A Little Happier: After His Death, Actor Yul Brynner Made an Unforgettable Plea.

As these “Little Happier” episodes illustrate, I’m very interested in the question of how we connect effectively with other people. How do we share ideas in a way that’s meaningful? How do we engage? How do we persuade?

One of the most effective ways is with a story. We love stories. And often what’s most effective, and most memorable, is to hear the story of another person’s individual experience. We can all learn from each other.

When I think of examples of when a person’s story moved me deeply, I think of the actor Yul Brynner. You might remember him from his part as the Gunslinger in the original movie Westworld, or as the king in the movie and Broadway musical The King and I.

Yul Brynner was a smoker, and he died from lung cancer in 1985. Brynner had often said that he wanted to leave an anti-smoking campaign as his legacy, and in a January 1985 “Good Morning America” interview, he was asked what he would tell smokers if he could speak to them after his death.

And so four months after he died, the American Cancer Society constructed an eerie, haunting TV public-service announcement against smoking from the interview that he’d done.

When the ad opens, the title card reads like an epitaph, with the words “Yul Brynner 1920-1985,” and then it begins:

I think of the simplicity and power of Yul Brynner’s message, his attempt to communicate his own bitter regret, and his desire to save people from a terrible fate.

In this way, he transformed his own suffering into a story that could save the lives of others.




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