Famous Last Words

“Rosebud.”   Those are the first words of the 1941 film, “Citizen Kane,” which happen to be the last words of the titular character, played by Orson Welles.  The remainder of the cast – and it’s a cast of thousands – spend the rest of the film trying to find out what the name means, who it belongs to.  A cast-off mistress?  A long-lost love?  They’re the most famous last words in cinematic history.

Following is a humorous and often ironic look at last words.  But we should be concerned about what might be the last words of the United States of America.  Glenn Beck apparently thought he was being punished by God for saying something wrong.  More likely, God was making an example of Glenn to demonstrate to us what may happen if we lose our voices as Americans.

Some famous last words include:

“Et tu, Brutei?” (from Julius Caesar)

 “I regret that I have but one life to give for my country.” (Nathan Hale, hung as a spy by the British during the American Revolutionary War.)

“That was a great game of golf, fellas!” (Bing Crosby)

“I’m losing it.”  (Frank Sinatra)

“Thomas Jefferson survives!” (John Adams)

“Good morning.”  (William Howard Taft)

“Tomorrow is another day!” (Scarlett O’Hara, Gone with the Wind);

“No, you certainly can’t.” (JFK in response to Nellie Connally’s remark, “You certainly can’t say that the people of Dallas haven’t given you a nice welcome, Mr. President.”

“Aw, no one’s gonna shoot at me.”  (Lee Harvey Oswald to a Dallas policeman)

“Put out that bloody cigarette!” (One officer to another while in trench during World War I.  He was then shot by a German sniper who heard the remark)

“I can’t sleep.”  (J.M. Barrie, author of Peter Pan)

“I should never have switched from Scotch to Martinis.” (Humphrey Bogart)

“Now why did I do that?” (Gen. William Erskine, after jumping from a window in Lisbon, Portugal)

“I hope I haven’t bored you.”  (Elvis Presley, at his last press conference).  His actual last words were in response to his fiancée who warned him not to fall asleep in the bathroom.  “Okay.  I won’t.”

“Thank God, I have done my duty.”  (Lord Admiral Horatio Nelson)

“Let’s roll!” (Todd Beamer on 9/11)

 “I’d rather be skiing.”  (Comedian Stan Laurel, paraphrased from when his nurse asked if he was a skier)

“To the strongest!” (Alexander, upon being asked to whom his succession should go)

“May God forgive me for putting on another [uniform].”  (Benedict Arnold)

“The ladies have to go first.”  (John Jacob Astor IV, aboard the RMS Titanic)

“Now I can cross the Shifting Sands.” (L. Frank Baum, referring to the impassable desert in The Wizard of Oz.”

“I don’t want to die.  Please don’t let me die!”  (Venezuelan Pres. Hugo Chavez)

“I just wish I had time for one more bowl of chili.”  (Kit Carson)

“I’m so bored with it all.”  (Winston Churchill)

“You got me.”  (John Dillinger)

“One last drink, please.”  (Jack Daniel)

“That guy’s got to stop…He’ll see us.”  (James Dean, just before car accident)

“Kurt Russell.”  (Walt Disney, on a scrap of paper, although no one, including Russell, who was 15 at the time, knows why)

“This is the fish of my dreams.”  (Fisherman Dan Dodds, who caught a 20-lb. salmon, then died of a heart attack.  The salmon was eaten at his wake).

“Don’t let them put me in one of those bags; I might suffocate.”  (Darragh Doyle, just before dropping a live grenade at Omaha Beach.)

“We are running on line north and south.”  (Amelia Earhart

“So, you got any advice for me here coming up?”  (Dale Earnhardt to Andy Pilgrim at Daytona 500 waiting for last start after caution.  Pilgrim’s reply was, “No.”)

“I’ll see you at the movies.”  (Roger Ebert, last public blog)

“Citater fra…”  (Albert Einstein, Danish phrase meaning “quotes from”)

“All my possessions for a moment of time.”  Elizabeth I

“Hurrah for anarchy!  This is the happiest moment of my life.:  (George Engel, before execution)

“Please don’t leave me!  Please don’t leave me!”  (attributed to both John Belushi and Chris Farley before dying of drug overdoses)

“Nothing soothes pain like human touch.”  (Grand chessmaster Bobby Fischer)

“I am sorry to trouble you chaps.  I don’t know how you get along so fast with the traffic on the roads these days.”  (Ian Fleming, to ambulance drivers)

“You can stop now; I’m already dead.”  (Abigail Folger to Manson Family murderers)

“Please – please don’t kill me – I don’t want to die.  I just want to have my baby.”  (Sharon Tate according to the court testimony of Virginia Graham as she was being murdered by Susan Atkins.  Atkins response to Tate was, “Look, you might as well face it right now; you’re going to die and I don’t feel a thing behind it.”)

“That’s not true!  I’m going to die in this suit?”  (Frederick William I)

“Don’t cry, Alfred!  I need all my courage to die at twenty.”  (Mathematician Evariste Galois to his brother after being fatally wounded in a duel)

“Don’t worry.  Relax!”  (Indian Prime Minister Rajiv Gandhi to his guards when a suicide bomber approached him with flowers)

“No!  I didn’t come here to make a speech.  I came here to die.”  (“Cherokee Bill” when asked if had any last words before his hanging)

“And now for a final word from our sponsor.”  (Days of Our Lives soap opera writer Charles Gussman)

“Dying’s tough, but not as tough as doing comedy.”  (Actor Edmund Gwenn)

“That’s good.  Go on, read some more.”  (Warren G. Harding, to his wife, who was reading him flattering newspaper accounts)

“Everything is an illusion.”  (Mata Hari, propagandist)

“It was the food!  Don’t touch the food!”  (Actor Richard Harris to fellow hotel guests as he was wheeled out by paramedics)

“Gentlemen, I bid you farewell.”  (Titanic musician Wallace Hartley)

“Sir, I wish you to understand the true principles of the government. I wish them carried out. I ask nothing more.”  (Pres. William Henry Harrison, 9th president, to his successor John Tyler)

“God will forgive me; it is His profession.”  (Heinrich Heine, German romantic poet who converted to Christianity from Judaism)

“Leave the shower curtain on the inside of the tub.”  (Conrad Hilton)

“Don’t be in such a hurry.”  (Singer Billie Holiday)

“Surprise me.”  (Bob Hope, when his wife asked where he wanted to be buried)

“Enough already.”  (Author William Herrick, Being Human)

“Don’t worry; they usually don’t swim backwards.”  (Crocodile Hunter Steve Irwin of a stingray, which did swim backwards and stung him to death)

“That picture is awful dusty.”  (Jesse James, shot to death by a former associate while dusting a picture)

“Oh wow.  Oh wow.  Oh wow.”  (Steve Jobs, Apple CEO)

“Kaputt..”  (Manfred von Richthofen, The Red Baron.  Trans.:  “Broken” or “Smashed.”

“I will see you tomorrow, if God wills it.”  (Pope John Paul I, an hour before he died)

“Amen.”  (Pope John Paul II, seconds before he died)

“Vancouver!  Vancounver!  This is it!  This is…”  (Volcanologist David A Johnson’s last radio transmission before Mount St. Helens eruption)

“Vicisti, Galilaee!”  (Emperor Julian, trans. “You have won, O Galilean!” having attempted to reverse the official endorsement of Christianity by the Roman Empire.

“And remember, I am with you always, to the end of time.”  (Jesus of Nazareth)

The quotes could go on and on.  This listing was “inspired” by Glenn Beck’s question to his audience, “If you knew you were going to lose your voice forever tomorrow, what would your last words be.”  Beck is suffering from paralytic laryngitis, which is treatable, but rather inconvenient if you happen to be a radio and television broadcaster.

My personal favorite is the cry of William Wallace at the end of the film, Braveheart:  “Freedom!”

There are other gems such as rock musician Terry Kath’s last words as he put what he thought was a gun with no magazine:  “Don’t worry; it’s not loaded.”  Ouch.

A more sublime quote comes from Martin Luther King Jr.:  “Be sure to play ‘Blessed Lord’ tonight – play it really pretty.”  Some famous quotes were actually uttered by other people.  American playwright Wilson Mizner was more down to earth with his priest:  “Why should I talk to you?  I’ve just been talking with your boss.”  Field Marshal Bernard Montgomery last words were:  “Well, now I must go to meet God and try to explain all those men I killed at Alamein.”

“Don’t give up the ship.  Fight her till she sinks.” Was not uttered by Commodore Perry but his friend and fellow naval officer James Lawrence.

“She won’t think anything about it.”  Abraham Lincoln was referring to family friend Clara Harris and what she would think of his holding hands with his wife, Mary.  According to an account by Mary, they’d been talking of their future plans and how much he’d enjoy seeing Jerusalem when the bullet struck.

More irony came from Joseph Lucas’ last words.  Founder of Lucas Industries, he was  manufacturer of automotive electrical components, including headlights, which were notorious for unreliability in the early days of the automobile.  His last words were:  “Never drive at night.”

“Mozart!  Mozart!”  No, it wasn’t Anton Salieri, as the film Amadeus would have it; they were Gustav Mahler’s last words.  Speaking of Mozart, the brilliant composer waxed poetic upon his death:  “The taste of death is upon my lips.  I feel something, that is not of this earth.”  Groucho Marx, on the other hand, waxed comedic:  “Die, my dear?  Why, that’s the last thing I’ll do!”  These words were also spoken to his doctor by Henry John Temple, 3rd Viscount of Palmerston.

Nostradamus, apparently predicting his own death, said, “Tomorrow, I shall no longer be here.”  Laurence Olivier remained true to his Shakespearean roots to the end:  “This isn’t Hamlet, you know,” to a nurse who stuck him in the ear with a lip moistener.  “It’s not meant to go into the bloody ear.”  [Ears and hearing are a key them in “Hamlet.”]

“This is a hell of a way to die.”  That was George Patton’s swan song, after a car accident while out hunting.  Ballerina Anna Pavlova last word’s were “Get my swan costume ready…Play that last measure very softly.”

“And will you rule better?” were the last words of Byzantine emperor Phocas to Heraclius who had asked him, “Is this how you have ruled, wretch?”  Outraged at the reply, Heraclius immediately beheaded Phocas.  Another Oriental traveler, Marco Polo’s last words were “I have not told half of what I saw.”

James W Rodgers, facing a firing squad, was asked if he had any last requests.  He replied, “Yes, a bullet-proof vest.”  To Eleanor Roosevelt the idea that she would die when the reason God put her on earth was fulfilled was “Utter nonsense.”  To Babe Ruth, he was “going over the valley.”

Edward H. Ruloff, the last person to be hung in the state of New York said, “I’d like to be in hell in time for dinner” and Finnish actress Sirkka Sari cried, “Let’s be wild tonight!” just before falling down a chimney, which she had mistaken for a scenery balcony, and into a heating boiler.

“I could shoot better!” Hannie Schaft, a Dutch Communist resistance fighter, said to her executioner when he missed.  He subsequently emptied his machine gun into her.  Union Civil War General John Sedgwick was just as skeptical of the aim of Confederate snipers.  “They couldn’t hit an elephant at this distance.”  He was then shot by a sniper.

“Roger, go at throttle up,” were the last words of Space Shuttle Challenger Captain Dick Scobee.  But the Challenger’s last recorded words were actually “Uh oh…” by crew member Michael J. Smith, less than half a second before the shuttle disintegrated.  Capt. Edward Smith of the RMS Titanic, as he was releasing his crew, said, “You know the rule of the sea.  It’s every man for himself now, and God bless you.”

Despite rumors to the contrary, Princess Diana did not die immediately upon impact in that French tunnel.  She had some last words and they were, “My God, what’s happened?”  Joseph Stalin was rather less coherent on his deathbed.  As best as anyone can make out, he muttered “Dzhh…”

When urged to make his peace with God, Henry David Thoreau’s last coherent response was, “I did not know that we had ever quarreled.”   Japanese Army General Hideki Tojo, attempting to commit suicide for his failures by shooting himself in the heart, ultimately failed and said he had tried to dispatch himself honorably but “sometimes that fails.”

Whatever happens, let our last words as Americans not be, “If only we had spoken out against what was happening.”


Published in: on June 13, 2013 at 7:50 pm  Comments (8)  

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