Thursday, January 5, 2012

History’s Most Famous Last Words
It's a sad fact we have to face: we're all going to kick the bucket eventually. Whether it's from old age or a freak accident, each of us will see a light at the end of the tunnel some day. If you're smart, though, (or just lucky) you'll take the opportunity to leave some words of wisdom or tell a legendary joke on your deathbed. The famed dying words of these people have become a part of history itself and kept our memory of them from dying.
  1. Groucho Marx

    The comedian with dozens of famous quotes (and many that he didn't say but are attributed to him anyway) couldn't leave this life without giving us one last zinger. In 1977, at the age of 87, he was hospitalized with pneumonia. Before his death, he said, "Die, my dear? Why, that's the last thing I'll do!" You've got to wonder how long he'd been saving that line.
  2. Nathan Hale

    Hale is often more remembered for his final words than he is for the life he lived. During the American Revolution, Hale was sent to spy on the British troops on Long Island, N.Y., the only person who volunteered for the dangerous job of reporting from behind enemy lines. He ended up being captured by the British and hanged in 1776, but not before delivering the well-known patriotic phrase: "I only regret that I have but one life to give for my country." Hale is considered a historical American hero for his brave act and catchy one-liner.
  3. John Barrymore

    Theater-goers today would probably recognize the name John Barrymore as the grandfather of actress Drew Barrymore, but he was a famous actor in his own right. Part of the celebrated Barrymore acting family, John Barrymore has been considered one of the best actors of his time, with a career that lasted from around 1913 until 1940. He died in 1942, but not before delivering this proud line: "Die? I should say not, dear fellow. No Barrymore would allow such a conventional thing to happen to him." And then it happened, whether he allowed it or not.
  4. Oscar Wilde

    The famed poet and playwright must've known he had to have something great to say as his parting words. After all, his whole life had been about words (his notable works include The Importance of Being Earnest and The Picture of Dorian Gray), and he couldn't go out on a bad note. Just before his death from cerebral meningitis in 1900, he said, "My wallpaper and I are fighting a duel to the death. One of us has got to go." Some historians believe these weren't his final words, but may have been uttered in the weeks leading up to his death. Either way, it seems as if the wallpaper won.
  5. Humphrey Bogart

    The American Film Institute named Humphrey Bogart the greatest male cinema star ever, but there's one thing even more certain than that: the man liked to drink. He had once suggested that world peace could be achieved if the world leaders all just had a few drinks together. When the Casablanca star passed away in 1957, he seemed to have just one regret: "I never should've switched from scotch to martinis."
  6. Winston Churchill

    Winston Churchill had so much going on in his life that death was the least interesting thing to ever happen to him. He served as the Prime Minister of England twice, won a Nobel Prize in Literature, and became the first Honorary Citizen of the United States. It'd be hard to crack open a history book without finding a mention of Churchill and his great feats. So it's no wonder that as he faced death in 1965 at the age of 90, he told loved ones, "I'm so bored with it all."
  7. Charlie Chaplin

    You might not expect a silent-film star to have anything interesting to say, but Charlie Chaplin's last words gave the actor a voice some of us didn't know he had. Well into his career, he did begin to appear in talkies and obviously said something wrong in his personal life because he was exiled to Europe during the McCarthy Era. His dying words, though, are more well remembered. When a priest pronounced "May the Lord have mercy on your soul," Chaplin said to him, "Why not? It belongs to him."
  8. James French

    Condemned criminals typically have a lot of time to think about what they're going to say before they're executed. Some express remorse, reassure their families that they love them, or maintain their innocence. But others have a little more fun with the legacy they're leaving. While serving a life sentence, French murdered his cellmate and was ordered to be executed by electric chair in 1966. When he was asked if he had any last words he wanted to say, French said to the members of the press in the audience, "How's this for a headline? 'French Fries.'" Another executed criminal named George Appel told his executioners, "Well, gentlemen, you are about to see a baked Appel."
  9. Voltaire

    The noted French philosopher and outspoken voice against the religious dogma of the time spent his life writing thousands of letters and pamphlets as one of the French Enlightenment leaders. A few months before his death, Voltaire believed he was dying and summed up his feelings in writing: "I die adoring God, loving my friends, not hating my enemies, and detesting superstition." He survived though, and got a do-over in May 1778. Though his critics say he repented or died in agony, his supporters say he refused his last rites with a little bit of sass. A priest told him to renounce Satan before his impending death, and Voltaire replied, "Now, now, my good man, this is not the time for making enemies."
  10. Jesus Christ

    Whether you're a Christian or not, you probably are familiar with the last words of Jesus as he died on the cross, as recorded in the Bible. Before his death, he is said to have spoken with God, another criminal on the cross, and his mother, but his most well-known line was "It is finished." According to Christian teachings, he was referring to his life and his job on earth as the son of God. Even those who don't believe in him as the messiah know that these last words became important ones in the world's history.

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