to be terrible.

    Yul Brynner was a very lucky man. He became rich, famous and widely beloved, and exercised his considerable talents doing a job that I’ll bet was usually a lot of fun. He suffered a painful and too-early death, but it is likely that his life was far happier than most people’s. Your death does not somehow obviate the worth of your life. Most people die in a state of pain and fear, but that does not mean that their lives were not worthwhile.

    Also 66 years is a pretty good bite. He beat Elvis by 24 years, and Jack Kennedy by 20. Yul did more than okay, and it is questionable to say that he was some kind of tragic figure because he died of a cancer that could have been avoided if he hadn’t smoked.

    1. I’m not telling anyone what to do. Just that smoking is probably an unwise practice that could have dire consequences.
      I was watching some movies from the 50’s and 60’s last week. I was amazing to see how smoking – and drinking – were played up to be hip things to do. I also recently went to a party for my wife’s brother. Nobody was smoking, but most everybody was drinking – which I also quit. After a while I just felt like I didn’t fit there. So I left. All the shallow, hollow feelings I had felt about it many years back came flooding back to me. It’s still a way of life for a lot of people, but I’m glad I’m out of there.

  2. It is unlikely that there is a human being in the history of the world who smoked past early youth who was not also harmed by smoking. Even if smoking doesn’t actually kill you it will still diminish your quality of life, although my guess is that smoking in youth (before forty) does temporary damage from which many people can recover. (Although Nat King Cole died of smoking related illness at 45.)

    I do wonder how long Yul would have lived if he had never smoked. Probably a long time. Ditto for Humphrey Bogart, who died from smoking related illness at 59. John Wayne survived for more that ten years and made ten movies after having one and a half lungs removed. These were unusually strong men, and smoking crushed them.

    Even so, I think smoking looks cool as hell. Look at all these pictures of Yul. Cool, right? Or check out pictures of Robert Mitchum smoking. That guy knew how to puff on a ciggie and make it look okay.

    1. Well I don’t know why I started. Not because it looked good. But I was lucky when I quit. I just stopped and that was it. I knew other who tried many times to stop, but couldn’t put it away. I feel a bit disgusted when I watch the old movies and see how smoking – and drinking – were considered manly things to do. It killed a lot of people.

  3. Okay, smoking killed Yul, and that was a tragedy. But notice that it took a while to do it. The story is, Yul often smoked four packs a day, and I assume he started in his early teens. Now watch him in The Magnificent Seven, when he was in his early forties, and notice how fit and youthful he seems. My point: smoking takes a long time to hurt people, and in fact most people can smoke in youth with negligible harms to their health.

    The trouble with the anti-smoking warnings on cigarettes is that they are obviously false. Young people who smoke know perfectly well that smoking isn’t harming them. It isn’t destroying their lung capacity or making them blind or impotent. The average twenty year-old looks at the average forty-five year old and thinks, that person is rather pathetic, but he also thinks, I’m less than half as old as that guy. So middle age is a long way away, and few young people can imagine what it must be like.

    I’m sixty-seven, and I literally never thought about what my body would be like at this age when I was young. When I was young I could smoke all day and eat shingle nails and roofing glue for breakfast and be fine.

    Back to Yul: Most days of his life he was physically superior to most people. He was athletic and strong and extraordinarily good looking. When I was twenty I could have traded bodies with Yul Brynner when he was forty, and he would have got the short end of the deal. What I mean is, don’t weep for Yul Brynner, because he was physically blessed. Although sure, he died too soon because he smoked.

    1. Hi there. Thank you for that. My Dad smoked every day since he was a kid and died at 77. It affects people differently. But I would say in general It’s not a good thing. My own experience is that I used to laugh at people who used got the Flu and Colds and other things because I never caught anything. UNTIL I started smoking. Then I caught everything! I discovered that it seriously damaged my immune system. So smoking can cause all kinds of problems apart from Cancer. I was also very athletic and fit when I was young. Played sports nearly every day. That probably helped quite a bit. In any event I would advise against it. There is a whole pile of celebrities from that era – including John Wayne – that likely died from smoking.

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