The long-running REELZ docu-series “Autopsy: The Last Hours of …” profiles the vices that may have led to Walt Disney’s death from lung cancer at a Burbank, California hospital in 1966.
“Disney smoked since he was young. He was smoking about sixty cigarettes a day,” says Sarah Nilson, a film historian interviewed for the tell-all program.
Animator Rolly Crump adds: “He smoked constantly. We used to say that he’d light one cigarette with one match in the morning and then he’d never use another match because he’d light cigarette from cigarette.” (Crump is known for his work with Disney on Peter Pan, Lady and the Tramp and Sleeping Beauty.)
Floyd Norman, meanwhile, a Disney animator on The Jungle Book and The Sword in the Stone, notes: “Very often in meetings, Walt would have a cigarette in his hand. It was not unusual for him to gesture to a drawing while holding a lit cigarette.”
The Disney Studios founder is credited with being the father of the American animation industry. He won a record 22 Academy Awards during a Hollywood career that spanned 43 years. But away from the spotlight, “Uncle Walt” was known as an obsessive workaholic who coped with crippling pain and stress.
Cigarettes provided relief and clarity to the anxious American icon and innovator. Experts claim that what he didn’t know may have killed him.
“Tobacco smoke is a toxic mix of chemicals — many of which are now known to cause cancer. The link between smoking and lung cancer started to be made in the 1940s and ‘50s. As late as 1960s, only one-third of U.S. doctors believed that the case against cigarettes had been established,” says series expert, Dr. Michael Hunter.
For more, watch ”Autopsy: The Last Hours of… Walt Disney,” on REELZ on Sunday, August 9, at 8 p.m. ET.
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