July 23, 2024
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Sightings Over Sixty: Last Lines

We’ve all read about the last words of some famous people. For example, drummer Buddy Rich died after surgery in 1987.  As he was being prepped for the operation a nurse asked him, “Is there anything you can’t take?” And he responded, “Yeah, country music.”

Or the composer Gustav Mahler who died in bed. He reportedly was conducting an imaginary orchestra. His last word was: “Mozart!”

Basketball great “Pistol” Pete Maravich collapsed during a pickup basketball game. His last words were: “I feel fine.”

John Wayne who died in L.A. at age 72 turned to his wife and said, “Of course I know who you are. You’re my girl. I love you.”

Joe DiMaggio reportedly said, “I finally get to see Marilyn.”

Then there’s my favorite, from Steve Jobs. According to his sister Mona, the Apple founder’s last words were, “Oh wow. Oh wow. Oh wow!”

But famous endings go beyond last words. My favorite ending to a TV show is from The Sopranoswhen the screen just goes black.

You probably remember Mary Tyler Moore who was laid off along with her TV family, saying goodbye, then turning out the lights in the studio and walking away.

Or Ted Danson, aka Sam Malone, turning away a customer at Cheers and saying, “Sorry, we’re closed.”

My favorite last line from the movies is from the coming-of-age drama Stand By Me. The story is told as a flashback, and at the end Richard Dreyfuss, now an adult, sits at his desk and slowly types: “I never had any friends later on like the ones I had when I was 12. Jesus, does anyone?”

There are a lot of other famous last lines, like Humphrey Bogart in Casablancaat the airport telling Louis, “I think this is the beginning of a beautiful friendship.”

Or the classics. Judy Garland in The Wizard of Oz says, “There’s no place like home.”

From King Kong: “Oh no. It wasn’t the airplanes. It was beauty killed the beast.”

Scarlett O’Hara in both the movie and the book Gone with the Wind says, “After all, tomorrow is another day.”

Another famous last line of a novel comes from the unforgettable Catcher in the Rye when Holden Caulfield says, “Don’t ever tell anybody anything. If you do, you start missing everybody.”

Or how about this one from The Corrections by Jonathan Franzen: “She was seventy five and she was going to make some changes in her life.”

But my favorite last line in a novel is from The Great Gatsbywhich I read again last winter. F. Scott Fitzgerald concludes: “So we beat on, boats against the current, borne back ceaselessly into the past.”

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