NEW YORK -- Yul Brynner spoke from the grave Wednesday, warning 'now that I'm gone -- don't smoke,' in an eerie anti-smoking commerical released four months after the star of the 'King and I' died of lung cancer.
'Now that I'm gone, I tell you: Don'tsmoke, whatever you do. Just don't smoke,' Brynner says in a throaty voice in the American Cancer Society television commercial.
Brynner, who for a time smoked five packs of cigarettes a day, died Oct. 10. He was 65. He gave his final performance three months earlier on Broadway as the bald, strutting monarch of Siam in the Rodgers and Hammerstein musical.
Brynner fought lung cancer for several years and often told interviewers that he wanted to leave an anti-smoking campaign as his legacy. The 30-second TV commercial is taken from an interview on ABC's 'Good Morning America' in which he was asked what he would tell smokers if he could speak to them after his death.
It shows a close-up of Brynner in January 1985. He says, 'If I could take back that smoking we wouldn't be talking about any cancer. I'm convinced of that.'
It first appeared Wednesday morning on ABC, said Susan Islam of the American Cancer Society. She said all three major U.S. networks planned to air the commercial, which is given to television stations to run without fee as public service announcements.
Islam also said Israeli television planned to air it, and Spanish TV had expressed interest in it.
'This is the most powerful indictment of smoking that we've ever produced,' said Islam. 'This one is stronger by virture of Yul Brynner's international reputation.'
The cancer society produced a similar campaign in 1968 starring actor William Tallman, who played the prosecutor Hamilton Burger in TV's 'Perry Mason.'
Tallman, who also died of lung cancer, said in the advertisement, 'Take some advice from someone who is used to smoking and losing. Don't be a loser. If you don't smoke, don't start. If you do smoke, quit.'
Like the Brynner spot, it appeared on television only after Tallman died.
Dr. Charles LeMaistre, the American Cancer Society's president, called the Brynner commercial 'electrifying.'
'It is one of the most human and powerful messages against cigarette smoking ever created,' LeMaistre said.