Did You Know George Peppard Starred in ‘The A-Team’ and ‘Breakfast at Tiffany’s’? Remembering the Acting Icon Who Died of Pneumonia After a Battle With Lung Cancer


George Peppard’s Legacy

  • George Peppard died of pneumonia in 1994 after a battle with lung cancer.
  • Known for his good looks and suave presence, Peppard rose to prominence playing the sympathetic writer Paul Varjak in Breakfast at Tiffany’s.
  • Smoking can put you at a higher risk for diseases like lung cancer, so doctors recommend lung cancer screening options for former or current heavy smokers.

Breakfast at Tiffany’s is an iconic movie – no doubt about it. But next time you watch the film with glowing praise for Audrey Hepburn, try to also appreciate the acting prowess of her co-star George Peppard who died of pneumonia 27 years ago today after a battle with lung cancer.

Paul Varjak, played by George Peppard, and Holly Golightly, played by Audrey Hepburn kiss in a publicity still from ‘Breakfast at Tiffany’s’ (Photo by Silver Screen Collection/Getty Images)

Peppard’s career spanned more than three decades. He appeared in 29 films total, playing everything from a hopeless romantic to a macho-man. Known for his good looks and suave presence, he rose to prominence playing the sympathetic writer Paul Varjak in Breakfast at Tiffany’s, but others may know him best from the hit ’80s television series The A-Team where he portrayed “master of disguise” John “Hannibal” Smith next to Mr. T’s B.A. Baracus. His cigar-puffing character lead a team of ex-military men, who used their training to fight injustice. The series retains worldwide popularity today, but it was “slammed by critics and the National Coalition on Television Violence for what they said was a display of mayhem unmatched by any other prime-time series – 34 acts of violence an hour.

The versatile actor even tried his hand behind the camera. He wrote, produced, directed, starred in and independently marketed his 1979 film Five Days From Home. The LA Times reported that it earned “some critical praise but little financial success.”

Sadly, Peppard’s career was cut short. In 1992, he underwent a successful surgery for lung cancer where doctors removed a tumor from his right lung. Two years later, he was in remission but had to return to the hospital for breathing problems that developed into pneumonia. He died on May 8, 1994, at the age of 65. Thankfully, his memory stays with us as we re-watch the sleek actor grace our screens.

George Peppard and Mr. T attend the 35th annual Primetime Emmy Awards held at the Pasadena Civic Auditorium on September 25, 1983 in Pasadena, California. (Photo by Joan Adlen/Getty Images)

Understanding Lung Cancer

Lung cancer is the second most common type of cancer. And it’s the leading cause of cancer deaths for both men and women in the United States. Symptoms for the disease often don’t appear until the cancer has spread, so diagnosis and treatment can be tricky. An initial symptom, for example, could be as serious as a seizure if the lung cancer has already spread to the brain. But other symptoms can include increased coughing, chest pain, unexplained weight loss, shortness of breath, wheezing or even persistent infections such as bronchitis and pneumonia like Peppard faced.

The two main types of lung cancer are non-small cell, which makes up 85 percent of cases, and small-cell. These types act differently and, accordingly, require different types of treatment. Dr. Patrick Forde, a thoracic oncologist at Johns Hopkins Medicine, tells SurvivorNet about how distinguishing between the two types – and their subtypes – can be very beneficial.

“Within that non-small cell category, there’s a subtype called non-squamous adenocarcinoma, and that’s the group of patients for whom genetic testing is very important on the tumor,” he explains. “Genetic testing is looking for mutations in the DNA, in the tumor, which are not present in your normal DNA.”

What Happens When You’ve Been Newly Diagnosed With Lung Cancer

Lung cancer is very serious, but the outlook is improving with smoking rates on the decline and improvements in surgical techniques and radiation delivery. Newer treatments like immunotherapy and targeted agents are also  dramatically improving the length and quality of life for lung cancer patients.

Lung Cancer Screenings

Peppard was known to be a longtime heavy drinker and smoker until he quit alcohol in 1978 and stopped smoking two packs a day after his lung surgery in 1992. But years of smoking can put you at a higher risk for diseases like lung cancer, so doctors recommend lung cancer screening options for former or current heavy smokers.

RELATED: If You Smoke a Pack a Day, Lung Cancer Screening Should Start at Age 50 & Be Free, Say New Federal Recommendations

Dr. Forde says in an earlier interview, “Over the last few years, there’s been a number of studies looking at using low dose CT scans of the chest in patients who have a history of smoking to try and pick up lung cancers in earlier stage.”

“About 70% to 80% of patients who are diagnosed with lung cancer, unfortunately, the cancer has spread outside of the lung and is not suitable for surgery,” Dr. Forde says. “And there have been a number of studies, most recently, one in the Netherlands, which looked at doing CT scans for patients who are over the age of 55 and had a significant smoking history for many years and then monitoring them on a regular basis with a low dose CT of the chest. And they were able to show a reduction in the numbers of lung cancers which had spread outside of the chest.”

Former & Current Heavy Smokers Should Get Lung Cancer Screenings Using CT Scan, Says Leading Expert

Like with any cancer, early detection can be crucial. Dr. Forde says the results from that study showed the success of the targeted screenings.

“They were able to pick them up in earlier stage and potentially cure them at a higher rate than not doing screening,” Dr. Forde says. “So that approach was recommended here in the US now.”

People who are at high risk for lung cancer because of their smoking history should receive free annual screenings with a low-dose CT scan starting at age 50 regardless of whether they have symptoms, according to recommendations from the U.S. Preventive Services Task Force released in March.


Learn more about SurvivorNet’s rigorous medical review process.


Abigail Seaberg, a recent graduate of the University of Richmond, is a reporter based in Denver. Read More

George Peppard’s Legacy

  • George Peppard died of pneumonia in 1994 after a battle with lung cancer.
  • Known for his good looks and suave presence, Peppard rose to prominence playing the sympathetic writer Paul Varjak in Breakfast at Tiffany’s.
  • Smoking can put you at a higher risk for diseases like lung cancer, so doctors recommend lung cancer screening options for former or current heavy smokers.

Breakfast at Tiffany’s is an iconic movie – no doubt about it. But next time you watch the film with glowing praise for Audrey Hepburn, try to also appreciate the acting prowess of her co-star George Peppard who died of pneumonia 27 years ago today after a battle with lung cancer.

Paul Varjak, played by George Peppard, and Holly Golightly, played by Audrey Hepburn kiss in a publicity still from ‘Breakfast at Tiffany’s’ (Photo by Silver Screen Collection/Getty Images)

Peppard’s career spanned more than three decades. He appeared in 29 films total, playing everything from a hopeless romantic to a macho-man. Known for his good looks and suave presence, he rose to prominence playing the sympathetic writer Paul Varjak in Breakfast at Tiffany’s, but others may know him best from the hit ’80s television series The A-Team where he portrayed “master of disguise” John “Hannibal” Smith next to Mr. T’s B.A. Baracus. His cigar-puffing character lead a team of ex-military men, who used their training to fight injustice. The series retains worldwide popularity today, but it was “slammed by critics and the National Coalition on Television Violence for what they said was a display of mayhem unmatched by any other prime-time series – 34 acts of violence an hour.

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The versatile actor even tried his hand behind the camera. He wrote, produced, directed, starred in and independently marketed his 1979 film Five Days From Home. The LA Times reported that it earned “some critical praise but little financial success.”

Sadly, Peppard’s career was cut short. In 1992, he underwent a successful surgery for lung cancer where doctors removed a tumor from his right lung. Two years later, he was in remission but had to return to the hospital for breathing problems that developed into pneumonia. He died on May 8, 1994, at the age of 65. Thankfully, his memory stays with us as we re-watch the sleek actor grace our screens.

George Peppard and Mr. T attend the 35th annual Primetime Emmy Awards held at the Pasadena Civic Auditorium on September 25, 1983 in Pasadena, California. (Photo by Joan Adlen/Getty Images)

Understanding Lung Cancer

Lung cancer is the second most common type of cancer. And it’s the leading cause of cancer deaths for both men and women in the United States. Symptoms for the disease often don’t appear until the cancer has spread, so diagnosis and treatment can be tricky. An initial symptom, for example, could be as serious as a seizure if the lung cancer has already spread to the brain. But other symptoms can include increased coughing, chest pain, unexplained weight loss, shortness of breath, wheezing or even persistent infections such as bronchitis and pneumonia like Peppard faced.

The two main types of lung cancer are non-small cell, which makes up 85 percent of cases, and small-cell. These types act differently and, accordingly, require different types of treatment. Dr. Patrick Forde, a thoracic oncologist at Johns Hopkins Medicine, tells SurvivorNet about how distinguishing between the two types – and their subtypes – can be very beneficial.

“Within that non-small cell category, there’s a subtype called non-squamous adenocarcinoma, and that’s the group of patients for whom genetic testing is very important on the tumor,” he explains. “Genetic testing is looking for mutations in the DNA, in the tumor, which are not present in your normal DNA.”

What Happens When You’ve Been Newly Diagnosed With Lung Cancer

Lung cancer is very serious, but the outlook is improving with smoking rates on the decline and improvements in surgical techniques and radiation delivery. Newer treatments like immunotherapy and targeted agents are also  dramatically improving the length and quality of life for lung cancer patients.

Lung Cancer Screenings

Peppard was known to be a longtime heavy drinker and smoker until he quit alcohol in 1978 and stopped smoking two packs a day after his lung surgery in 1992. But years of smoking can put you at a higher risk for diseases like lung cancer, so doctors recommend lung cancer screening options for former or current heavy smokers.

RELATED: If You Smoke a Pack a Day, Lung Cancer Screening Should Start at Age 50 & Be Free, Say New Federal Recommendations

Dr. Forde says in an earlier interview, “Over the last few years, there’s been a number of studies looking at using low dose CT scans of the chest in patients who have a history of smoking to try and pick up lung cancers in earlier stage.”

“About 70% to 80% of patients who are diagnosed with lung cancer, unfortunately, the cancer has spread outside of the lung and is not suitable for surgery,” Dr. Forde says. “And there have been a number of studies, most recently, one in the Netherlands, which looked at doing CT scans for patients who are over the age of 55 and had a significant smoking history for many years and then monitoring them on a regular basis with a low dose CT of the chest. And they were able to show a reduction in the numbers of lung cancers which had spread outside of the chest.”

Former & Current Heavy Smokers Should Get Lung Cancer Screenings Using CT Scan, Says Leading Expert

Like with any cancer, early detection can be crucial. Dr. Forde says the results from that study showed the success of the targeted screenings.

“They were able to pick them up in earlier stage and potentially cure them at a higher rate than not doing screening,” Dr. Forde says. “So that approach was recommended here in the US now.”

People who are at high risk for lung cancer because of their smoking history should receive free annual screenings with a low-dose CT scan starting at age 50 regardless of whether they have symptoms, according to recommendations from the U.S. Preventive Services Task Force released in March.

Learn more about SurvivorNet’s rigorous medical review process.


Abigail Seaberg, a recent graduate of the University of Richmond, is a reporter based in Denver. Read More



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